Oh what thoughts can I recover? I saw Vanessa Redgrave on The View this morning and was very moved. She has a very honest and poetical way about her, very rare. In the past year she has lost her daughter, Natasha Richardson; her brother; and her sister Lynn. The losses are very fresh. The one year memorial mass for her daughter and her sister's funeral both took place this week, she said. The Ladies expressed their condolences and asked how she's doing. She replied, eyes glistening - openly, undisguisedly feeling - that she's "grieving and glorying." That she is mourning the losses of her deeply loved ones while at the same time keeping alive the most vivid, precious, joyous memories she has of them.
It's a rare quality, the ability to be so closely in touch with the most deeply felt emotions and to find an elegant way to express them. I rarely see it. I wonder if that's what sets Vanessa Redgrave apart as a great artist. Glorying and grieving - so much of what Emily Dickinson is about I think can be summed up by that. I find it to be very true.
Some scholars are understandably fatigued by the overwhelming interest in possible romances that has always attended (and often obscured) Dickinson study. Robert Weisbuch, for example, eschews the biographical; announces that the Master letters were fictions; and says that even if they are not, the identity of the addressee is unimportant. In strained efforts to avoid the obvious, other critics regard such poems as "Ourselves were wed one summer - dear" (631), with its tone of bitter and familiar intimacy, as written for the celebrated and distant Elizabeth Barrett Browning. In both instances, effort has been made to remove the poet's art from the immediate circumstances of her life. "Master" becomes an imitative persona, dependent for his shape on the books she knew. The woman of the hot, anguished love poems must be the wife of the famous Robert Browning rather than a woman Dickinson lived with or knew. In this way, fantasy and inaccuracy are presumably avoided. But another fantasy is substituted: that great artists write without directly experiencing what is called "life." The addressees of Emily Dickinson were her intimates, and the possible subjects of her work must be considered: their nature directed her choice of language.***
Judith Farr, The Passion of Emily Dickinson, p. 111.
I don't mean to bash anyone (here I go) but I heard Jenny Sanford (Governor Mark Sanford's ex-wife) in a radio interview this morning. It's been less than a year since the crazy story broke (where's the Governor? the Appalachian trail? No, Argentina), but she's already got a book out on the subject which she's promoting. The narrative is just so carefully crafted - she's the wronged dutiful wife of the hapless husband and unlike him - was the subtext - she's devoting herself to their four schoolage sons. Bare bones of the story? Perhaps my sympathies should lie with her. And yet I find her so lacking in warmth, compassion, and imagination. She declares that she lives by "Christian Rules" - paraphrasing what she said - and that her husband was trying to live by "his own Moral Code and that just doesn't work."
Moral Codes. Oh count me in with ED. She felt that it would be quite enough for her to see "Master" in heaven, which is about the state of my theology - hoping to see you later - though I do count myself as a latter day transcendentalist and think that early mornings, with sun breaking through salmon clouds, are the best moments to experience God's divinity on earth. That is, if I understood Ruth Reichl's tweet this morning correctly. "Outside. Finally. Bright sun shines through thinly sliced salmon. Bagels, cream cheese, onions. Cat prances through long green grass. Happy."
Good lord. You know? I started out this morning thinking of images of Winslow Homer paintings, rowboats tossed on windswept seas. Now here I am, run aground. Ah, but here you are, on a rock on the coast of Maine, with a beautiful hamper for us. Let us have a glass of cool wine together, darling, and watch as the sun sinks beneath the waves.