Wednesday, January 23, 2008

This Train Goes All the Way to Romanticism

Writing with no topic in mind, with no clear purpose, is like performing a trapeze act without a net, like walking a tightrope across Niagara Falls, like sky diving without a parachute. Except for the fact that writing with no topic is not likely to result in your death. So, maybe it's not like that at all.

However, it is a bit thrilling, and a hell of a lot of fun, sometimes, to just sit down and bang away at the keyboard or push the pencil around and see what happens. You might end up with a really interesting tidbit here and there. You might end up with something close to a fully-developed, well-on-its-way-to-being-a-masterpiece first draft. You might end up with a turd.

For your sake, I am hoping for non-turd. But, maybe you'd like that. Who am I to judge?

I pause, staring at the keys. In the bedroom, Monkey's watch alarm goes off again. the second time in fifteen minutes (that makes sense). I hope it's nothing important she was trying to remind herself of, because she is not here. As a result, I am being repeatedly alarmed for no good reason. That is not good for the nervous system.

I am reading this book, lately: Sea of Glory. It's by Nathan Philbrick, who wrote Mayflower and In the Heart of the Sea, about the whale ship Essex, the sinking of which inspired Melville to write Moby Dick. The story of this book focuses on the US Exploratory Expedition of c. 1840-something, an around-the-world naval mission to map Antarctica and some of the South Seas, and to generally gather knowledge and earn laurels for the relatively new US of A. The captain of the voyage (the commodore, I guess), named Wilkes, was quite the worker, and he spent many hours gathering scientific measurements and doing captain-y stuff, the burden and worry of which caused him to pass out after taking a well-earned sauna somewhere in Tierra del Fuego. This was early in the voyage--after setting sail from Norfolk, they sailed to Madeira Island, then back west and around Cape Horn. They hadn't been to sea but a matter of months, and here this command figure is having something like a nervous breakdown.

After reading about this, my first thought was, "Does this kind of thing happen anymore?" You know, this melodramatic swooning after a heavy labor. Do people do this? Or is this some Romanticized nineteenth-century PR? I don't know, but, in my estimation, these Dickensian, Bronte-like, Austenian reactions to stress are just so two centuries ago.

Of course, nowadays, look at what we do have: pop stars and movie men making the headlines. Oh, Britney, was that a good old fashioned swoon we witnessed two weeks ago? Oh, Heath, is this the post-modern version of fainting into the arms of your second?

Please, Muses, ye Gods that make folly of literature and life, bring back the Romance! Bring back the cravat and the petticoat! O, but we need a Romantic revival!! Yet, please, I have had enough of the Gothic. Thank you.

1 comment:

La Fashionista said...

A gift to delight.


The joy, the triumph,
the delight, the madness!
The boundless, overflowing,
bursting gladness,
The vaporous exultation not to be confined!
Ha! Ha! The animation of delight
Which wraps me, like an atmosphere of light,
And bears me as a cloud
is borne by its own wind.

from Prometheus Unbound,
Percy Bysshe Shelley