Blog #2. Today is March 31, 2017. Last week, after I forwarded to you George Herbert’s advice about “dressing and the undressing the soul,” I wondered how I could draw it. The result surprised me. I had envisioned a sort of me-person undressing, or dressing, a ghostly sort of me-person. But what came put in the sketch book was unexpected and much better than what I had imagined. The image generated by the idea chose its own picture. Which showed tenderness preparing innocence for the day. The me-part was the mother, who hasn’t had time to dress yet, getting her little boy ready to meet the world. And, of course, Satan was floating nearby, as always, and the Holy Dove was balancing the other corner of the page.
After that, a second drawing burst forth: my rendition of “Negative Critics,” which I have begun to think about lately, as the pub date of my fifteenth novel approaches. I know these folks–or their counterparts. The disapproving lady at bottom right is saying, “This just isn’t my cup of tea,” and the two flighty women dangling. Opines of my books like unloved handbags are saying, “I’m having trouble getting IN to it, how about you?” “Meh, I may just drop it mid-way. Nothing is happening!” The guy wringing his hands on the left turned out to resemble Woody Allen, though I was trying to capture an old denigrator, and the mean green man on the right is a Mask of Disapproval. The little heads a the top are floater-people. The man on the right unexpectedly floated up as Henry James, “The Master.” I guess he materialized on the page because I admire the way he peels off the layers of complicated human beings. So he might be serving as a personification of my self- criticism. (To read further about dire and doleful Self-Critics, check out my “Watcher a the Gate” essay link on the site.)
The best thing I read this week was George orwells “New Words” (1940). My 1400-page Everyman’s Library volume of his essays has become a sanctuary in these unquiet days when facts and words seem to have lost touch with each other. In fact, I splurged on this handsome book he week after the presidential election.
The essay goes into great detail about all the ways we fall short of exactitidue in expressing human faults and feelings. “Is there anyone who has ever written so much as a love letter in which he felt that he had said exactly what he had intended?”)
Orwell says that “anyone with any degree of mental honesty is conscious of telling lies all day long, both in talking and writing, ” simply because lies will fall quickly into ready-made patterns whereas truth will not. What is wanted, he says, is to find words for the new nameless feelings that we have in common.If that could happen, “All the powerful motives, which will not go into words and which are a cause of constant lying and misunderstanding, could be tracked down, given visible form, agreed upon, and named.”
“Suppose,” he continues, that a vocabulary existed which would accurately express the life of the mind, or a great part of it?” Orwell did not live to experience a world with such an evolved vocabulary, nor will we, but at least he imagined it. In 1984 he imagined all too well its opposite, with its stolen freedoms and dehumanized vocabulary. He even furnished a glossary of Big Brother’s officially sanctioned words at the end!
This morning, before rising, I drew my version of Beauty and the Beast. I’ll save that for another blog. Everyone has her own version of Beauty and the Beast. No, I haven’t seen the current movie, but I remember liking Jean Cocteau’s.