Unreal Nature

January 13, 2017

Marked by a Shadow

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:36 am

… The ruffled genius might in his acuteness realize that sometimes he fights with that with which he is agreeing, and is like the hour, marked by a shadow which seeming to cut the sun, defines it.

This is from an untitled piece written for The Dial in 1926. It’s found in The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore edited by Patricia C. Willis (1986):

To exclude the speciously attractive is difficult. The ideal director of a “zoo,” we are told by Mr. William Hornaday, must at this time when tempted to “take on” mammals, birds and reptiles, be a master in the art of refusing. The avowed artist must also, unless we are to have fads rather than individuality, be an artist in refusing. In each phase of art, interrelated influences of technique are apparent. The writer, however, seems in certain respects, either more pridelessly or more recklessly than others, susceptible to current cleverness.

[line break added] Much as the victim of the fashionable couturier participates in successive epidemics of cut and color — of shutter green, serpent blue, or Venetian fuchsia — of the wet seal coiffure or the powdered wig, the sciolist subscribes to the tyranny of timelessness, of delightful dubiety, of what is acute or effective. Imagism, the hokku [aka haiku], the coon song, the story true-because-I-have-lived-it, a morality of immorality, significantly concocted equine unselfconsciousness, these several modes have found prompt adherents.

There cannot be too much excellence. … [W]e may admire, and the shock of admiration may serve us as an incentive to writing, quite as may that which has been experienced by us; but like the impelling emotion of actual experience, literary excitement must be assimilated before it can be reproduced. Experiences recorded verbatim are not fiction and verbiage is not eloquence. Much may be learned by consciously noting the merits of other writers. Apperception is, however, quite different from a speedy exchange of one’s individuality for that of another.

Next is from anther untitled piece, also from 1926:

… The aesthetic malcontent is out of court, for wherever there is art there is equilibrium — a basic adjustment toward which the most distinguished and the most extinguished works of art alike converge. As we are aware, it is determination with resistance, not determination with resentment, which results in poise. In blindly disparaging another, one shows merely that one envies him his realness and wishes that he were what one says he is.

[line break added] Agitated in the disposing of his own turbulent business as were “the Egyptian sculptors who set themselves problems a little beyond their comfort,” the artist is in a state of profound activity, emerging from darkness into light … unable often to recognize in himself that “summer in December” of which enduring art consists. The ruffled genius might in his acuteness realize that sometimes he fights with that with which he is agreeing, and is like the hour, marked by a shadow which seeming to cut the sun, defines it.

My most recent previous post from Moore’s book is here.

-Julie

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