Friday, May 22, 2015

cartwheeling and bouncing

I continue to read Chaucer. Yes, Geoffrey, I get it: men are violently jealous and women are unfaithful. Find another tune to sing, please. I have read four hundred pages of this, with almost another hundred remaining. I have Chaucer fatigue, possibly.

I'm also reading a partially dramatized account of Whymper's first ascent of the Matterhorn, of which 2015 is the 150th anniversary. 3,000 people climb the Matterhorn annually these days. There are apparently fixed ropes all the way to the summit. Four of the seven members of Whymper's team died on the descent, their roped-together bodies tumbling down the mountain, cartwheeling and bouncing off the immense flat rock faces. Horrible. The expedition created a mountaineering craze that endures to this day.

Other reading includes some German language short stories by Berthold Brecht and Stefan Zweig, good stuff. I surprise myself that I'm not reading anything Chekhov related right now. I am less surprised to discover that I'm not working on anything in the way of writing. I have a big revision waiting in the wings, but I want to finish reading a number of things before I start on that project.

Not related to reading or writing, I guess, is the discovery of the so-called "fear of missing out" phenomenon, FOMO as the kids call it. I do not suffer from this. I didn't watch any of the important television shows over the last decade, I haven't read any of the latest important novels or nonfiction books of the moment, and I don't know who any of the pop stars are right now. I am pretty sure that whatever I'm missing out on is not worth a pin, or a thimble's full of anxiety.

8 comments:

  1. The idea that women are more promiscuous than men is a real nuisance in early modern literature.

    I have been meaning to read Whymper's book, maybe in an abridgment. In the 1870s there is a little explosion of "mountain" books, in the US and in Europe.

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    1. What's the source of that, exactly? Is it that profound fear that one's children are not one's own? Especially in a world where love was not the prime basis for marriage? There are plenty of families where the children do not particularly resemble the father...

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    2. Whymper climbed the Matterhorn in 1865 and his subsequent speaking tour sparked a sporting industry. It caught everyone's imagination. Even Thomas Hardy wrote a poem about it ("Zermatt to the Matterhorn" in 1897). When people began to summit the Himalayan peaks in the early 20th century, the same sort of explosion of books happened. You should really read some of Eric Shipton's books. Blank on the Map is a classic of Himalayan exploration lit.

      I'm sure that primogeniture played an important role in some people's thinking, but most of the medieval and Renaissance stuff I read concerned with fidelity (or with adultery, maybe more properly) has to do with a fear of cuckoldry where the status of children is never mentioned. The last quarter of Gargantua and Pantagruel is Panurge's quest to determine if he will be cuckolded if he marries. The possibility of his having bastard children is never brought up. Chaucer's characters concern themselves with a moral betrayal but don't talk about inheritance. The Wife of Bath says directly that she married five times for love. A lot of Chaucer's men marry for "love" or something like it, while the wives marry because they have no choice. But still, the "women bad/men vengeful" trope is getting old. I'm taking a break from Chaucer and reading Alberto Moravia's Contempt, which is ironically enough about a man who has such a poor grasp of human nature that he doesn't see how his dissatisfaction with himself allows him to gradually create a fantasy wherein his wife has withdrawn her affections for him. Hijinks ensue.

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    3. Christina Rossetti has a mountain climbing poem in her 1881 collection! I was amazed to see it. I think she was suffering from FOMO.

      There is a parallel and simultaneous burst of mountaineering literature in the U.S., as writers who are not mountain men penetrate to the Rockies and Sierras. Roughing It and Lady Isabella Bird and so on. Not quite the same as Whymper's alpinism, but related.

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  2. I think you would like Makoto Fujimura's book, Culture Care. Maybe I said that already...

    I don't keep up, either. A.) Who has time? B.) The wrong things are valued. Etc.

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    1. You keep recommending that book! I should give it a look. It does sound like a philosophy I'd agree with.

      The wrong things are valued, indeed.

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  3. No one cannot miss out on a great deal in life. That is the reality. The challenge lies in making the best possible choices and not regretting missed opportunities. Suddenly I am reminded of Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken." I need to make a posting about that poem over at Beyond Eastrod. Your thought-provoking posting has led me to making a choice. Bravo!

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    1. I don't even think about "the best possible choices." I just have the stuff I do. I might also think that most of the stuff I don't do is not much of an opportunity!

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