Monday, December 9, 2013

The phrase so smooth and good that it almost compels belief

A paragraph from Revolving Lights, the seventh volume of Dorothy M. Richardson's great novel Pilgrimage, noted without comment.
It is because these men write so well that it is a relief, from looking and enduring the clamour of the way things state themselves from several points of view simultaneously, to read their large superficial statements. Light seems to come, a large comfortable stretching of the mind, things falling into an orderly scheme, the flattering fascination of grasping and elaborating the scheme. But after reflection is gloom, a poisoning gloom over everything. 'Good writing' leaves gloom. Dickens doesn't. . . . But people say he's not a good writer. . . . Youth . . . and Typhoon. . . . Oh, 'Stalked about gigantically in the darkness.' . . . Fancy forgetting that. And he is modern and a good writer. New. They all raved quietly about him. But it was not like reading a book at all. . . . Expecting good difficult 'writing,' some mannish way of looking at things, and then . . . complete forgetfulness of the worst time of day on the most grilling day of the year in a crowded Lyons's at lunch-time and, afterwards, joyful strength to face the disgrace of being an hour or more late for afternoon work. . . . They leave life so small that it seems worthless. He leaves everything big; and all he tells added to experience for ever. It's dreadful to think of people missing him; the forgetfulness and the new birth into life. Even God would enjoy reading Typhoon. Then that is 'great fiction'? 'Creation'? Why these falsifying words, making writers look cut off and mysterious? Imagination. What is imagination? It always seems insulting, belittling, both to the writer and to life. He looked and listened with his whole self--perhaps he is a small pale invalid--and then came 'stalked about gigantically' . . . not made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding . . . and working his salvation. That is what matters to him. In the day of judgment, though he is a writer, he will be absolved. Those he has redeemed will be there to shout for him. But he will still have to go to purgatory; or be born again as a woman. Why come forward suddenly, in the midst of a story, to say they live far from reality? A sudden smooth complacent male voice, making your attention rock between the live text and the picture of a supercilious lounging form, slippers, a pipe, other men sitting round, and then the phrase so smooth and good that it almost compels belief. Why cannot men exist without thinking themselves all there is?

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