dimanche 9 septembre 2012

Randall Jarrell, PICTURES FROM AN INSTITUTION, New York, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1968 [1954], 277 pages

It rather surprised me that Gertrude would talk to me about her book; and she was surprised, I could see. She believed in the saying, Never show a fool anything unfinished - believed in it so thoroughly that she felt an uneasy resentment at having to show anybody anything, finished or unfinished. In a more reasonable world she and Sidney could have read her book when it was done, given it the Pulitzer prize, and stored it away in a vault under the Library of Congress. She did not tell the people at Benton she was writing a book about them: it would make them nervous if they knew, she said to Sidney, and they wouldn't be able to behave as they normally do. For that matter, she didn't tell me - she just asked me questions about Benton. She asked me more questions than I knew there were; after a while we found that we had been talking to each other about the book, quite openly, for weeks.
This would not have hapened if I had been a novelist. Then I might have stolen Gertrude's ideas, might have looked at them with a colleague's bright awful eye. But I [94] was only a poet - that is to say, a maker of stone axes - and she felt a real pity for me because of it: what a shame that I hadn't lived back in the days when they used stone axes! And yet, why make them now? Every once in a while she would say to me, "Haven't you ever thought of writing a novel?" I would shake my head and say that my memory was too bad; later I would just say, "That again!" and laugh. She would laugh too, but it puzzled her; finally she dismissed it from her mind, saying to herself - as you do about someone who won't go on relief, or mind the doctor - "Well, he has only himself to blame!"

p. 93-94 

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