Thursday, June 22, 2006

Proust and TSE

Sara McWhorter passes on this exchange from D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928):

"Have you ever read Proust?" he asked her.

"I've tried, but he bores me."

"He's really very extraordinary."

"Possibly! But he bores me: all that sophistication! He doesn't have feelings, he only has streams of words about feelings. I'm tired of self-important mentalities."

"Would you prefer self-important animalities?"

"Perhaps! But one might possibly get something that wasn't self-important."

"Well, I like Proust's subtlety and his well-bred anarchy."

"It makes you very dead, really."

"There speaks my evangelical little wife."
Which reminded me of this exchange concerning T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land (1922):
His grin broadened. "All I can say is, my dear, give me the old songs, though I can't sing them, if they're the new. What does poetry want with footnotes about psycho-analysis and negro mythology?"

"Suppose," someone asked him, "that you don't know anything about them?"

"Well, I couldn't get them out of footnotes and the poetry all at one stride, could I? But Doris, they were very clever and insulting poems, I think. Sing a song of mockery. Is that the latest? But it was a surprising little book, though it smelt like the dissection of bad innards."
From H.M. Tomlinson, Gallions Reach (1927), quoted by F.R. Leavis in New Bearings in English Poetry. (Leavis was on Eliot's side.)

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