Tag Archives: apples

Getting Appley

He knew, as an artist, that the only bit of a woman which nowadays escapes being ready-made and ready-known cliché is the appley part of her (205).
– D.H. Lawrence, from essay “Cézanne” in Writers on Artists


Love is like this. The other day I found myself sitting on the library floor, in between the stacks, pulling every Cézanne book I saw off of the shelves. Okay, I didn’t mysteriously find myself there. But in my defense, it was an unusually slow day at the library. For the first time that I have ever worked there I had shelved every single item and then alphabetized every thing else that had to wait (DVDs that needed security casings, for instance) I was at an awkward impasse- finally I mustered the courage to ask if it would be alright if I read, while maintaining a veneer of readiness should work arrive, of course.

He could not masturbate, in paints or words. And that is saying a very great deal, today; today, the great day of the masturbating consciousness, when the mind prostitutes the sensitive responsive body, and just forces the reactions. The masturbating consciousness produces all kinds of novelties, which thrill for the moment, then go very dead (203).

What joy! I was finally able to get to the essay by D.H. Lawrence on Cézanne that had been the reason I had checked the book out (the book: Writers on Artist is one I came across whilst shelving; I couldn’t resist a perusal, and Lawrence settled the thing. I would have to read it. It is a wonderful compilation edited by Daniel Halpern of some forty essays). The preceding essay had also focused on Cézanne- actually it was not so much an essay as parts of letters written by Rilke to his wife,Clara, relating his frequent, lovingly obsessive visits to the Salon. It was marvelous. Rilke makes me love life, love writing, love art, and not worry so much about the essay length letters I inflict upon my friends…. But – Lawrence. I finished his essay and (may have) let a skipping gait take me deep into the stacks (working in the Arts and Music section has its benefits).

Cézanne felt it in paint, when he felt for the apple. Suddenly he felt the tyranny of the mind, the white, worn-out arrogance of the spirit, the mental consciousness, the enclosed ego in its sky-blue heaven self-painted. He felt the sky-blue prison (201).

Sitting on the floor, I took down one of the large heavy books and it fell open to Apples and Biscuits. I gasped. It’s not that I haven’t seen Cézanne’s work, of course I have seen many works in books, some works in actuality, but…something about this one – I could have spent hours gazing at it- so much for my veneer of readiness- I sank into the floor.

But we have to remember, in his figure paintings, that while he was painting the appleyness he was also deliberately painting out the so-called humanness, the personality, the “likeness,” the physical cliché.[…] Try as he might, woman remained a known ready-made cliché object to him […] Except his wife – and in his wife he did at least know the appelyness (206).

And what woman doesn’t want her appleyness known? Indeed, what person doesn’t long to share one’s appleyness with another? Curiously this particular painting was not to be found in any of the other books. But this was the one. This one sang sweetly right into my ear, piercing my soul. The hard floor and artificial light fell away as the apples teased, excited and calmed my heart in imperceptible turns. The joyful humor of the domesticity of the plate of biscuits, and that beautiful wall…it was love at first sight.

It was not Zola who understood what the point was; Balzac had sensed long ahead that, in painting, something so tremendous can suddenly present itself, which no one can handle. –Rainer Maria Rilke “The Cézanne Inscape”

Maybe this comes close (it certainly does if you have to pleasure to sing it, as I will this Saturday):

That appleyness is our very worth, the core of our humanity, the rounded ripe beauty of our souls. When it is discovered and felt, a sort of primordial roar is released. When we see it or hear it, the tremendous truth is awing. The veneer, cliché, and inauthentic are blasted away. The struggle to maintain what we instinctively feel in the face of cynical convention or mawkish insincerity never really ends – if we can just maintain some space of clarity within (through music, through art) so that when we come across the appelyness – we know we were right all along.

It’s the real appelyness, and you can’t imitate it. Every man must create it new and different out of himself: new and different (Lawrence 206). 


Primal Urges

‘I’m sure Sandy’s mind is not on motor cars, she is paying attention to my conversation like a well-mannered girl.’
And if people take their clothes off in front of each other, thought Sandy…
-Muriel Sparks, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (35)


The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is perhaps a book that is not widely read anymore. But that is a shame, if it’s true, because it is wonderful. The humor is subtle and tart and the story is captivating in all of its English school girl oddity.

Outwardly she differed from the rest of the teaching staff in that she was still in a state f fluctuating development, whereas they had only too understandably not trusted themselves to change their minds, particular on ethical questions, after the age of twenty. (41)

The way in which Sparks intertwines the past with the present is marvelously crisp. There is a naturalness to the telling of the story with interrupted bits of future events spotting up the tale, further enhanced by the re-imaginings of whatever literature the girls are engaged with in which they cast themselves as the love interests of the heroes. All of which comes together to give a glimpse into the adolescent mind. It’s very well conceived and highly entertaining.

“Who is the greatest Italian painter?”
‘Leonardo da Vinci, Miss Brodie.’
‘That is incorrect. The answer is Giotto, he is my favorite.’ (9)

But what’s most wonderful about the story is the irony that while it is ostensibly about sex and the hypocritical efforts to hide or pervert sexual desires not to mention the witch hunts that those desires provoke, particularly for women, Sparks cleverly shows that the situation is worse than that. While everyone is fixated and warping what should be perfectly natural and healthy dispositions of human beings, the really horrible stuff gets free reign. In the end, the downfall of Miss Jean Brodie happens for the right reasons disguised as the wrong. A complex literary device which Sparks masterfully accomplishes.

‘She believes in the slogan “Safety First.” But safety does not come first. Goodness, Truth and Beauty come first. Follow me.’ (8)

I watched the film version after, with Maggie Smith, who is, as always, wonderful. Especially aided, as she is, with fabulous costumes. But the film is completely inferior to what makes the book such fun. All of the structure is gone, while the heart of the story, which Sparks created with a real delicacy, is ratcheted up, and ridiculously exaggerated. I spent the entire film with a quizzical look on my face…at any rate it nearly takes as long to read it as watch it, so, might as well read it.

‘For those who like that sort of thing,’ said Miss Brodie in her best Edinburgh voice, ‘that is the sort of thing they like.’ (29)


IMG_1002In the center of it all
Oh, apple of my fall
The parts that I have bitten
Even those that once were hidden
Caught useless in your thrall-
recall! recall! recall!
This is the taste of knowing
Your sweetness reckoning
a delicious peck our greatest haul-
that’s all! that’s all! that’s all!