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.
15 responses to “About His Futile Preoccupations….”
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Great reviews Guy.
Hey Guy, what is Slave of Love?
BTW, can’t wait to hear what you think of The Ambassador. Loved it myself…
It’s a soviet film from director Mikhalkov loosely based on the life of silent actress Vera Kholodnaya. My review at http://www.phoenixcinema.wordpress.com/2009/06/24/slave-of-love-1976/
Hello Guy, I would like to introduce myself as a fellow reader of classics. I was delighted to find your blog and am impressed by the sheer amount of books you have read and the thoughtful posts written about them. The focus of my own readings are French literary classics, and I see that you have read works by Balzac and Guy de Maupassant. I haven’t yet read the ones you have included here, but am definitely keeping your blog bookmarked for when I do. I think I will enjoy reading your reviews and thoughts on them when the time comes. If you would like, I invite you to browse my own humble blog at http://minifrancais.blogspot.com I recently started it but there are a few posts on there. And yes, I too am comforted by “knowing that centuries ago, people were wrestling with many of the issues that trouble us today.” All the best, mini
Hello Mini: I went to your blog and tried to leave a comment but couldn’t. I have problems with blogspot a lot of the time for some reason and I know I’m not the only person this happens to. Check out http://www.bookaroundthecorner. It’s Emma’s blog. She’s French but blogs in English.
Hello again Guy, thanks so much for visiting my blog and letting me know my comment box was not working for you. That could partly explain why I haven’t gotten any comments yet and now I am planning on migrating to wordpress. Also, thank you for the recommendation to check out Emma’s blog which I will certainly pay a visit.
If you switch, come back and let me know the new site.
I’ve now migrated to WordPress and here is the new URL:
At first, WordPress was confusing but now that I have gotten more comfortable with the features, I think it is actually better than Blogger in many ways. It seems easier to make the blog have a more glossy, cleaned up look. Most importantly, the comment boxes work. Looking forward to exchanging comments and ideas.
You’ll pick it up in no time.
Apologies if this is a duplicate – I left a comment yesterday, but it seems to have disappeared. Don’t know about you, but WP is acting funny in my browser as of late.
Actually, it is a question, I have. I think you mentioned a few months ago that you have a few books on Nechaev the nihilist. (Catchy!) Do any of them have the text of his essay, Fundamentals of the Future Social System? If so, I would be greatly appreciative if you could scan it – the essay – and email it. Even in French would be okay.
I cannot find a copy of it anywhere, and Marx’s denunciations of it are so intriguing!
Best, and thanks!
The six of us had arrived in pairs at the South Bank, posing as film noir enthusiasts, an easy thing for me but a difficult one for Kay, who considered the Hollywood motion picture her sworn enemy. We took our places in NFT2 for a late-night showing of Out of the Past. As we sat among the Mitchum fans it was hard to believe that the theatre where I had spent so many formative hours would soon be reduced to cinders. I was too unsettled to concentrate on a single frame, but Kay sat forward, engrossed by this brutal tale of infatuation and betrayal.
From The Millennium People by J. G. Ballard, in case you don’t know it already 😀.
Best in 2016!
No I don’t know it so will check it out. Back at you for 2016
Don’t see anything on your blog about Nikolai Leskov. I just watched the 2016 film, “Lady Macbeth,” based on his story “The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.” It’s an interesting case of cinema adaptation as the tone of the movie (pretty good flick) is totally different from that of the story. Interesting change of ending too…reflecting our “feminist” times.
I read some Leskov, including the Lady Macbeth story pre blogging days but didn’t know there was a film. Tx for the tip. I’ll check it out.