As Smyth noted in his charmingly elliptical way, I’ve set up a new blog to capture our future Walserings as well as future progress on our little translation project. I think we’re now properly provisioned for our long walk with Walser in 2007.
Here’s a Walser-ish subject with which to end our Walser month on GRJ . . .
Matthew Kaminski had a nice piece on novelist William Boyd in the Wall Street Journal a couple days back. (Subs only, unfortunately.) I loved this passage, which connects with my earlier citation on the subject of losers:
As a result, perhaps, his Europeans in America are seduced, amazed, pushed around, sometimes outright brutalized by the place. John James Todd, the filmmaker in “The New Confessions,” gets blacklisted in the 1950s. In “Any Human Heart,” the enraged father of a young girl that the aging Mountstuart, then living in New York, just bedded can’t think of a worse insult than “loser.” For Mr. Boyd, the scene gives one small insight into the values gap that separates the two sides of the Atlantic. “To be called a loser is a real mark of Cain in America, but in Europe it makes you quite an interesting person,” he says. In serious old age, Mountstuart finds serenity and peace in penury in a small French village.
The Journal has in fact been quite literary lately. I particularly appreciated Robin Moroney’s essay on William Empson (subs only; see the pattern?), which managed to teach me a thing or two despite a raft of other Empson articles prompted by the appearance of vol. 2 of Haffenden’s Empson bio. (Check out Kermode’s in the LRB.) But somebody, get Moroney a copy of the sonnets, please:
For decades, the Shakespeare sonnet line “Bare ruined choirs, where once the sweet birds sang” became a matter of debate among scholars, as they quarreled over the validity of the nine meanings Empson found in it.
“Once” is just so wrong, isn’t it? Reading this line is like tasting tap water where you were expecting beer.
How great the sonnets are. Just to be even more irritatingly discursive, I’m reminded of something I heard Wynton Marsalis say on his great jazz program on XM Radio. Citing someone else’s remark that there was “nothing new” about a particular style of playing, Wynton said, “Yeah, well there’s nothing new about talking, but you can still say a lot of amazing stuff.”
Here’s maybe the best loser poem of all time.