The Babu’s been lazy–wonderful house guests, Real Work, incredibly demanding cats–and Kitabkhana apologises on his behalf. We’ve come back to find that we missed out on a lot of stories.
One Blog To Rule Them All, One Blog To Find Them; One Blog To Bring Them All And In The Darkness Bind Them: We also missed out on Terry Teachout’s preachy admonition to all of us in the blogosphere to add links and to credit sources. (Does the man have any idea how annoying he sounds? Like the prissy lady who used to handle Moral Science class in the awful convent my parents dumped me? Who would tell us to share our tiffin–just after we’d done that already? And I’m sorry, but the whole bit about a blog not being a blog unless it has a links list is a load of crap. Some bloggers are diarists; some are linkers; some are commentators and there’s space for all of us. Anyway, the Complete Review has a Complete Roundup.)
Back to stories I missed: Naomi Wolf says Harold Bloom felt her up back when she was a student. Camille Paglia (is she still around? and why?) threw a hissy fit about Wolf’s years-after-the-event disclosure. The story’s here and here andhere and here; Yale responds with a no-response responsehere. And following The Teachout Model, we saw the story here…and here… and here. Like the rest of them, I saw the story first at The Observer, but hey, Mr Teachout says we must give credit where credit’s due. Amen.
I also missed the Iris Murdoch story. Elias Canetti had his memoirs embargoed for thirty years after his death; they’re out now, and the God-Monster has made unpleasant mention of Murdoch. The Independent quotes this passage: “Then the strangest thing happened as soon as we had kissed. The settee on which I always slept was near. Iris undressed herself swiftly, one might say, as fast as lightning, without my laying a finger upon her, she wore things that had absolutely nothing to do with love, woollen, ugly, but they were piled so swiftly into a heap on the floor, she had already laid herself under the blanket on a settee. There was no time to look at her things or at her. She lay unmoved and unchanged, I hardly noticed that I was inside her, I did not feel that she noticed anything.”
But this is so much more revealing of Canetti than of Murdoch, isn’t it? He is affronted by her almost absent-minded control of the situation; offended by the fact that she wore normal lingerie (what was he expecting from Iris, the latest in Victoria’s Secrets seduction line of innerwear? Come on!); threatened that she lay not just unmoved, but unchanged, by his presumably transformatory lovemaking. She broke every rule of the conventional affair: she refused to play the part of the kittenish woman dying to be seduced, she refused to buy into the myth of the woman whose Underwear Reveals All, she refused to be the passive, seduced, unresisting partner. She took what she wanted from Canetti and moved on; perhaps that’s really what offended him, what cut him to the core of his manhood, which sounds like a damp, shrivelled, insecure thing from this account.
Kamila Shamsie has been travelling in India: “It’s one of my favourite things in Karachi, the evening sea breeze that transforms a hot day, and to find it in Bombay was like meeting, for the first time, the sibling of someone you love and in that stranger’s features encountering utterly beloved expressions.”
“Only men learned to read and write Chinese, and bound feet and social strictures confined women to their husband’s homes after marriage. So somehow — scholars are unsure how, or exactly when — the women of this fertile valley in the southwestern corner of Hunan province developed their own way to communicate. It was a delicate, graceful script handed down from grandmother to granddaughter, from elderly aunt to adolescent niece, from girlfriend to girlfriend — and never, ever shared with the men and boys.
So was born nushu, or women’s script, a single-sex writing system that Chinese scholars believe is the only one of its kind.” India has women’s songs, women’s secret diaries; I’m not sure that we have a secret language for women, though. Anyone willing to enlighten the Babu, please do write in.
On a glowing morning in Edinburgh, one of those days when the light angled into the city and illuminated old and new alike, I heard Colm Toibin reading from a draft of his Henry James book. He read the passage where James is waiting for his play, Guy Domville, to be greeted with applause on its opening night, but instead has to steel himself against the jeers of an audience that judged him and found him wanting. Toibin wrote about how James walked, and walked away, but could never escape that sound. The book’s out; the Babu desperately wants a copy.
Ouch. “At times, one feels that Naipaul’s editor, Pankaj Mishra, is selecting essays in the way that the Keystone Kops selected banana skins.”