In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays (Original Harvest Book; Hb333) (9 page)

BOOK: In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays (Original Harvest Book; Hb333)
13.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

She puts her two palms on the table and leans back. He draws near to her, dropping his head.

BLACKMORE:
Look here!
(He has put his hand on the table near hers.)

MRS. HOLROYD:
Yes, I know you’ve got nice hands—but you needn’t be vain of them.

BLACKMORE:
No—it’s not that—But don’t they seem—
(He glances swiftly at her; she turns her head aside; he laughs nervously.)
—they sort of go well with one another.
(He laughs again.)

MRS. HOLROYD:
They
do,
rather—.”

 

This is a key moment in the play, for the attraction between them dramatized by this quiet scene has its preparation and consequences. Blackmore is aware that Mrs. Holroyd suffers from her husband’s drinking—that he brutalizes the family when he returns from his drinking sprees and has humiliated her by bringing prostitutes to his home. Mrs. Holroyd has wished for his death, to be free of him. She confesses this to Blackmore. But when her husband dies in a mine accident she is distraught; she feels that it is her wish which caused his death. She says despairingly, “I never loved you enough.”

In
The Married Man
Lawrence attempts light comedy and is less successful. He deals with complicated philandering, but adds little touches typical of his writing: “I should think it would be the easiest thing in life to write a poem about a couch. I never see a couch but my heart moves to poetry. The very buttons must be full of echoes.”

All the plays foreshadow the series of films made so much later about working classes in England: the moods for Tony Richardson’s
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
and Karel Reisz’s
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning;
inarticulate tenderness; frustrated ambitions; atmospheres of limitation and greyness.

In
The Daughter-in-Law
a husband is unfaithful, the wife leaves him, but then returns to find her husband has been wounded in a strike. They rediscover the depth of their love for each other.

In
Touch and Go
Lawrence tackles a social theme, and shows that he was able as early as 1920 to foresee that the struggle of labor against capital would be thwarted not by objective factors (whether or not the demands were fair) but by the personal, irrational, subjective resistance of individuals.

A Collier’s Friday Night,
which parallels
Sons and Lovers,
is probably the most moving of all the plays. The father drinks and is brutal, the mother feels superior to him and has transferred her love to her son. She is jealous of her son’s interest in a young girl, Maggie, and when he goes to visit her she cannot sleep until he returns safely home. When her son tries to explain that there are different kinds of love, that there are things he can talk about with Maggie which he cannot talk about with her, she can only reproach him for not loving her more than anyone else. The play ends with a full expression of their love, an overwhelming tenderness. “There is in their tone a dangerous gentleness—so much gentleness that the safe reserve of their soul is broken.”

It is this reserve (which is rarely broken in the plays) which makes them less revealing of other dimensions than are the novels, where Lawrence proved himself a speleologist of the unconscious. He penetrated realms people feared and did not acknowledge. He portrayed ambivalences, dualities, and instinctive, intuitive states. He allowed his characters moments of desperation, loss of control, blind impulsiveness. Those who were not at ease with these explorations, who do not wish to witness any outbreaks of the irrational in the pattern of harmonious tradition, will prefer the plays, with their detachment and linear organization.

Out of the Labyrinth: An Interview
 

An interview by Jody Hoy, in the
East West Journal,
August 1974.

 

EAST WEST JOURNAL:
At what point in your life did you recognize your own commitment as a writer?

ANAÏS NIN
: Very early, because of a mistaken diagnosis when I was nine years old that I wouldn’t walk. I immediately took to writing, and then after that of course I began the diary at eleven.

EWJ:
Did you read a great deal as a child?

AN:
Yes, voraciously.

EWJ:
In the diaries you frequently mention Marcel Proust. Has his work influenced your writing?

AN:
Proust was very important; he was the first one to show me how to break down the chronology (which I never like) and to follow the dictates and intuitions of memory, of feeling memory, so that he only wrote things when he felt them, no matter when it happened. And of course this element became very strong in my work. But there were also other influences. I wanted to write a poetic novel, and for that I chose models like Giraudoux, Pierre-Jean Jouve, and also Djuna Barnes, an American writer and author of
Nightwood.
Later on it was D. H. Lawrence. Lawrence showed me the way to find a language for emotion, for instinct, for ambivalence, for intuition.

EWJ:
Do you
identify
yourself now as an American writer?

AN:
I’m really writing for America and in English, but I would like to go beyond that. I can’t say I’m an American writer, although I’m identified with the new consciousness. I prefer to think of myself in more universal or international terms, particularly as I partake of two cultures. On the other hand, many foreign-born writers have been incorporated into the mainstream of American literature, yet Americans still say “foreign-born Nabokov,” and in my case, “Paris-born Anaïs.”

EWJ:
Is the cross-cultural background to which you refer a possible source of the inner density and flow in your work?

AN:
I always felt the inner quality resulted from the trauma of being uprooted and of losing my father, then of realizing I had to build an inner world which would withstand destruction. The child who is uprooted begins to recognize that what he builds within himself is what will endure, what will withstand shattering experiences.

EWJ:
Your works often evoke symphonic form. Do you feel that music has influenced your writing?

AN:
Very strongly. I even said as directly as that in the diary that my ideal would be a page of writing which would be like a page of music. There must be a language, a way of expressing things, which bypasses the intellect and goes straight to the emotions. I wanted to evoke the same reaction to writing that I have to music.

EWJ:
I’m interested in the creative process itself, how you move from the interior vision to its exteriorization in literature.

AN:
My concern was for exterior reality as holding a secret of a metaphor. I would never describe the city or the ragpickers or a person without looking for the inner meaning. When you are concerned with the metaphysical meaning, everything becomes transparent. I never described a city for its own sake but immediately had to find what its spiritual qualities were. Its symbolic value is what makes it seem transparent, people would even say dreamlike, but that wasn’t what it was.

EWJ:
What place would you assign to the dream in your works, and what significance to the constancy of flow and communication between the conscious and the unconscious?

AN:
Unfortunately, we tend to separate everything. We separate the body and soul. We separate the dream from our daily life. What I found in psychology was the interrelationship between them, and I wanted to keep those passageways open, to be able to move from one dimension to the other, not to divide them even, so that they were really one. The next step was carrying it into the novel, always starting the novel with a dream, having that dream be the theme of the novel to be developed, understood, and fulfilled if possible at the end in order to be able to move on to the next experience.

EWJ:
How do you explain the almost universal identification of your women readers with the characters in your novels?

AN:
I believe that what unites us universally is our emotions, our feelings in the face of experience, and not necessarily the actual experiences themselves. The facts were different, but readers felt the same way towards a father even if the father was different. So I think unwittingly I must have gone so deep inside what Ira Progoff calls the “personal well” that I touched the water at a level where it connected all the wells together.

EWJ:
Is part of your uniqueness as a writer due to the fact that you venture into realms which relate specifically to woman’s situation and experience?

AN:
My own subjective attitude towards reality was all I really knew, what I could see and feel. I read a great deal, but I didn’t imitate men writers. I wanted to tell what I saw. So it came out a woman’s vision of the universe, a highly personal vision. I wanted to translate man to woman and woman to man. I didn’t want to lose contact with the language of man, but I knew that there was a distinction of levels.

EWJ:
Among your works is there one which, from your own point of view, is the best written?

AN:
I could never rewrite the short stories. I couldn’t add one word to the short stories in
Under a Glass Bell
. I couldn’t change anything in
Collages.

EWJ:
Do you use a different artistic yardstick or measure for the diaries?

AN:
In writing the diary, I tried to overlook, to forget all procedures of writing. I wanted to make no demands on myself as to whether I’d written it well or not well. I wanted to shed all that, and I succeeded because I felt it would never be read.

EWJ:
The diaries were originally not intended to be published?

AN:
No.

EWJ:
How did they come to be published?

AN:
Occasionally I would have a desire to share a part of the diary, or I would write something I was proud of. I did let some people read a part here and there; for example, I let Henry Miller read his portrait. So, there was a little bit of sharing. But feeling that I could solve the problems of editing a diary didn’t come till much later, when as a practiced novelist I felt I could handle the problem of editing. Also, I had to handle the psychological problem of being open, the fear of exposing myself. I had a terrifying dream that I opened my front door and was struck by mortal radiation. But then the opposite happened. I overcame that, I overcame the editing problems and then, of course, I was open.

EWJ:
Do you use the diary as a resource for the novels and short stories?

AN:
Yes, it’s really a notebook. Sometimes if I keep writing about a person who interests me, after a while I have a cumulative portrait. We don’t think of our friends in that way, we see them a little bit here and a little bit there. Suddenly I see a total person, then I write the story.

EWJ:
Has your exceptional beauty been an asset or a disadvantage?

AN:
Sometimes it was an asset when you could charm a critic, and sometimes it really stood in the way. Even in women the feeling persists that beauty means there isn’t anything inside. I never believed in mine, so that made it very simple.

EWJ:
In the diaries, you speak with great attachment of your home in Louveciennes. Do you consider environment an extension of personality in the same way that clothing constitutes a symbolic extension of character in your novels?

AN:
Yes. I also believe we need to change our environment as we evolve. I know the history of Louveciennes ended at a certain time. Looking back on it, it was the right time. Even though it’s painful and you are not necessarily aware when you’re finished with a certain experience, you do know, something propels you out. I have been propelled out of several homes. When a certain cycle ends, the house itself becomes dead. I think these are reflections of where we are at the moment.

EWJ:
In your writings you express a profound belief in the human capacity to grow beyond neurosis. What is the source of your optimism?

AN:
I never thought about the source. I always felt that impulse in myself, the way plants have an impulse to grow. I believe what happens are accidental interferences and blockages. We all have that impulse but then it gets damaged occasionally. It’s in children, isn’t it? They use their strengths, their skills, and explore everything, all possibilities. I believe that we can take notice of the damage which most of us sustain somewhere along the line and we can overcome the damage. We all have interferences, discouragements, and traumatic experiences. I have met young writers who have stopped at the first rejection notice. So it’s a question of how much we are willing to struggle in order to overcome the impediments.

EWJ:
Would you say that one of the major themes in your works is the conflict between woman’s role as a dependent and loving being and the artist’s drive toward transcendence?

BOOK: In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays (Original Harvest Book; Hb333)
13.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

One Sweet Day by Kristin Miller
Break by Vanessa Waltz
Underdogs by Markus Zusak
Tap Out by Eric Devine
Book of Love by Julia Talbot
Lost Paradise by Tara Fox Hall
Deep Autumn Heat by Elisabeth Barrett
The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart