(Soundtrack: Neutral Milk Hotel– In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.)
Rose Curtin gives us her initial impressions of Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance, and I hope there’s more on tap! (she has spoken of a TV tie-in!) I’m just glad that she seems not to have hated the book, which has been known to rub people the wrong way… I’ll never forget that day, a few years ago, when I dropped in on my M.A. advisor and began ranting about Coverdale and Dashiell Hammett’s detective-narrators. “Coverdale?” she exclaimed. “Whaddya want to write about that creep for?”
She was right, of course–he is a creep. But I also think that there’s a little of that creep in all of us. Especially those of us who like to write. You know that moment in Animal Man #26, where “Grant Morrison” describes his mixed feelings about the death of Jarmara? Coverdale is basically that ghoulish all of the time! He aestheticizes everything–living to turn affairs into ballads. More than anything, I read this novel as Zenobia’s (unsuccessful?) assault on the narrator’s position of superiority. Of course, this is hardly the only possible interpretation, and it will sound suspiciously familiar to anyone who has read my pieces on The Turn of the Screw and Eminent Victorians… I cannot deny that the conflict between narrator and narrated is the aspect of storytelling that interests me the most–I look for it everywhere: but I think the mania began with Blithedale (and Animal Man, of course!)
Coverdale is the prototype of the “unreliable” modernist narrator. And Zenobia may be the finest antagonist ever to confront such a figure. In passages such as this one:
“What are you seeking to discover in me?”
“The mystery of your life,” answered I (Coverdale), surprised into the truth by the unexpectedness of her attack. “And you will never tell me.”
She bent her head towards me, and let me look into her eyes, as if challenging me to drop a plummet-line down into the depths of her consciousness.
“I see nothing now,” said I, closing my own eyes, “unless it be the face of a sprite, laughing at me from the bottom of a well”
I think Hawthorne was attempting to take objectification to such an extreme that it would actually generate a countervailing subjectivity within his own narrative. Of course, that’s impossible–right? Still, that’s precisely what I tried to do in Darkling I Listen, and the quest continues with Longing For Catastrophe…
Back to the Doom Patrol tomorrow!
Good night friends!