The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

When Legends Gather #123

Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick


Vanwall said...
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Vanwall said...
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Vanwall said...

Ultimately, a despicable man and an unfortunate woman. Never did cotton to his poetry, which like most eogotists was overrated. The period of his "best" work seemed to coincide with his basest actions in life, and is nothing more than another method of masturbation, which seems to some critics an affirmation of the genius of libidinous middle-aged poets. Dubious as this is, Hardwick suffered the humilities because, deep down, she must've liked it, a sad existence in the repressive '50s America. She wasn't half bad as a novelist, no doubt due to her ability to transfer her pain into more honest words than Lowell. What's with all those horny, artsy-fartsy poets, then and now, that they seem to enjoy fucking, getting fucked, and getting fucked-over by their almost incestuous little reading and writing circles? Power trippers in a lyrical manner swapping mates and assholes are no different than a Hell's Angels Purple Jesus wedding ceremony, IMNSHO - reduced to an animal expression in either case. You can hear 'em being bent over and screwed till they bark like dogs, but that still doesn't make it art.

Tom Sutpen said...

I've never been a great admirer of Lowell's work (I don't dislike it all that much either), but I think Hardwick is a phenomenal essayist (less importantly, a major influence on yours truly).

As for the masochistic streak in literati, your guess is as good as mine what causes it. Though from having tried my hand (such as it is) at the film writing racket for the last year and a half, I can report that a certain degree of masochism is required to withstand the presence of this milieu's foul and benighted reading and writing circle (what I can only describe as a semi-literati).

If I say anymmore on this I'll get myself into trouble all over the place. But you get the drift.

Great comment, Rob!

Vanwall said...

I thought about her when I heard of Barbara Epstein's death recently on NPR - they participated in a great adventure. I kinda thought it must've been Hardwick rather than Lowell that intrigued someone here, and I forgot to include what a good essayist and, more important for me, a fine critic she was, having been exposed to those aspects before her novels, anyway. She was one of the few exceptions to my friend's Eastern Bias Theory regarding which writers and artists were suggested reading and viewing in school, which we generally used as a "negative" list. Arizona was to some extent a pretty hick state back when, and it took me years to finally understand why people carried umbrellas, rode subways or taxis to get anywhere, and always stayed in tall buildings far from wide open spaces, in almost all the textbooks we had.
My little pal once confided that when, as a little girl, she visited her grandmother in NYC, she literally cried when she got out of the cab and looked around - she was profoundly shocked by the oppressive surroundings her gran lived in, (in reality, a nice apartment in a fine neighborhood, I learned later) and wanted her to move out, NOW. Strangely, the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books were two of our favorite mags,(and still are for me), mostly because they present a somewhat distant picture of the Northeastern literati that we could hang our fantasies on.

Hardwick's a survivor, that's for sure, and it wasn't until college that we learned what a dick Lowell was, which only confirmed my opinion of his work, and I suddenly saw more depth in her essays and criticism than his work could possibly attain. I still wonder why women, and men, put up with such casual intellectual slavery, and I pity them when they don't push their philandering mates under a bus. Screwing around isn't a real solution, I think - when you set out for revenge, dig two graves. I'll bet if she'd gone the Plath route and croaked tragically, she'd be more generally known, but she was a surprisingly tough broad, after all. If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float past. Her best novel came out when I had moved to California, and it was some years before I read it - she had the goods still after all those years, quite an accomplishment.