Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Page 99 test

A short entry for the fun of it - in a previous post I wrote about how first sentences can tell you a lot about a book, whether you would like to continue reading it or should find yourself something else to do. In the same post I think I wrote that one should be able to read a page almost anywhere in the book and from that sample find whether the book is a worthwile pastime (or rather fill-your-time-with-good-insights-and-beautiful-language-or-an-intricate-and-exciting-story-or-whatever-you-require-from-a-good-read) for you. At least taht is something I believe.

Well, some inventive people have thought just about the same thing, but with a more specific placement in the book in mind than just any old page: Read page 99 of any book to decide whether this is something you should fill your head (soul, heart, anything) with.

Doesn't look like the site has been put up yet, but we still have libraries, don't we? And in the future, hopefully wonderful e-libraries. (Would love it if they made some kind of library with a graphic of dark wood ailes, shelves, green lamps, chandeliers and the whole lot. Guess I am more of a traditionalist than I originally thought. But still, nothing wrong with beautiful and peaceful surroundings, are there? Library spaces can be so meditative.) You can, of course, already have a sneak-peak in many books at Amazon.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wallace Stevens: The House was Quiet and the World was Calm

As usual, a few inspired (yes, this is a very inspiring poem!) musings underneath. But first things first:

The House was Quiet and the World was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book. 
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom the book is true, to whom

The summer night is a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

          From Transport to Summer, 1947


Where to begin with Wallace Stevens.

It's like you don't know up or down in this poem, like everything is moving in and out of itself, the whole thing being circular and monistic (as opposed to dualistic). The end of the poem is the beginning, and the beginning isn't really a beginning but a picking up of a thread which has always been, it seems. The book and the reader and the night are all the same, the same substance looking out at the world, inwards at itself, looking not ahead and not back, just existing, being one and the same: "The reader became the book; and summer night / Was like the conscious being of the book."

Even truth gets a say, with "The truth in a calm world, / In which there is no other meaning, itself / Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself / Is the reader leaning late and reading there." The whole poem is a vortex - though a calm one - where things get turned upside down and inside out - I am you, you are me. The consciousness is the same whether it is sitting in words in a book, a summer night or in the human reader. It's there, all the time, part of everything there is. Or rather, everything there is is this consciousness. When it says "The words were spoken as if there was no book", you get a direct sense of this (kind of parallel to another poem of his; "The Plain Sense of Things"). The medium of the book is not needed in order for the content to get through, to be known and understood and lived directly.

And then there is the extention from the poem on the page to me, the reader of the poem of the reader. I get caught up in this poem's loop as well; I partake in this rather mystical but nevertheless often experienced state of oneness that the poem is describing and also expressing quite clearly.

Which makes one wonder whose consciousness is holding whose. And leaves me with the question of whether there just is consciousness, end of story.


(At the Guardian's website I noticed this video, an interview with A. S. Byatt on her novel The Children's Book. What caught my attention was the caption "I don't believe in God. I believe in Wallace Stevens." Quite a statement, and poetic in its own simplicity and straightforwardness. You can see what she means by this around 08.51.)