My Nom de Net is Guy Savage. The blog name: His Futile Preoccupations (www.swiftlytiltingplanet.wordpress.com) is NOT a reference to Madeleine L’Engle’s book, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, but to the poet Conrad Aiken from his poem Senlin: His Futile Preoccupations. It’s a poem I think about a great deal. It’s a long poem, and here’s just an excerpt:
Senlin: His Futile Preoccupations
I am a house, says Senlin, locked and darkened,
Sealed from the sun with wall and door and blind.
Summon me loudly, and you’ll hear slow footsteps
Ring far and faint in the galleries of my mind.
You’ll hear soft steps on an old and dusty stairway;
Peer darkly through some corner of a pane,
You’ll see me with a faint light coming slowly,
Pausing above some gallery of the brain . . .
I am a city . . . In the blue light of evening
Wind wanders among my streets and makes them fair;
I am a room of rock . . . a maiden dances
Lifting her hands, tossing her golden hair.
She combs her hair, the room of rock is darkened,
She extends herself in me, and I am sleep.
It is my pride that starlight is above me;
I dream amid waves of air, my walls are deep.
I am a door . . . before me roils the darkness,
Behind me ring clear waves of sound and light.
Stand in the shadowy street outside, and listen—
The crying of violins assails the night . . .
My walls are deep, but the cries of music pierce them;
They shake with the sound of drums . . . yet it is strange
That I should know so little what means this music,
Hearing it always within me change and change.
Knock on the door,—and you shall have an answer.
Open the heavy walls to set me free,
And blow a horn to call me into the sunlight,—
And startled, then, what a strange thing you will see!
Nuns, murderers, and drunkards, saints and sinners,
Lover and dancing girl and sage and clown
Will laugh upon you, and you will find me nowhere.
I am a room, a house, a street, a town.
When it comes to reading tastes, well I have a tendency to prefer the classics, Transgressive fiction (subject matter NOT genre), crime and noir. It seems that the older I get the darker my reading becomes, and the classics serve as an antidote to crime fiction. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. When reading the classics, I prefer the 19th century–Russian, French and English. Classics provide safe havens, and there’s a sort of reassurance–at least for me–in knowing that centuries ago, people were wrestling with many of the issues that trouble us today.
I loathe the term ‘literary fiction’–for one thing it smacks of snobbery and for another thing it’s a catch-all phrase that tries to dress up some crap books. I’ve noticed a fair number of recent ‘literary’ books try to tell us how to think, feel & react when it comes to life events. Just look at the blurbs. Good crime and noir has the authenticity of dialogue, reaction and emotion that is glaringly absent in many of the new fiction books. Don’t get me wrong–great modern fiction is being written, but it is difficult to sift through and find these gems under the flurry of advertising campaigns that accompany the books ‘selected’ for mega status. And I’m not into prize winners. I think that’s a load of old bollocks.
Books have always been a consolation and an escape for me. I can remember learning to read, and I still feel a thrill when I disappear into a new book and realize that I’m engaged in reading something wonderful, something I’ll always remember. I cannot imagine a life without books.
Finally, I am not an authority, so there are no lectures here, just my opinions–no more–no less–and for more of my futile preoccupations, I also have a film blog: www.phoenixcinema.wordpress.com but don’t post much there these days.
If I read and review a book that I didn’t buy (or wasn’t a present), let’s say a book I requested from the publisher, that will be noted.