Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gold Nuggets

I often wonder at Chance's machinations, how quick the beautiful can take up residence in one's being. Unfortunately, they often exit quicker than they entered, a quick gasp rather than a full breath. Fortunately, some stay and afford a modicum of stability. Recently, Chance struck while I researching my thesis chapter on groves; I found the book, Sacred Groves and Ravaged Gardens. The title held me at once, but the book is even more fascinating. It is Louise Westling's research on a handful of Southern writers. Look at how she begins the book, "When I was a young woman fresh out of college and sure my generation was going to correct the world's ills, my Kentucky grandmother, a model of the old-fashioned Southern lady, asked me if my friends and I believed in free love. That old term was far from our ideal of sexual equality and frankness ... That quaint idea made little sense to me for many years, though I puzzled about it as I tried to understand why the relations between men and women violated so many of my notions of cooperation" (ix).

The insights continue, "Yet nowhere else in American literature is there a group of accomplished women writers so closely bound together by regional qualities of setting, character, and time" (1). "If Welty celebrates womankind, Carson McCullers and Flannery O'Connor struggle against it" (5). "... he has performed the part of St. George by defeating a 'dragon' which threatened to kill Denis's heir--and, by implication, to violate some sacred family spirit. That dragon is also the intruding urban machine in the pastoral garden ..." (82-3).

She also includes some spectacular quotes and the breadth of her research is impressive:
A fair young body trampled to death--
This beautiful, glorious Lady of ours!
Bring spices and wine and all the spring's breath.
And bathe her with kisses and shroud her with flowers.

O breasts whose twin lilies are purpled with blood!
O face, whose twin roses with ashes are white!
O dead golden hair, at whose far splendor stood
Millions of true souls entranced with delight!
(Simms, Trampled to Death)

In a similar vein, the newly released, American and British Writers - The Spoken Word, appears to be an impressive collections that has received favourable reviews. These CD's contain audio clips from famous authors, including the only recordings of Virginia Woolf and Arthur Conan Doyle.

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