Thursday, August 22, 2013

she might begin to enjoy herself

I read in An Australian Girl about Ted the clot who brands himself (the author thinks (as if I wouldn't know she's planned it)) by attending horse races and then I read A Mere Chance (1882), an early book by Ada Cambridge, whose heroine goes to a horse race in the bush and is "very glad to have seen it," which was like a breath released in me; and when the horse race is compared to an opera it is like blasphemy after Martin's book, but I like to tell myself that this is something you'd have to experience; that it is not totally possible to explain (without going through the books yourself, through the period of time it would take to read them, and the accumulation of impressions), the high-minded tight contraction of one book and the baby-birdness of the other one, that feeds on everything indiscriminately. "She was inclined to think that -- for once in a way -- it was even better than going to the opera."

The clamour rose, and lulled, and rose again, as for the second time the green circle was traversed and the horses came in sight -- some lagging far behind, some labouring along under the whip, two keeping to the front almost neck and neck, whose names were flung wildly into the air from a hundred mouths.

And then Mr. Thornley, standing quietly with his eye upon the little slip of wood before him, said, "Bluebeard and Jessica -- half a head." And it was over.

Rachel drew a long breath. She was not sorry that it was over, though she was very glad to have seen it. She shook herself, as if to get rid of a painful spell, and felt that she might begin to enjoy herself again.

So that I see Ada Cambridge has had an idea that Catherine Martin did not have, or did not believe in for her books: that the inner state is not dependent on the refined world's beliefs about the outer state, that sensuous excitement is an emotion that can be respected, and that the borderland between this instinctive flesh-excitement and the mindful summarising of those excitements, is a contradictory flux, and those contradictions can be something an author may recognise and acknowledge: the inexpressible inner ecstasy being accessorised with trim measuring language, "felt that she might begin to enjoy herself again," and the different parts muddled together like a cocktail, not divided into pure conditions, simply "brave, fearless, true," like Burke in Martin's Explorers, not even bad or good, but something that becomes necessary after it is stated.

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