Thursday, November 1, 2012

of that relationship

Separation between people in Matthews' poem comes down to shame -- without shame they wouldn't have to camouflage themselves so secretly -- "A shared culture offers camouflage | behind which we can tend the covert fires | we feed our shames to" -- which reminds me that this idea of a sharp split between the inner and outer worlds of the person has been used by other writers; I've read it recently in Patrick White's Riders in the Chariot, "Where the road sloped down she ran, disturbing stones, her body quite agitated as it accompanied her, but her inner self by now quite joyfully serene. The anomaly of that relationship never failed to mystify ..." -- and why the word inner and why the word outer, and why only two: that's a question, though note that White is an author who likes strong divisions, and he likes to clash them against one another, so that when a sensitive unworldly woman in Riders decides to hire a housekeeper you see that she is really importing a cactus to scar herself against.

Everybody scratches one another in that book, all the characters have some angular difference, and even when they are representing the same general idea they will come at it from different directions, until each example proves something different about the idea; and the martyrdom of the Jewish character in Riders is not the same as the martyrdom of the painter, and the philistinism of the housekeeper Mrs Jolley is not the philistinism of her friend Mrs Flack.

When I see the name "Mrs Jolley" of course I think of Elizabeth Jolley, the author of Lovesong and Mr Scobie's Riddle, and I remember that White often argued with people, but Chariot came out in 1961 from Eyre & Spottiswoode, which is too early for anyone in literature to start feuds with Elizabeth Jolley, who didn't publish a novel until 1980, yet, still, even knowing that, I have trouble reading the name "Mrs Jolley" in this book without imagining a photograph I know of Elizabeth Jolley's face, very black and white with herself coming into the frame diagonally. I do not think that the character looks like this photograph, I only imagine the photograph. Mrs Jolley is not an imaginary woman who looks like Elizabeth Jolley, she is, simultaneously, a line of dialogue on a page and a photograph of Elizabeth Jolley's head and neck inside a rectangular border, which somehow moves around, associating itself with the name Jolley and representing itself in an imaginarily visual sense inside my idea of the sensitive employer's mansion, in the foyer by the staircase with bannisters (this is a picture of a house from some other source; I don't remember if this foyer or these bannisters appear in White's book), but remaining aloof from the housekeeper's beliefs, for those beliefs are not represented anywhere in the works of Elizabeth Jolley, in a way that would make me think that she supported them, and in fact the opposite; she was like White in that she wrote, also, about people scarring one another, and about their imaginations.


  1. Replies
    1. I'm just wishing I knew where I'd seen that photograph. It's teasing me now.