Our Assessment: A- : bizarre, but fascinating. Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review 's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge and remind and warn you that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure. The complete review 's Review :.
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Though I have concerned myself much with the academic question of what it means to defy genre classification, I have no easy or convincing answer. These books are odd mixes of opinion, quotation, recollection, personal philosophy, and meditation, and all have — some more than others — a fragmentary or aphoristic style of composition that can at times verge on the hallucinatory.
The closest approximation of this sensation that I have found elsewhere is in the reading of private notebooks and unbound papers: Here, a fragmentary transcription of a conversation at a party; there, a formal letter to a parent; there, again, a diaristic meditation on the fear of marriage.
All is produced of the same brain, in the same hand, and this common origin is the sole tie that binds the disparate sheaf. Connolly and his ilk turn the casual essay-istic style of the notebook into art. They refine, polish, and uplift the fragmentary, meandering private style: They make it palatable, even beautiful.
Private writing, when it is really and truly private, is not necessarily charmingly haphazard: Almost inevitably, it slips into the unendurably dull, the defeatingly self-obsessed, the clumsy, sloppy, and rough. It is hard going. There are occasional pleasures to be had, gems of wit and observation here and there, to be sure, but these are the exception and not the rule. The beauty, the strange beauty, of The Unquiet Grave and its cousins lies in its elevation of notebook style — that quirky yet potentially enchanting melange of squib, meditation, quotation, anecdote, and philosophical monologue — to high art.
The casual, associative meandering that stands in place of traditional chronology- and logic-driven narrative techniques creates the illusion that what we read was actually just dashed off casually in snatches of free time, while the quality of the thought, and the quality of the prose belies this informal, nonchalance of organization.
In their variety and strangeness, these passages I hope will give something of an introduction to the book:.
Evasion through comfort, through society, through acquisitiveness, through the book-bed-bath defense system, above all through the past, the flight to the romantic womb of history, into primitive myth-making. The refusal to include the great mass-movements of the twentieth century in our art or our myth will drive us to take refuge in the past; in surrealism, magic, primitive religions, or eighteenth-century wonderlands. We fly to Mediterranean womb-pockets and dream-islands, into dead controversies and ancient hermetic bric-a-brac, like a child who sits hugging his toys and who screams with rage when told to put on his boots.
What converts these Jesuits of the gastric juices make, — and how cleverly they retain them. Which smoker considers the menace of the weed spreading in his garden, which drunkard reads the warning of the ivy round the oak? Most gifted of lemurs, who hated aeroplanes in the sky, on the screen, and even on the wireless. How he would have hated this war! He could play in the snow or swim in a river or conduct himself in a night-club; he judged human beings by their voices; biting some, purring over others, while for one or two well-seasoned old ladies he would brandish a black prickle-studded penis, shaped like a eucalyptus seed.
Using his tail as an aerial, he would lollop through long grass to welcome his owners, embracing them with little cries and offering them a lustration from his purple tongue and currycomb teeth. His manners were of some spoiled young Maharajah, his intelligence not inferior, his heart all delicacy, — women, gin and muscats were his only weaknesses.
Alas, he died of pneumonia while we scolded him for coughing, and with him vanished the sea-purple cicada kingdom of calanque and stone-pine and the concept of life as an arrogant private dream shared by two. Why do we reward our men of genius, our suicides, our madmen, and the generally maladjusted with the melancholy honours of a posthumous curiosity?
Because we know that it is our society which has condemned these men to death, and which is guilty because out of its own ignorance and malformation it has persecuted those who were potential saviours; smiters of the rock who might have touched the spring of healing and brought us back into harmony with ourselves.
Somehow, then, and without going mad, we must learn from these madmen to reconcile fanaticism with serenity. Each one, taken alone, is disastrous, yet except through the integration of these two opposites there is no great art and no profound happiness — and what else is worth having?
For nothing can be accomplished without fanaticism, and without serenity nothing can be enjoyed. Perfection of form or increase of knowledge, pursuit of fame or service to the community, love of God or god of Love, — we must select the Illusion which appeals to our temperament, and embrace it with passion, if we want to be happy.
This is the farewell autumn precept with which Palinurus takes leave of his fast-fading nightmare. Your email address will not be published. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Related Books:. The Millions' future depends on your support.
Become a member today. Thank you to David Partridge and Jim Galbraith, for serving a waitress by acknowledging her as a writer: they gave me a space to work, away from the countless interruptions and distractions of libraries and coffeehouses Essays. Add Your Comment: Cancel reply Your email address will not be published.
I have never been able to shake having lunch with a Pulitzer Prize-winning author in Berkeley before leaving the Bay Area and asking her what she thought about having a child.
You will be shackled for life. The project is a lesson for fiction writers in the variance of point of view, and it proves that interpersonal communication can be as trying as putting together Ikea furniture.
Notebooks Elevated: On The Unquiet Grave: A Word Cycle by Palinurus (Cyril Connolly)
The Unquiet Grave is a literary work by Cyril Connolly written in under the pseudonym Palinurus. It comprises a collection of aphorisms, quotes, nostalgic musings and mental explorations. Palinurus was the pilot of Aeneas 's ship in the Aeneid who fell overboard as an act of atonement to the angry gods, and whose spirit wandered in the underworld. Connolly uses the theme to explore his feelings and review his situation as he approaches the age of forty presenting a very pessimistic and self-deprecating account. Into this he brings quotes from some of his favourite authors: Pascal , De Quincey , Chamfort and Flaubert as well as snatches from the Buddha, Chinese philosophy and Freud. The first two contain similar sets of musing, while the third contains more recollections with veiled references to Connolly's life in France. The last gives an account of Palinurus's history.
Lessons in the art of living
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The Unquiet Grave: A Word Cycle by Palinurus
In early Evelyn Waugh was languishing in Yugoslavia, bored and dispirited, waiting for the war to end. Waugh read and reread Connolly's book and scribbled his reactions on the margins. The marginalia are extensive, full of insight and full of self-delusion. Waugh used the opportunity both to excoriate and to analyse his old acquaintance "friend" is too loaded a word for their complex relationship and the comments he made on the book are fascinating, not just for what they say about Connolly but also for the light they throw on Waugh himself. For Waugh was obsessed with Connolly: fascinated and irritated by him; alternately admiring and contemptuous; secretly envious and publicly derisive. These are a set of contrasting reactions easily understood by Connolly fans amongst whom I count myself among the most ardent because you cannot read Cyril Connolly for very long without wanting to acquire - and then developing - a relationship with the personality of the man himself. This is rarely the case with readers and writers.