Tag Archives: truth

Quiddity of the False Azure

All colors made me happy: even gray. — Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (line 29)

The weaker the organ the longer the impression of the image lasts. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Theory of Colours (pg 51, section 121. )

Scan 13My recent inquiries into perception made me curious to know the oft-cited primary text of Goethe’s Theory of Colours. It is an interesting read, particularly as the content has been thoroughly disapproved making the reading of it a philosophical or poetical exercise more than a scientific one.

Time means succession, and succession, change:
Hence timelessness is bound to disarrange
Schedules of sentiment…
 —Pale Fire (lines 567-569)

Thus inspiration already presupposes expiration; thus every systole its diastole. —Theory of Colour (15, section 38.)

The beautiful fiction in the non-fiction that is twisted inadvertently by Goethe is  conversely, in Pale Fire, “written” by John Shade in four cantos, and yet, similarly, bent. Nabokov elegantly distorts fiction and non-fiction and intentionally plays a stark psychology off the poetical and philosophical posit. The ruse of John Shade is elaborate…what is the purpose? It seems to me that by creating, for example through the officialness of the “About the Author” page followed by “Other Books by the Author,” a Nabokovian mocking of the surety of our perception of truth gains a profoundly moving and tender, if tremulous, capital T Truth.

Life Everlasting-based on a misprint!
I mused as I drove homeward: take the hint,
And stop investigating my abyss?
But all at once it dawned on me that
Was the real point, the counterpuntal theme;
Just this: not text, but texture; not dream
But topsy-turvical coincidence,
Not flimsy nonsense, but a web of sense.
Yes! It sufficed that I in life could find
Some kind of link-and-bobolink, some kind
Of correlated pattern in the game,
Plexed artistry, and something of the same
Pleasure in it as they who played it found.
 —Pale Fire (lines 803-815)

If Goethe is correct that the longer an impression lasts, the weaker the organ, than I must have a very weak heart. In Pale Fire (particularly the Ginko Press edition I experienced— because it was more than something to be merely read) a persistent ache of a melancholy color bleeds and stains, and yet, and yet… there is a rising blush of “Faint hope.”

*Theory of Colours  translated from the German with notes by Charles Lock Eastlake

**Title from opening stanza of Pale Fire –
I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane

*** “Faint Hope.” final sentence of Pale Fire

Hoary View

DSCI0031What is there today?
ten thousand more things
not to say.
Forget the parts that
go unsung
and keep the Daemon at bay.
Disregard the hoary
truth’s divine.
This thing in we
is rung
so tight, pressed against
all the snaking days.
To Hell we pay
and win the right to come-
Veracity is in the greys,

I can’t do it any other way


Heart of Desuetude

“He had heard and read of passion, but had regarded it as something which would never impinge on him, and now here it was…”  Mountolive – Lawrence Durrell

In the third of the Alexandria Quartet series by Lawrence Durrell, (you may recall my earlier posts on the first book Justine, and the second, BalthazarMountolive, the focus of the familiar story is now set upon the idea of power. As the story is seemingly repeated through each new eponymous character the genius of Durrell is really exposed. One begins to reassess the simplest assumptions: what looked like love was mere deception, what looked like an impossible twisted dark corner is true love, true friendship, and affection. Are life and truth so slippery as that? Yes, I suppose it is so.

“Truth is so bitter that the knowledge of it confers a kind of luxury.”  Mountolive

The love of power, the passionate ardor with which it is sought and wielded is examined with some intensity in this story, but it is backlit by a touching friendship and love affair between Mountolive and the mother of Nessim, Leila.  A tragic sort of love crushed by fate and weakness of feeling perhaps… The grunting displays of power  as well as the equally strong attempts to avoid dealing with a position of power, whether that position was sought for or not are shown through personal, national, and vocational relationships. Many people, maybe most, do not actually want to be in charge or deal with the ancillary pressure that a position of power brings; especially as power often devolves into paper pushing bureaucratic horrors.

In the gear up to a writer’s conference that I am participating in starting today (I’m a little nervous, if I focus on Mountolive maybe it will go away, maybe I’ll go away…) but I digress, there were a series of essays that we had to read, each others as well as published works; the one that I loved the most and which reminds me of the themes of Mountolive in many ways, is the one written by George Orwell: Shooting an Elephant. The final line in the story: ” I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.”  struck me hard. Sometimes it really is that simple- that pathetic. The acts committed by people in power, acts that wouldn’t have or shouldn’t have occurred and yet somehow seem unavoidable, are so complex. We humans are so strange.

Truth naked and unashamed. That’s a splendid phrase. But we always see her as she seems, never as she is. Each man has his own interpretation.”  Mountolive

The last and final book in this series is Clea. She has been in and out of the first three and I am very curious about her. Durrell is never obvious in which character he will focus on or which perspective. Even from book to book a single character’s life can be revealed and obfuscated in the most interesting and authentic way.

“When you are in love you know that love is a beggar, shameless as a beggar; and the responses of merely human pity can console one where love is absent by a false travesty of an imagined happiness.”  Mountolive – Lawrence Durrell

Sculpture by Eric Ryan, my father.

Truth be Told


We have finished reading A Doll House in my literature class. We are watching a movie of the play with Claire Bloom and Anthony Hopkins. I was very distracted watching the film by my inability to remember how I knew of Claire Bloom. Sadly, I knew that it was a husband of hers that I associated her name with, but beyond that, I was at a loss (she was Philip Roth’s wife for five years and Rod Steiger’s for 10, there was another, but I don’t know anything about him and she did not stay married to any of them so…). And then the actor whom played the character of Nils: he was in the movie Indiana Jones– I had to suppress the urge to shout out my joyful recognition when it came to me. Nils is a great character, flawed but essentially sweet, the kind of crushed man you hope someone will save by love.
But, why I have this sort of information in my head is beyond me. Why can I not remember a brilliant line I read recently, but I know most of the names of the Kardashian sisters…well, maybe not their actual names but at least I know that there is a preponderance of ‘k’ sounds in their names. Damn supermarket check out line- literally stealing real estate in my mind.

We didn’t get past the first act. I really would have like to to see Act III. The moment I went back to (while reading) the play was when Nora realizes the gig is up. I was interested in Ibsen’s interpretation of that seminal moment. Some people have said that the action of the third act happens too quickly, but all it takes is a moment, no? Once she knows: she knows. It is that quick. To put a revelation of that order back inside is impossible. Her quiet, stiff truth is, I imagine,  unfathomable to someone whom has not experienced that sort of thing.

I am sorry to admit to the plethora of useless knowledge swirling about my mind, curling around factoids and cheap images; but it is the the startlingly real knowing lurching forward that alters lives. I don’t know how people go back and feign ignorance once they know. That is something Ibsen understood well: The gravity of truth.