Madison Morrison's Web / Sentence of the Gods / Divine
Inventing Divine

Inventing Divine

Mowbray Allan

Until its narrator begins to kick up his or her heels half way through, the narrative mode of Ulysses is, it turns out, not the “surrealism” of one’s first impression, but simply “super realism,” realism carried to its extreme by disdain for the usual novelistic deference to the reader as a stranger needing introduction to an unfamiliar world, a deference quite “artificial” and anti-realistic, by the way. (I use “surrealism” in a loose and “popular” sense.) Or say that the book pretends to be written for a small group of intimate friends and acquaintances, though really intended for the world and for the ages. Or say that Ulysses begins in medias res. And so, in its different way, with Madison Morrison’s Divine. The strange mixture we meet at first soon resolves itself into identifiable elements, though with novel nuances. Part I begins thus:

Under the Emperor Diocletian, in the early Christian period, a young woman named Agnes, propositioned by an official, rejected him. Stripped naked in the stadium of Domitian as punishment, she survived humiliation when her locks miraculously flourished to cover her shame. A balding man passes, black sunglasses atop his head; on his arm, a woman in red dress, black shoes, red lipstick, a luxurious fur coat draped about her shoulders. Condemned to be burnt at the stake, she proved impervious to the flames. A man in a wheelchair glides by, drooling spittle. Dismayed, Diocletian ordered her head cut off. His attendant glances at author, a cigarillo drooping from his lips. (275)

We go on to discover that the “author” is seated in Rome’s Piazza Navona across from the Chiesa di Sant’Agnese in Agone and can thus deduce that the italicized words come from some sort of travel guide, while the regular font is used for a narrative of the author’s actions and above all for an account of what takes place in his presence as he records it.

In fact, Divine openly presents itself as an account of an actual writing tour of Italy starting in Rome and continuing counter-clockwise through Venice, Florence and back to Rome, includes references to its own composition, and identifies the narrator as “author” or “MM.” Interwoven — whether paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, or phrase by phrase — with this travel account are quotations, usually identified, from guidebooks, popular or classic (e.g., Ruskin), and from authors mostly Latin and Italian, and from scholarly articles and books on the same, and, occasionally, with “readings” of picture postcards or photographs. (The prospective reader should be assured that the author wears his learning lightly, however. At one point we are told that “In preparation for today’s adventure author has reviewed, standing at a book stall in the Stazione Termini, a comic book version of Vergil’s Aeneid in 24 “canti.” There follows a summary of the Aeneid, interspersed with quotations from Fitzgerald’s translation, so that the reader, like me, weak on Vergil need not despair.)

Given that the narrator is identified as “author” or “MM” and that the author is a teacher of literature, at university level, the literary citations are consistent with realism or a Joycean “super realism,” and in fact, at one point we read, in caps, “AUTHOR IS TREADING PATHWAYS TROD BY VERGIL AND OVID.” The narrative mode of Divine can be taken (however it was actually composed) as realistic description of the contents of the author’s consciousness, while on a tour of Italy. However, when the interweaving takes place phrase by phrase, as it does from time to time, we are alerted that we have to allow place for some artifice that goes beyond straightforward prose realism. The various quotations are rendered in different fonts, so as, probably, to aid the reader in distinguishing them, when interwoven with each other and with descriptive passages. In fact, the book as a whole, despite having its roots in narrative realism, may become for most readers something closer to poetry than to prose, and is probably intended to be read so. For so unusual a composition, however, each reader will have to invent her own way of reading.

The literary guide pointed to by the title is Dante, but in fact his place in Divine is mostly implicit, there being only a few scattered explicit references, as against the constant quotations from and about Vergil throughout, Tasso in “Purgatorio,” and Ariosto in “Paradiso.” This is not as strange as it might seem at first: although Dante is by no means a transparent narrator — in fact we have to distinguish the Dante who is character in the poem from Dante the author — still, naturally enough, within the poem Vergil, and then Beatrice, attract more of the attention of the narrative point of view and thus of the reader. Vergil’s appearance here is delayed, until halfway through Part I (presumably the “Inferno,” given a writing named Divine that is divided into three parts). On the other hand, here Vergil does not vanish part way through, but travels with us to the end. The Aeneid guides the author through Hell — the first visit to Rome — and the Georgics through the rest of the poem, I and II through “Purgatory” (Siena, Bologna, Ferrara), and IV, on bees, through “Paradise” (Venice, Verona, Florence, and Rome revisited). (I had not read the Georgics, but typing several of the most unusual words from quoted passages into the Yahoo or Metacrawler search engines quickly identified the passages and took one to electronic texts of the whole poems. Reading allusive texts is now easier than in the old days!) I should say, having made these comparisons, that as far as I can see no invidious judgments on those Italian cities, or their inhabitants, are intended, the differences, if any, taking place within the author, and perhaps the reader, as in, for example, The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker. I should also add here that the reader should not expect any close imitation of the Divine Comedy; I believe that our author would say he imitates or invokes Dante, rather than Dante’s poem.

This last point might be elaborated. Many readers will agree that one of the most fundamental pleasures of reading is the experience of communing with the spirit of a great genius, the author. That such can really happen has been put into question not only by postmodernist theorists but also by some modernist critics, such as Eliot, at least in certain periods of his criticism. To such doubts one can respond that this experience occurs with some authors and not others, or some more than with others (though not necessarily with those we count “best”), and that, if we are but communing with ourselves, we are at least communing with some new part of ourselves. Still, since such questions can never be answered in theory but only in practice, let us simply say that for many, absent the illusion at least of communing with the spirit of the author, or of some of one’s authors, reading would be a much less valuable experience. Even Eliot, in old age, was willing to acknowledge “the experience which is the same for all human beings of different centuries and languages capable of enjoying poetry, the spark which can leap across those 2,500 years” between us and, say, Sappho. (In saying this, by the way, Eliot is exactly repeating the universalism of the 18th century, whether of Hume or of Johnson: it is not an unexamined assumption rendering shaky any critical theory based on it but in fact a position deduced with full awareness from the very experience of being able to enjoy Homer, say, in much the same way one enjoys a current author.)

One can conceive the relation between Dante and Vergil this way, and the presence of Vergil in The Divine Comedy as testimony to Dante’s experiencing Vergil in some such way as just referred to. And we might go on so to conceive Morrison’s relation to his authors, in place of any simple form of “imitation.” If a reader should find this account of Divine useful I understand it might also be useful for three other books in the sequence APHRODITE: Possibly, Renewed, and This. Finally, I might indulge in a further guess, that Vergil’s greater explicit prominence and presence, as compared to Dante’s, in Divine, is due to MM’s experiencing Vergil more vividly and more concretely than he does Dante.

Returning to the opening sentences above, we might feel that an ironic or comic contrast is intended between the past and present, the miraculous locks and the luxurious fur coat. But if so, we should also accept much of respon-sibility for that interpretation, for, in general, in much of the writing in regular font, the choice of matter seems left to fate, or chance, or the universe — however one wants to put it, and is not forced into obvious relationship with the past invoked by the quotations. Madison Morrison calls it “in situ” writing, the recording taking place “on site,” whether by pen and paper or tape recorder. Though not all of the regular type is “in situ” writing, it is for me by far the most interesting writing in the book, and so needs some comment and analysis.

You could say that if MM’s energy holds out, we shall all of us have our fifteen seconds of fame. Again, you could say that the “in situ” writing takes place from an objective point of view. I am aware that purists in defining point of view would find, even in that opening passage above, “violations” of strict objectivity, as in luxurious. Let us take a passage that seems even more to depart from the objective (we are now with the author in the square before the Basilica of St. Peter):

At the Square’s center, within its circle of pillars, sits an elaborate creche, two stories high, from which issue the strains of recorded Christmas carols, entrance to which is barred by a heavy metal gate. A Mary in rust-red and grey-blue with white overgarment holds on her lap a white-clad child several years old, as to one side Joseph, in yellow cape and brown undergarment, regards the scene with weary patience. In a separate compartment stand the three Magi, one Arabic, the other two African. At a lower level, beneath a stone arch, a sheep looks out quizzically at the viewer. At the head of the square stand two black-booted figures, the backs of their blue jackets reading in large white letters, “POLIZIA,” “POLIZIA.” A black-hooded priest in black skirts scurries through a narrow aperture into the Via della Conciliazione. (284)

We may indeed feel a warmth of identification in that “weary patience” and “quizzically” that we seldom find in the in situ writing in Divine. However, the purists who would count these violations of the objective point of view seem to be defining not so much an objective as an inhuman point of view. I would say that the author is simply trying to describe, objectively but precisely and in a way to appeal to the readers’ imaginations, what he sees. Further, observe that the persons described in the last two sentences are at the opposite extreme from fictional characters created by an author to play a certain role, and fit into a certain context, in a fictional narrative. Rather, our author is as passive as can be; he describes the persons presented to him by chance at a certain time and from a certain vantage point. He does not adapt them to a narrative or other form; they will never reappear in this text. The author does not pretend to understand them.

(Before moving on, it is perhaps worth savoring the nuances of the writing. Note, for example, the syntax of the first sentence. When you read the “entrance to which” correctly, that is as parallel to “from which,” and not as the “faulty reference” it seems at first, the whole rhythm of the sentence changes, becomes more like poetry than prose, if you will.)

We should note that the passages so far come from the “Inferno,” Part 1 of Divine, and that the opening passage should correspond to the opening of Dante’s poem, though such is not signaled explicitly, except through the title. The first readers of Ulysses, too, it should be observed, were given nothing of the author’s allusive plan except for the title, and at a first reading would have found the relationship to the Odyssey just as much to seek as is the case with our text. Now a complete reading of Divine would at some point have to take account of this parallel, but some readers, including myself, will delay consid-eration of that aspect until we have come to terms with the surface of Divine, again, just as we did with Ulysses. (In fact, even an experienced reader of Ulysses, while absorbed in reading, will probably have left far behind conscious awareness of the parallel with Homer, though that is not to say that the parallel is entirely inoperative.) In fact, I suspect that what Eliot said of Ulysses will be true for Divine (and for that matter, for Eliot’s poetry), at least for many readers: he justified the parallel with the ancient text as enabling the author to organize his experience rather than as a necessary aspect of valid reading.

What is more evident on the surface is that this book consists of a sort of archeological examination of the sites it visits, and of “Western Culture” in general perhaps, just about the most perfect site for this archeology having been chosen. The opening sentences are a good example, with their collocation of ancient paganism, Christianity, and the (neo-pagan?) present. As the quotations from the guidebooks make clear, the Piazza Navona is both the site of the stadium of Domitian and is shaped by it and also includes the Chiesa di Sant’ Agnese in Agone, built, supposedly, on the site of the martyrdom it memorializes. But what direction does this archeology follow, the usual stripping away of the present and more recent levels of the past, so as to discover origins, or just the reverse, stripping away the levels of the past so as to discover the present? We may examine another example, this time from near the end of the second part, that is, “Purgatory” (352-53):

Author traverses the Via Carlo Mayr [Eros] is neither the cause.” The weather so cool that he must put his hands, along with recorder, into his pockets. “Nor the victim of injustice.” Traffic (pedestrian, cyclic, vehicular) is nonetheless moving equably in the wintry ambiance. “He does no wrong to gods or human beings.” Two workmen gesticulate over an open trench. “He abhors violence.” At the Corso Porta Reno we turn to recross Via Carlo Mayr. “In addition to the virtue of justice.” Heading north, we come upon a pub called “Antas,” a new wooden railing around it. “He displays the greatest temperance.” We pass “Ristori,” a movie theater with preview stills of “Extreme Measures,” starring Hugh Grant and Gene Hackman. “Because he controls Pleasure and Passion.” Two longhaired girls glance at author, one in tight black aerobic pants, a white stripe running up the leg; the other, in yellow jeans, fires up a cigarette. “He is also full of courage.” Both sixteen, they have identical silvery-green jackets. “He can even control Ares.” In its window “Parfumerie Douglas” displays “Natural Life Replay.” “For he is the fountain of wisdom.” Lancôme’s “Poème de Bath.” “All arts flow from him.” Estée Lauder’s “pleasures.” “Before his birth necessity was king among the gods.” The long window concludes. “But since his birth.” With Iffina’s “Success Night.” “To mortal and immortal alike all good things have come through love of beauty — Agathon’s view of Eros in T.K. Seung’s summary (Plato Rediscovered)

An orange bus number 2 arrives to head on out for Via Pattachelsa. Author pauses to record “He Ping Fan Dian,” in red Chinese characters, “Ristorante Cinese,” circled in green, “la Pace,” in yellow on black; four silvery doves emblazon its window pane; at either side of its doors, two golden lions, to either side of them, pots of pink azaleas. In blond hair, beige jacket and green pants, he regards his own reflection in the restaurant’s door, his Panasonic “Fast Playback” held before him. “Nuova Ferrara” reads a plaque above a newsstand advertising the town’s paper. Next door white letters on a blue white-bordered ground read “blue ocean,” three geometrical squiggles indicating water. From within, behind a rank of pastel-colored tee shirts, a salesperson peers out over her computer to observe author’s activity.

The passage from Seung here concluded and identified began six pages earlier. Elsewhere passages are quoted from Plotinus and from renaissance neo-platonists. Perhaps this neoplatonism is a sort of transition between the pagan and Christian levels of our “archeological” tour of Italy. Or is the author sug-gesting a novel point of view on Christianity, taken as from a great height, not as a revolutionary movement that displaced the “classical,” except for some shards, but as a limited modification of the classical, not necessarily more important than a number of other changes in the history of Western Culture? In any case, occurring in the “Purgatory,” this passage could be considered the equivalent of the “Unified Field Theory of Love” (“love” being the source of every movement in the universe all the way from the attraction of the mind to God to the falling of water, and all being, in fact, versions of desire for the Unmoved Mover) expounded by Dante’s Vergil, the neo-aristotelianism of that being more pagan than Christian, if anything, and if we distinguish the two. (One might think that the Greek wording of the texts on which Christianity is presumably based, and above all, the appearance of the word Logos at a crucial point in the Gospel of St. John, render such a distinction problematic.) If some such readjustment of our unexamined sense of the relative importance of the Christian versus the pre-Christian ingredients of the present is occurring here, whether in MM’s intention or the reader’s interpretation, Dante, as one of the most important of the great humanists, is certainly a suitable guide to the landscape we are excavating.

Back to the passage from Seung and to the Divine Comedy, this time sticking closer to the text: the sublimation of desire is a recurring theme of the quotations from “high culture” in Divine. But here as elsewhere, the movement of sublimation seems to be overwhelmed, or distracted at the least, by the insistence of the present and by other voices. During these six pages, passages from the Seung are interwoven, as well as with external description, with passages from Georgics II, from Hippolyte Taine on the un-sublimating women of Italy, from a guide-book description of the Cathedral in Ferrara, and with graffiti and commercial messages.

What are we to make of these juxtapositions of ancient and modern, of ancient heroic or ideal with modern reality? The Yahoo search engine tells me that Lancôme is a Parisian maker of cosmetics, so that “Poème de Bath” is probably some sort of scented soap — talk about pretension! Is this modern overreaching mocked by the true grandeur of Plato, or do the modern techniques of exploiting sublimation to pander to the erotic expose and undermine Plato’s pretensions, and perhaps Dante’s as well? As we try to answer questions like these, some modernists can provide useful comparison and contrast, not only as to such juxtapositions but also to the recording of concrete sensory detail not unlike MM’s in situ writing in its seeming resistance to interpretive control by author or reader. I would say that Morrison tends toward the tonally neutral, as compared to the similar juxtapositions in modernism. There is little of the obvious humor of Ulysses or of the explicit irony we have learned, for better or worse, to find in Eliot, though I would certainly not say that these are altogether absent.

Let us take a passage from the end of “Wandering Rocks,” Chapter 10 of the “Corrected Text” of Ulysses, one of the parts, along with Chapters 3 and 4, which would seem closest to the mixture of objective in situ composition with allusive meditation, as in Divine. The viceroy’s carriage is passing:

At Haddington road corner two sanded women halted themselves, an umbrella and a bag in which eleven cockles rolled, to view with wonder the lord mayor and lady mayoress without his golden chain. On Northumberland and Lansdowne roads His Excellency acknowledged punctually salutes, from rare male walkers, the salute of two small schoolboys at the garden gate of the house said to have been admired by the late queen when visiting the Irish capital with her husband, the prince consort, in 1849 and the salute of Almidano Artifoni’s sturdy trousers swallowed by a closing door. (209)

It is soon evident that Joyce is fairly old-fashioned and conventional, in his control over concrete details, in comparison with MM. We have already met and can place Artifoni. Moreover, the joke of a voice teacher being named “Art Sounds” is obvious enough, as is its likeness to other jokes about the Irish infatuation with things Italian, especially in music, such as the reference to the singer “Foli.” The two “sanded women” would be Florence MacCabe and Anne Kearns, whom we met at the beginning of Chapter 3, “Proteus.” Subsequently, Steven used them as the “Dublin vestals” of his story A Pisgah Sight of Palestine or The Parable of the Plums. True, that was something of a shaggy dog story, and we can’t say exactly why the universe has brought just these people together to comment on the passage of the viceroy, but given that in “Wandering Rocks” much in the novel passes in quick review, we have no trouble accepting their presence or feeling that they contribute to the evocation of Dublin.

Compared to Joyce, then, MM is a comparatively non-directive author. Still, often the in situ writing takes on a pleasing pattern, whether luckily found in reality or generated by the focusing of attention:

Before an orange phone an orangecoated woman searches her wallet for a coin. Two orange motorbikes whiz by, continuing on up the Via Parione. As the street narrows, a smart boutique, above a crosshatched window grate, advertises itself with a single bright orange word: “Dinastie.” (393-394)

The orange pattern continues for another page.

Though not signaled nearly as obviously as in Ulysses, in Divine also one can find some suggestion of the mock epic in the rendering of minute particulars of modern life in the context of a parallel with ancient epic. But in neither case does serious satire seem to be the main point (Hugh Kenner’s attempt to Eliotize Joyce seems to have found no takers, so far as I am aware, and perhaps we should rethink Eliot moralisé as well). Rather in both authors one might find a sort of humorous putting of modern trivia up against the ancient glories: from the point of view of eternity, Almidano Artifoni’s sturdy trousers are seen to have achieved the same triumph over time as Achilles’ shield. Though in Morrison’s in situ descriptions, people of all ages are attended to, it is soon evident that he takes a special interest in youth (as might be expected, given his occupation as teacher), in their clothing, graffiti, language, gestures, in their styles, in short. Notable, for example, is his confidence in assigning exact ages to young people he has presumably observed for a few seconds only — see the passage above. Is Morrison putting the world version of American pop youth culture up to challenge all the “great civilizations” of the past, its graffiti literally and figuratively defacing and replacing the ancient monuments and their monumental inscriptions? As I used to say to my students, “Since you are now the world’s great cultural imperialists, it is only fair that I impose some multicultural imperialism on you.” Perhaps it would be safer to back off a bit and say that this is the subversive rather than approved side of his vision, but what choice do we old ever have but to hand over the world to youth?

After saying that so far I find MM tonally neutral and “non-directive” of interpretation, relative to Joyce, I should qualify that judgment by adding that I have lived with Ulysses far longer than with Divine. Still, in seeming at least to allow the universe a free hand in filling in the concrete details of a writing project, or, if you prefer, in bringing to bear on observed reality a variety of allusions many of which seem chosen for private more than for public reasons, MM might seem closer to some of Eliot’s poetry than to Joyce’s work. But it is notorious that Eliot filled in, with extra-textual guidance, the vast chasms between the fragments from which he made up his long “poems,” or at least we assume that he did so, and we take this guidance not only from the notes to The Waste Land but from anywhere in the large corpus of his literary criticism and sociological, political, and religious writings. And we know that MM has published literary criticism. In what way and to what extent should we avail ourselves of extra-textual guidance in interpreting Divine?

Obviously, those who become familiar with the whole, or even a large part, of Sentence of the Gods will read Divine very differently from the uninitiated beginner. How much help should the latter be given? Are there useful short-cuts, in place of reading the whole life’s work? There is, of course, no one answer that will fit all readers, but let me here strike a little blow, or a tap on the wrist, in the name of reader liberation.

The presentation of The Waste Land to students in the Norton and other anthologies is a major literary scandal, pretty well defacing and replacing the poem itself, scholarly graffiti. I used to try to introduce the poem to students gradually, by having them read parts as independent poems before tackling the whole, one of the most promising for this purpose being “Death by Water,” easy enough as a poem yet profound in its technique (I forbade them to read the notes, no doubt thereby only calling greater attention to them!). When they seemed to need more guidance, I gave them “Dans Le Restaurant” (with translation, of course) to show them the original version, in its context. I even ex-plained who the Phoenicians were and noted the possibility of discovering a wreck of one of their ships off Cornwall. Finally, I assigned “Death by Water” along with other “Ubi Sunt” poems from Norton, Volume 2, still ordering them to read it as a poem unto itself and to ignore the footnote. Still, the students all and always came in professing not to have the faintest idea of what “Death by Water” is about or any pleasure whatever in reading it. When I probed for the causes of this bafflement, it always came down to the footnote (just look at that travesty of a footnote — you might think it one of the mock footnotes to The Dunciad or from some Stuffed Owl: Anthology of Good Bad Scholarship!). And we continue blindly to try to batter our way into the poem from below, in the face of Eliot’s own repeated repudiations of his notes and acknowledgements that supplying them had been a bad mistake: “I regret having sent so many enquirers off on a wild goose chase after Tarot cards and the Holy Grail.” He even tried (with perfect tact, I think) to redefine the poem as “a petty and personal grouse against life” (not that we should take him quite at his word!). But those notes have proved the awful daring of a moment’s surrender which an age of prudence can never retract. Beware of giving your readers something to aim at other than the text itself.

Should we not try to get a fresh start with Eliot by acknowledging that all our critical and scholarly efforts over 75 years to elucidate him have come to almost nothing — whatever of moderate help there is in it being offset by what is positively misleading, coming between the reader and the text? On the one hand, Eliot is perhaps the most quoted poet since Shakespeare, and I mean on the popular level, at least in the sense of generally educated readers, as against literary specialists. How many books have been named or epigraphed out of the Four Quartets, and I don’t mean literary books? No doubt most of these people who quote Eliot could not begin to give you even an elementary account of the unity or “meaning” of any of the poems they quote — and they don’t worry about that, which is their salvation. For among us literary scholars, who is there that can formulate the unity of The Waste Land, in any way even to be helpful to himself, let alone to anyone else? It may even be that we would eventually have to acknowledge that we can find no objective, public unity in Eliot’s major poems, and must leave them as fragments to be digested by each reader as best she can, but fragments, some of them, fit to shore against our ruins. We might even go on to wonder, as Eliot himself did, whether the chief use of the ‘meaning’ of many other poems besides his may be to satisfy one habit of the reader, to keep his mind diverted and quiet, while the poem does its work on him: much as the imaginary burglar is always provided with a bit of nice meat for the house-dog. That would at least be better than “obfuscating our senses by the desire to be clever and to look very hard for something, we don’t know what,” again to quote Eliot.

But after all, there is not much use worrying about the futility of Eliot criticism, given the vanity of vanities of life itself. I would not puritanically deprive a reader desiring to discuss a work of literature of his vain pleasure. I once in an intercontinental phone call with MM made a distinction that seems to have interested him, since he referred to it years later. I distinguished between poetry that is more fun to read than to discuss (Pope, Dryden, and Tennyson) from poetry that is more fun to discuss than to read (Wordsworth, Shelley, and Milton). But of course all poetry is capable of giving both kinds of pleasure, and readers will disagree about specific examples of each of these categories. The reader of Divine should be encouraged to take the freedom to read it for fun, ignoring any extra-textual obligations that interfere with that. That is not to say the freedom to make of it what he will, for the aim in reading should be to commune with the spirit of the author. In return, I lift any ban on the pleasures of discussing Sentence of the Gods.

Finally, I observe that not all the travel narrative is objective description of strangers. There are several sections of interaction with persons the author knows well enough so that we get dialogue and authorial affect and personal point of view — with the author’s female companion as well as with some Roman acquaintances. But these are so much more conventional in style that, to tell the truth, I feel a bit let down by them. There is no question but that the pure, nearly objective in situ writing poses serious challenges both to author and to reader, if it is sustained at length, as here, but it is the really fresh and novel writing in Divine, and once one has risen to that challenge with at least partial success, one hesitates to descend to something less bracing. It’s like stepping down from poetry to the novel.

It is not only the author’s own other writing that the objective in situ style puts into the shade. The fact that, once over the novelty of it, one does not notice its style, until one reads it consciously and deliberately as poetry, is a sign of its strength. It is direct and unpretentious, without morbid and futile ambition to shine, self-effacing, relaxed, self-communing and self-centered but unselfconscious, completely absorbed in the task, the still point of the turning world. Yet when one does turn to savoring it, one notes an unfailing precision in the choice of words that becomes a kind of elegance, even. To my mind, compared with this style, the over-reaching and self-promoting pretensions of the quotations from present day literary and art criticism come out worst. I present this as my response, not as the purpose of the author, and, to be fair, I note that if the author, or I, were to write criticism, we would probably do it in much the same way as the authors of the quoted specimens.

Like all serious authors, MM is quite beyond the pale of the reasonable and the realistic, in the obligations he would put upon the reader. After all, even Joyce was content to lay only about four books upon us (and I am quite content to leave the last unopened!). As I think I have shown, you could spend a lifetime on the long poem which is Divine, leaving the fitting it into the rest of the Sentence for eternity.


Mowbray and Sally's farmhouse ouside Quincy, Illinois, USA