Feb 12, 2010
In case you were bad and didn’t read yesterday’s Banjo about Wallace Stevens’ “Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock,” these three followers did, and their comments prompted me to get windy again, to think and say so much that it’s become today’s post.
Barbaro, interesting as always. I've come to Larkin only in the last few years, and he’s bowled me over several times. Now I'll keep your comparison in mind as I continue to explore Larkin’s stuff. He can be very sad, especially if I set aside any pretensions about New Critical purism. The little I know of Larkin’s life is unsettling. Maybe he was the librarian who drove a big rig (see below).
A.H., your idea sounds right to me, and I think Stevens would approve. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it's frustrates me to expect to die without knowing whether so many people actually live the hauntingly colorless inner life they show to the rest of us. Maybe they're just hiding it, out of a sense of privacy or uncertainty about how to express it? Or that damned dignity thing again? I've heard a lot of people sound very certain about their answers on the business of others' interiority, and I don't trust such certainty. How can any of us really know diddly about the Other? How many of us even try?
Brenda, your comment certainly doesn't seem to describe your online friendships, and I hope it's not as dark as it sounds. But I did just speak to how we don't know each other, didn't I. And who knows—maybe it's better that way. It relieves us of any obligation to be good listeners, and it eliminates those bugaboos, sympathy and empathy. Moreover, it opens the door to the hundreds of writers whose theme is our isolation from one another. Do you know the Edward Hopper panting, Nighthawks?
Hopper, Edward: Nighthawks
On a lighter note, I hope, way back in college, when I got into "take this job and shove it" moods (as if I’d actually been working hard), one of my primary fantasies had me driving a big rig over the road. I don't remember if I knew the Stevens poem then, but it would have rung true. Or was I just faking it? Are we all just faking it—our big loneliness, our awesome angst?
By the way, about the semi-truck driving . . . nobody told me about loading and unloading the trailer or city driving or back problems or hemorrhoids.
Another fantasy was to become a hermit in some pastoral idyll. I would move to the Lake District and become Wordsworth’s “Old Cumberland Beggar.” My cynical sophomore roommate, who taught me more than any professor did, asked, “Nature? What about mosquitoes? They're Nature too.” A real fantasy-killer, that guy, that corporate lawyer-to-be.
For now, that’s enough and then some. Maybe tomorrow I can get to the bass players—I wonder about their isolation. I don’t worry as much about lead singers.