I was reading an article about a week ago regarding how an art historian settled down an argument over the precise location of a specific scene in a little Dutch town by using tax and residential property records. It was short but an interesting read, as I love art history and am into investigation. At the time I wasn’t paying attention to this painter, however I do like the work very much, a peaceful still scene in a Dutch little town Delft. The painting is called “The Little Street”.
Just a few days later I was reading “Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen, in which she mentioned a painting displayed in the Frick Collection by a Dutch Golden Age Painter, Johannes Vermeer, who happens to be the person who painted “The Little Street” (Vermeer is also the painter who created other more famous works such as “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and “The Milkmaid”). The painting, which is titled “Girl Interrupted at Her Music”, is essentially what Susanna’s half-autobiographic work named after; she dedicates the name of the book to that moment (or moments) when she was in Frick Collection looking at that girl, when the girl seemed to talk to her.
And then I saw a friend sharing an amazing painting on Instagram by, again, such a coincident, a Dutch painter, from the same period of time, whose name is Marseus van Schrieck. I mentioned that I just recently discovered Johannes Vermeer (out of surprise) and she then introduced me to a documentary film called “Tim’s Vermeer”, which is the journey of an entrepreneur Tim Jenison trying to recreate the painting device Vermeer used centuries ago (this is based on a theory that Vermeer used Camera Obscura to create his realistic photo-like works).
Finally, yesterday, I picked up my “The Colossus” by Sylvia Plath, a book I bought a while ago but only started reading because of the confinement. In the second poem “Two Views of a Cadaver Room”, Sylvia used Pieter Brueghel’s panorama painting “The Triumph of Death” as a motif (or a scene) to express her complex understanding/feeling of death and love. While the painting is clearly related to the Black Death, I can’t stop to think that both Susanna Kaysen and Sylvia Plath were confined to the same hospital, McLean Hospital, but 15 years apart, and that I, and actually we, are all in confinement in this pandemic that kills thousands and counting, a real Triumph of Death.
Vines, wires, distant hills
Within that stillness.
That sheep regarded me
Composed with shadows
Shuffle through the aisles.
Morning leaves its breath
On the tip of the autumn leaves
Before the brightness became apparent.
My face embraced by
The damp delight
In the break of a May day.
While the sheep in fog
Brought me to this fairy land.
The empty space you left permeates,
Infectious, hollows mind.
A world vast and warmthless
I’m still breathing with corrupted lungs,
Chocked by the ashes that fall
As the winter comes.
The lover that went wrong,
My name forgotten, blurry and gone.
I was the reckless, the only youth (between us)
Falling for that youthful dream that drowned in your leaden truth.
I knew you were bleeding (before all this),
But you are the lucky one.
Because the dying is the one that you think went wrong.
I am the one naïve youth that you will soon forget,
Left in the far field
With the blade still deep
Bury under the skin.
Missing the hand that
Once hold the grip.
I’m still missing.
After Daughter, Elena Tonra “Youth”
(This is only a short and incomplete note on my thought on Anne Carson’s work, which should not be taken seriously.)
It would probably better, to read “Autobiography of red” before reading this. Maybe some extra Greek mythology would help too.
But I enjoy the read, as it is a journey of word play, not just playing with words, but the structure of sentence, paragraph, visual effect, and sound, eventually, this is a prose poem, like the greek saga, should be listened.
I believe Charlotte Perkins Gilman said herself that she never thought about being a novelist, yet she wrote amazing stories.
In a sense she’s maybe referring to her ability to construct a complete, thorough structure for her novel, as her short fictions are the ones that continue to catch our eyes more than a century later. It’s not that her novel isn’t amazing, it is just that her short stories are much more distilled, with simple but powerful idea that each contains a hard-to-avoid narrative.
Her essays, which are equally important and deserve to be collected and preserved, however, are less distinguish as her fictional work from my point of view; theory evolves with new research and social condition and can be outdated. With so much development and fundamental shift, feminism today is far broader and more complex than the one her generation struggle to develop. Although many are still not achieved, we can see that feminist today has a much more diverse goals and her essays are more of a philosophical foundation than practical tools any more.
I enjoy the short fictions significantly more than her other works.
This isn’t restrictedly speaking a novel, but it provide something much more than just an account.
I was occupied by the story after watching the film when I was probably the same age as Susanna Kaysen when she was confined to the McLean Hospital. I didn’t know either, at the time, that Sylvia Plath was one of the prominent figures who stay shortly in the same institute. After so many years I realized that I am always fascinated by this kind of stories because I was one; a revelation made after eventually reading the book.
But each one of us, Susanna, Sylvia, Lisa, Daisy, Georgiana, is dealing with a unique situation that only belong to that intimate self, as such, though there are sentences and observations that strike me hardly, the story is actually foreign to me, and it makes the book witty, obscure at some passage, funny, sadden, and intriguing at the same time.
This is not the reality that Sylvia tried to tell us by poetry, not the dark drama something like Joker would demonstrate, not the incredibly deep reflection by Virginia, but a POV from someone who was, by her own words, interrupted.
The morning mist is famous to the musing gaze of the wondering soul,
Whiteness hooves across the fields,
Taking away the breath
Of the leaving train.
We disappointed her,
Letting her through to that stillness.
Her skin bright as a lampshade.
She is famous
While loneliness is famous to
After Naomi Shihab Nye “Famous”
And Sylvia Plath “Sheep in Fog” and “Lady Lazarus”