White-hot angels


Working hard lately -- a paper on the realism of Bernard Williams and the falsity and (sometime) cant of optimistic philosophy. Another in the works on Spinoza and his mysterious idea Dei. And then of course my wonderful boyfriend is back. But I have had time recently to read a bit -- I fell hard and fast for A.S. Byatt's The Children's Story -- she is at her absolute best in that book -- lush, vivid language and incredible dexterity. She writes of things so very well -- objets d'art and the simple rustic tools. I'm reading Dinesen now and sinking into the winter spirit, wishing for my trip home and some comfort and warmth -- fires and food and family.

I remember my first experience with Dinesen -- Sorrowacre -- read in a tutorial at St. John's with an incredible class of people and a tutor I respect and admire. It was the final piece we read, after Chaucer and Keats, after Frost's swirl and ache of honeysuckle, after Shakespeare, King Lear and Sonnet 73 -- those Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang -- then I found Dinesen. I learned anew what it is to love language in that class -- not to study it, though we did that too, but to love it -- to love the turns of phrase, the images of darkness and coruscating light, the ability to wrap up in one phrase a welter of emotion and insight.


From "The Old Chevalier"

All this happened in the early days of what we called then the "emancipation of woman." Many strange things took place then. I do not think that at the time the movement went very deep down in the social world, but here there were the young women of the highest intelligence, and the most daring and ingenious of them, coming out of the chiaroscuro of a thousand years, blinking at the sun and wild with desire to try their wings. I believe that some of them put on the armor and halo of St. Joan of Arc, who herself was an emancipated virgin, and became like white-hot angels. But most women, when they feel free to experiment with life, will go straight to the witches' Sabbath. I myself respect them for it, and do not think that I could ever really love a woman who had not, at some time or other, been up on a broomstick.