Saturday, June 01, 2013

`My Real Boosters'

Toothsome bits plucked from recent reading: 

“Long before I had drugs, my real boosters were books.” 

“I thought it was I alone who discovered Ivy Compton-Burnett….Her novels were written almost entirely in dialogue—so brilliant that it makes T.S. Eliot sound like Johnny Carson.” 

Oscar Levant, The Unimportance of Being Oscar (Putnam, 1968). 

March 8, 1963: “Was told yesterday I had not won the National Book Award. I felt some relief as I have no equipment for prize-winning—no small talk, no time for idle graciousness and required public show, no clothes either or desire for front. I realize I have no yen for any experience (even a triumph) that blocks observation, when I am the observed instead of the observer. Time is too short to miss so many sights. Also chloroforms, removes the weapons—de-fanging, claws cut, scorpion tail removed, leaves helpless fat cat with no defenses and maybe exposing not a sweet, harmless pet but a bad case of mange.” 

The Diaries of Dawn Powell 1931-1965, ed. Tim Page (Steerforth Press, 1995). 

“[Nabokov’s] book on Gogol -- my earliest literary idol -- infuriated me and I threw it across the room after he had wallowed in the grisly ugliness of poor Gogol and jumped up and down over him, then patted him to show Daddy alone loved him.” 

Letter to Edmund Wilson, July 20, 1965: Selected Letters of Dawn Powell 1913-1965, ed. Tim Page (Henry Holt and Co., 1999). 

“His own heroes are the great Russians: Turgenev, `a magician in what he can do with an ordinary day,’ and Tolstoy--`the horse’s mouth full of snow at the end of “Master and Man,”—the ability to put death on the page. I wanted to get down on my knees to him. Awful man, not to know better what his real talents were.’” 

"Maxwell’s Silver Typewriter,” The Economist, June 29, 1999; collected in Conversations with William Maxwell , ed. Barbara Burkhardt (University Press of Mississippi, 2012).

“[Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano] was tough going at first, and I made a couple of false starts before buckling down one night and reading through all of its 350-odd pages in what I remember as a marathon sitting. Stunned by the novel’s evocation of chaos and fear, its stark Sophoclean majesty, I carried it everywhere, reading it again and again, one paperback edition eroding into the next. Years later, during my first adult visit to the United Kingdom, there were two places to which I made pilgrimages: Gough Court in London, where Samuel Johnson assembled the first dictionary of the English language, and the village of Ripe, where I ceremoniously poured a beer over the grave of Malcolm Lowry.”
Tim Page, Parallel Play: Growing Up with Undiagnosed Asperger’s (Doubleday, 2009).

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