Wood and me have always gone round and round, me thinking him too too flippant about some writing I really like,, him going all deep-haaaarvard about writings I think facile and boring. Plus, he’s seemed so un-generous at times to writers. But then over-generous to others. Well, I guess he’s got his reasons, and this book has reconciled us somewhat…the wedding is BACK ON! (joke, please).
This book is from a series of lectures at brandeis, and a talk at british museum and LRB’s essay. But have bee
From page 63-64, chapter on how literature/how writers (and readers) “seriously notices” things
“To notice is to rescue, to redeem; to save life from itself. One of the characters in Marilynne Robinson’s novel “Housekeeping” is described as a girl who “felt the life of perished things.” In the same book, Robinson writes of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and even restored the severed ear of the soldier who came to rescue him, “a fact that allows us to hope the resurrection will reflect a considerable attention to detail.” I like the idea that heaven might reward us for what we have lost by paying attention to detail, that heaven must perforce be a place of serious noticing. But perhaps we can bring back life, or extend life, here on earth, by doing the same: by applying what Walter Benjamin once called “the natural prayer of the soul: attentiveness.” We can bring the dead back by applying the same attentiveness to their shades as we apply to the world around us—by looking harder: by transfiguring the object. Benjamin’s phrase comes in a letter to Adorno about Kafka; perhaps Adorno was recalling this idea of attentiveness when he wrote, in “Negative Dialectics”, that “if the thought really yielded to the object, if its attention were on the object, not on its category, the very objects would start talking under the lingering eye.”
See, there they are, talking to us: the poplars, the lilac, and the roses. That peppermint tingle. The kiss.”
From the summation, the last page of this thoughtful, fun book about books and james wood, page 123-124. He is taling about writers writing from exile, or place anyway, where they come from, where they ended up, and wood’s idea of “homelooseness”
“……………………………………………………………………………………………………………Almost. but not quite. When I left England eighteen years ago, I didn’t know then how strangely departure would obliterate return: how could I have known? It’s one of time’s lessons, and can only be learned temporally. What is peculiar, even a little bitter, about living for so many years away from the country of my birth is the slow revelation that I made a large choice many years ago that did not resemble a large choice at the time; that it has taken years for me to see this; and that this process of retrospective comprehension in fact constitutes a life—is indeed how life is lived. Freud has a wonderful word, “afterwardness,” which I need to borrow, even at the cost of kidnapping if from its very different context. To think about home and the departure from home, about not going home and no longer feeling able to go home, is to be filled with a remarkable sense of “afterwardness”: it is too late to do anything about it now, and too late to know what should have been done. And that may be all right.
My Scottish grandmother used to play a game, in which she entered the room with her hands behind her back. You had to guess which hand held a sweet, as she intoned: “Which hand do you tak’, the richt or the wrang?” When we were children, the decision seemed momentous: you HAD at all costs to avoid the disappointment of the empty “wrang hand.”
Which did I choose?”