Sunday, February 26, 2017

Books Alice James Might Have Written

Alice James could lay claim to genius on a par with that of her more famous brothers, novelist Henry and philosopher William, but we only know this because her diary and letters have been preserved and published. Her literary gifts included a crisp, erudite, and politically pointed sense of humor (she is much funnier than her brothers), a delicate habit of observation that inverts the expected comparisons with startling results and finds the ridiculous in the sublime and vice versa, and an implacable honesty when it came to "that most interesting being," Alice herself. Between lifelong ill health, a combination of physical and mental ailments, and being denied anything close to a formal education, she had few opportunities to widen her cultural life beyond the confines of her or the occasional chum's house, though she read an astounding variety of literature and kept a close eye on current events. Granted the health, independence, and respect that she likely needed to have the rich life she so very much deserved, she might have left great works for posterity. I've trawled her diary for some potential titles and perhaps in some vaporous heaven, Alice is busy writing:

"The Truth of the Myriad of His Exquisitely Subtle Perceptions"
A work of literary criticism, in which the great works of the day, including those of her brother Henry, are thoroughly analyzed with a pungently expressed wit. Few of the female characters written by men, if any, pass muster, and the marriage plot is delicately eviscerated with the grace of a befanged Victorian pinkie.

"Chords Which Vibrate at Every Zephyr"
An essay in experimental modernism, in which every sensation, aural, visual, or otherwise, that produces a vibrational effect on the mechanism of her system is listed and catalogued. Long passages celebrate the scents wafting from the cologne and laudanum bottles.

"The Delectation of the British Matron"
A satirical novel, in which a newly married British lady comes to the United States and observes the Americans in their natural habitat, only to conclude that they are very vulgar and British is best.

"A Ghostly Moment"
A short story, companion to Henry's "The Jolly Corner," in which the sister of the haunted gentleman meets her phantasmal counterpart and finds her quite congenial, leading the two of them to throw over dusting for the day and take a holiday in Central Park.

"A Flaccid Virgin"
A good-humored account of a day in the life of an unmarried lady. Among the events described are a happy escape from a sister's begrimed and child-infested hovel, a stroll in the park in which she is accosted by a moustachioed gentleman who ruins her bonnet and smells of the pub, and the founding of an everlasting friendship with a small, stray dog whose perfect compatibility is represented by his lack of fleas.

"One More Amid a Million of the Superfluous"
A Swiftian polemic in protest of the proliferation of the human species, very much ahead of its time and, given its lusciously sensual and exquisite descriptions of the increasingly sullied natural world, a proto-environmentalist work.

"Great Minds Jump"
An erudite, but lively survey of eighteenth and nineteenth century philosophy, which includes a most affectionate portrait of William, but gently points out a lapse in his logic.

"Plum-Pudding or Any Other Indigestible Compound"
A recipe book, in which are listed all the absolute worst foods to serve to an invalid, accompanied by suggestive herbal and homeopathic remedies resultant upon eating such foods.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Haiku Film Reviews

The glorious thesis continues, but blog vincit omnia. Here are some, one hopes, witty film reviews in the form of haikus.

Bridget Jones's Diary, dir. by Sharon Maguire  
Not-chubby Bridget
spurns sexual harassment
case for haughty swain.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, dir. by Joseph L. Mankiewicz 
Salty sea captain
woos and wins gem-eyed widow.
Alas, he's a ghost.

Impromptu, dir. by James Lupine
Authoress in pants
allures neurotic pianist,
fights duel when he faints.

My Brilliant Career, dir. Gillian Armstrong
Woman with big hair
rejects pillow-fight accomplice
to write in squalor.

Out of Africa, dir. by Sydney Pollack
Coffee planter has
foreplay in a plane; too bad,
he will not commit.

The Piano, dir. by Jane Campion
Music is the speech
of a mute mail-order bride;
her husband's blood boils.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Haiku Book Reviews

Since I am up to my ears in the writing of the grand project of my M.A. thesis, I am both reading an extraordinary amount and having to devote most of my energies towards, needless to say, actually writing. In the meantime, here are some brief, and I hope, pithy book reviews in haiku form.

The Letters of Abelard and Heloise 
A castrated priest
and his nun paramour pen
chaste erotica.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Marriage, scribbles, art
or death - four sisters accept
the limits of life.
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Fragmented notebooks
together form one - thus she
is free(d) from despair.

Atonement by Ian McEwan
A sister divides
a green-dressed girl from her love
and writes a grim book.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Gingery braids and
a temper to match bring Anne
both delight and woe.

House of Incest by Anaïs Nin 
Symbols of sex and
sea, and pain, and silk, and self
draw a breath of death.

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
A woman who writes
must depend on troves of gold,
a room with a lock.