Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"The more one sees of life the more one is aware how hopeless it is without art to give it meaning."

{Vivien Leigh in Anna Karenina, 1948}

From Viktor Shklovsky's "Another Note on Beginnings and Endings," from Energy of Delusion: A Book on Plot (1981)
If a talented person tried to lie, Tolstoy said, his talent wouldn't allow him to.
It's an inordinately busy week, so I've only got time to share a couple of quick bits tonight.

The Shklovsky I present in honor of a renewal, last night with my friend Bob--who is spending this week getting drunk on Tolstoy--of the eternal, inexhaustible conversation about Anna Karenina. A bit more from the same essay:
Sometimes happy endings are dressed with irony. As in one of Charlie Chaplin's pictures his friend, the millionaire, recognizes him only when he is drunk, but when he is sober, Chaplin is a stranger to him.

At the beginning of the novel, Karenina is reading an English novel about a baronet. She reads it through to the traditional ending, when the baronet gains his happiness.

Suddenly she is filled with shame.

She has already seen Vronsky.

This is the first hint of adultery.

It's not going to end like the novel about the baronet.
Which seems like a good enough lead-in to a pair of entries from Cyril Connolly, who provides this post's title. I'm drawing today from a piece in The Condemned Playground (1945), "England Not My England," which consists of selections from a journal kept by the twenty-three-year-old Connolly, chosen by him to highlight his whiplashing dis- and re-enchantment with his native England. The first strikes an unusual note of forthright satisfaction:
2nd to 4th August 1927

I ought in fairness to announce that these two days by the sea I have been distinctly happy.
But true to form, Connolly is soon right down in it again:
8th September 1927

My thoughts run to depression as a child to its mother. Not to be born is best, or, being born, to live at Cadiz.
Even at his most self-pitying, Connolly remains detached enough to derive a level of amusement--even pleasure--from his condition; Robert Burton would, I think, have approved.

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