Thursday 18 April 2019

Starting a New Book...

So I've just started reading Siri Hustvedt's latest novel, Memories of the Future.

I'm inclined to anticipate enjoyment of Hustvedt's work thanks solely (so far) on my experience with What I Loved. I feel sure that I will be in for an intelligent, literary treat.

The first chapter has not disappointed.

Metafiction is the name of this game as Hustvedt's story explores a 61 yr old woman looking book on the journal written by her 23 yr old self when she first moved to New York to write.

In a curious, personal, twist of fate, there is a Don Quixote connection right from the start.

Within the journal of 23 yr old S.H. is another story about Ian Feathers (I.F.) - a man whose real 'life was lived in books, not out of them.' A man who took his passion for mystery, unsolved crimes and murder too far. A man who 'lived in a world built entirely of clues.' A man who wanted to live his life through the 'splendid' example of Sherlock Holmes (another S.H.). All good heroes need a sidekick - I.F.'s 'all-important confidante, his Sancho, his Watson,' was/is Isadora Simon (I.S.).

I love it when my book worlds collide, or perhaps, more elegantly, when serendipity steps in to allow one bookish experience to inform the next.

Memories of the Future is also ripe with books within books, or more accurately, poets and their poems.

John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Barbara Guest and Frank O'Hara. And The Great Gatsby, Balzac, Proust, Gogol, Baudelaire, Laurence Sterne and Plato just to name those referenced in the first 32 pages. But the one that has made several appearances and will obviously play a bigger role as the story unfolds is the Dada-poet/performance artist, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.

Who? I hear you ask.

According to the Poetry Foundation, she was a 'German-born avant-garde poet. Known for her flamboyance and sexual frankness, the Baroness was a central figure in Greenwich Village’s early-twenties Dadaism'.

Wikipedia describes her as 'breaking every erotic boundary, revelling in anarchic performance'.

Her friend Emily Coleman saw her as, 'not as a saint or a madwoman, but as a woman of genius, alone in the world, frantic'.

I'm very curious to see how Hustvedt will thread the Baroness' life into the rest of her story.
Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven by Holland Cotter

Fruit Don’t Fall Far
By Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven
Translated by Jill Alexander Essbaum

From Daddy sprung my inborn ribaldry.
His crudeness destined me to be the same.
A seedlet, flowered from a shitty heap,
I came, the crowning glory of his aim.

From Mother I inherited ennui,
The leg irons of the queendom I once rattled.
But I won’t let such chains imprison me.
And there is just no telling what this brat’ll...!

This marriage thing? We snub our nose at it.
What’s pearl turns piss, what’s classy breeds what’s smutty.
But like it? Lump it? Neither’s exigent.
And I’m the end result of all that fucking.

Do what you will! This world’s your oyster, Pet.
But be forewarned. The sea might drown you yet.

Not my usual poetic fare, but from what I have seen so far, a fair example of the Baroness' writing. And as S.H. says on pg 53, 'I returned to the sputterings of the Baroness because I regarded her as my archival rescue job, almost annihilated back then, and I wanted to protect her from oblivion with my voice.'

Jennifer @Holds Upon Happiness posts a lovely Poem for a Thursday each week. I enjoy sourcing poems from my recent reads to join in with her as I can.

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