Monday, November 28, 2011

English Interlude, ctd. (plus)

Since last we spoke--over Welsh rarebit and Darjeeling--I read poems by Thom Gunn that I liked and a play by Harold Pinter--The Dumb Waiter--that I did not.

(Aside: a scene from Pinter's Betrayal was among my first exercises in Basic Acting, in 2000. As a freshman, I had to act with a senior named Joanna as we discussed our various infidelities--we were supposed to kiss during the scene, but I'd only kissed one person at the time, so I resisted--until the final, when I gave her a little peck on the side-lip to earn my A.

The Pit, at Holy Cross. Site of many stirrings.

Oddly-structured, Betrayal moves from 1977 backwards in time and is somewhat groundbreaking, or curtain-breaking, or clock-reordering. Yes, it was a clock-reordering triumph.

Inspired by that achrnological movement, I might have first mentioned the Patrick Marber play, Closer, a scene from which I performed as a junior, in 2002. In Closer, I had to discuss various infidelities and perversities with my friend Sara, after having rehearsed with my girlfriend at the time.

All of this was terribly unpleasant--asking these folks if they'd cheated on me and such--and I remember that in the performance of the scene, I forgot one line: "I love you." Which seems somewhat poetic.

Had I shouted for a hint as I stammered onstage, there might have been an awkward moment with the prompter).

Meanwhile, today I'm back to reading my old friend D.H., Mr. Lawrence if you're nasty. He would have relished the above theatricality, enamored of and enabled by Freud.

What a badass!

But I don't want to quote from his poem, "Snake"; better to include a bit from "How Beastly the Bourgeois Is":

"Isn't he handsome? Isn't he healthy? Isn't he a fine specimen?
Doesn't he look the fresh clean englishman, outside?
Isn't it god's own image? tramping his thirty miles a day
after partridges, or a little rubber ball?
wouldn't you like to be like that, well off, and quite the thing?

Oh, but wait!
Let him meet a new emotion, let him be faced with another man's need,
let him come home to a bit of moral difficulty, let life face him with a new
demand on his understanding
and then watch him go soggy, like a wet meringue.
Watch him turn into a mess, either a fool or a bully.
Just watch the display of him, confronted with a new demand on his
a new life-demand.

How beastly the bourgeois is
especially the male of the species--
Nicely groomed, like a mushroom
standing there so sleek and erect and eyeable--
and like a fungus, living the remains of bygone life
sucking his life out of the dead leaves of greater life than his own."


Lawrence isn't pulling punches, by any means, and it's interesting to compare this poem with a book I'm reading, No More Parades, in which Ford Madox Ford also writes pugilistically, aiming to split the stiff-upper-lip of the English, which he seems to believe disqualified many of them from emotional maturity. (By the way, FMF had real gall--he was born Ford Hermann Huefer and somehow dubbed himself Ford Madox Ford, the former sounding too German; for the remainder of this post, therefore, I shall be known as Dave Walter Dave).

This idea about uprightness hindering emotional flexibility seems to have been very important for the British in the wake of World War I (many war poems from the time lampoon the gentlemanly warrior, sipping his tea while the shrapnel flies). It's also curious to note that Lawrence's poem, written just months before his death, was published the year of the stock market crash, 1929, when the undeserved, well-heeled life described above might have seemed particularly odious and particularly parasitic to a coal miner's son.

Himself suspicious of his own lack of emotional pliability and his own nouveau-upper-class tastes--such as anthologized British Literature and Darjeeling tea--Dave Walter Dave is happy to consider this poem, particularly on Cyber Monday.

May I continue to be suspicious of over-hawked Audi's, continue to eschew being "quite the thing." And may I never turn into a mushroom of conspicuous confumption (Dave Walter Dave has coined this word, for conforming consumption, and hereby trademarks it).

--DWD, Athens, Ohio

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