by Daniel Darwin
Love like this lives
at the foot of the spine:
root love, love
so old you hear the trunk
caught in the door’s groan.
Love so old it folds into new
like a kindly fool — eyeless
at start, eyeless at end
— ringing out in a chord
so sweet I can wrap it
round my neck
and dance in slow sways
above the dark earth.
Hi Cutie McUnderpants,
Oh boy, leave it to Marc to present me as much smarter and so much better read than I am. :) He always used to do this when we were in New York… we’d be at a bar and someone would bring up something that in Marc’s web of brilliance he associated with me and he’d pull me over and say something like, “this guy just said that the third best writer in french history is Perec. You are all of French history, so go.” And then walk away to go dance to Robyn or something. Boom, crushed like fuckin’ roadkill under the bus. I love that man and miss those days.
Silly Marc, assuming that we’re all running through life with encyclopaedic memories as he does. :)
To answer your question, as best I can, I should preface by saying that the bulk of my studies have been in 20th century french writers, and in theatre, because that’s what I was concentrating on. Slash kind of live and breathe for.
I must confess I mostly shied away from especially 18th century writers… because they were all fat old white men who looked the same and I’m an asshole about fat old white men who look the same. But there were a few that hit me in the guts, so maybe if you haven’t dipped into them you can and perhaps they’ll hit yours too?
18th Century Friterature:
If you haven’t read it yet, Justine [ou les Malheurs de la Virtue] is worth the wade… as far as old dirty bastard Marquis de Sade goes, this one was my favorite. I can get behind it in a way I struggle with getting behind 120 Days of Sodom. There’s more of the ecstasy of violence in it. And the violence isn’t as hellish, arguably.
Re: theatuh, Marivaux is kind of my main 18th century dude. Of the writers that I read, he’s the one that to me stepped farthest away from the enormous shoes of Moliere and Racine. Start with La Dispute, if you haven’t read it yet, it’s not as tedious as some of his other works, and the marivaudage [basically 18th century sass] is enjoyable without getting too masturbatory.
19th Century Friterature:
Zola is a gem. La Bete Humaine was a lovely and mildly devastating read. L’Oeuvre can be essential if you let it in, and if you have ever struggled with feeling as though until you have everything you know you’re capable of, you’ve got nothing at all. A beautiful window into Cezanne’s life, torments, and art [but sshhh nobody knows it’s him it’s totally a secret and shit… except everyone knew, because Zola CLEARLY wrote himself into the fuckin’ thing as his best friend.]
Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant is the tits. Sexy and horrible and misogynist in that perfumed 1800s european way. Highly recommended.
À Rebours by Huysmans. It came later in the century but pretty much everything shitty and everything shiny and everything wondrous and everything wanton about both the bourgeoisie in the 19th century and La Belle Epoque soon to step in is, to me, neatly gift-wrapped in this jack-knife of a book. It’s scathing and tough as gristle and at the same time wafts over you. I really got into this one. Even tried smelling colors and shit, mixing the senses, as the protagonist attempts.
Alright sugar, that’s all I can muster for now because I was watching the new COSMOS until four am last night and I can’t really feel my face right now. But check in with me if you want to and let me know if a) you’ve read all these, b) you hate my suggestions and want to tumblr-fist-fight, c) you liked them and want to squeeze more out of me / TALK SHOP. [squeal]
Hope this helps you on your quest to be able to make references seamlessly in cocktail parties as it has me on mine.
Here’s to the hysterical wonder that is the internet, where centuries-old French books can be recommended via a flawless mo in Boston by a flawless mo in Manila to a flawless mo in London.
I woke up like this,