Thursday, August 21, 2008

Vanity, if not in vain

Have just finished the infamous classic "Joseph Andrews", by Henry Fielding, one of the first novels ever to have been published, and one of those alleged überclassics that the British authormight have to offer; and am currently a little dizzy, due to all its thought-provoking aftermath, as I am feeling slightly outside-my-own-self, at its called-for mental processing, and need for thorough re-consideration. It's one of those works you keep thinking you ought to read, and then - when you actually have - you don't really know how to deal with the impressions. So, I chose to focus on the outer rims, first and foremost; judging from appearance, no severance. How it looks, how it's constructed, what notions it invokes, what plain stories are told, what symbolism can be found here. And, I'm quite aware, there's so much more to it than that. It's complexity of another dimension, on a whole new level, being doubled metafiction, parody of the parody, tale of a tale within a tale, and reflexiveness going once, going twice, and everything sold out. Whether I'm sold, is an entirely different matter. But it was a good read, I have to say. Truly an experience, a literary momentum. Being, all in all, a somewhat bizarre piece of disrespectful, mock-heroic, in-style-ridicule, that attempts to create both a shameless parody of one "Pamela"; a then-recent, sensationally popular epistolar novel by another author, Richardson; and a semi-biographical "comedy in prose", in its own right. However, it does steal heavily from just about everyone else, and everything (they've) ever written; including some accurately quoted passages, and paraphrasings, of famous works by Aristotle, Homer, Vergil and the likes. (Yup, my guys.) Latin phrases, thoughts from The Poetics, homeric similes and numerous mentionings of old gods and daemons. More than anything, though, Mr. Fielding tries to copy Miguel de Cervantes - and, in a most adament, undisguised sense. It's written in the style and general fashion of last year's (most) intensely explored masterpiece, "Don Quijote", which I thoroughly enjoyed - and Cervantes himself is named as its number one influence, on the title page. It's got most of the same features; a third-person-narrative, with witty comments along the way, who does not partake, in the actual story, yet neither does he hesitate to criticise, condemn and downright bash what he bears witness to, from his all-seeing, bird's eye-perspective, giving also introductions and inserted notes to the reader, one of many non-fictional as well as fictional figures whom Fielding addresses throughout, in his wide use of apostrophes; also including lyrical additions, songs, improvised poetry, letters, epitaphs, epithets, and what more; novellas, fables, local legends as recited by the elderly man in the innermost corner at the local inn. Lots and loads and bucketloads - of digressions, derivations, trains of random thought, intermissions into which steps brand new or pretty minute, minor characters who suddenly feel the need to have a long and in-depth discussion about the rules of attraction, standards of Shakespearian plays, or whatever. Additionally: instances of divine intervention, not only via the mentioned godnesses, but giving them centre stage in pompous-sounding declarations of indictment, enquiry or prayer. There's an Aenid, here's Aischylos, over all is Athen's glory. Apparently they hadn't heard of copyright protection or trademarks in the 18th century. Ironic as it might seem, however, Fielding does get away with all this; quite well, too, as it were; even if he's produced one of the moste quotation-packed, copycat-like books in the history of writing, with - possibly - more intertextual references than any other I've ever had the dubious pleasure of reading. For as long as Fielding contributes with his very own material as well, and makes something entirely, overall unique out of it, who can blame him for borrowing around a bit. With regard to his story, it's main purpose seems to be displaying, and dealing with, the follies of mankind. Such threats to personal dignity, pains and inconveniences - and further dangers to virtue, modesty, chastity and proper behaviour, grave and foul, that one faces throughouts the journey that marks one's lifetime. The generosity and beneficence of certain heroes, versus the evilness and cold cynicism in an outer world, that they must come to terms with
and attempt to change, whilst travelling towards their own destiny. Meanwhile, as his characters exist en route, Fielding provides earnest teachings on life, love, money, religion, politics and ethics; his moral views and preferences, in general, intended to pose as a strict contrast to rival author Richardson and his affected sense of morale. Which the other found to be filled with falsehood, hypocrisy and everything else that is rotten and vile, in our lives. Not the best of friends, those two. But at least, their fiendship granted us two of the grandest tales of preserving one's virtue - and how this act should be executed. Also, what else, a true rebellion against the old traditions and their ideas of proper behaviour and the "idealism of love". Fielding gives a more humane, passionate and understanding approach to this debate and he opposed the older values prompted by Richardson; which he makes (nasty) fun of, through the many love affairs and implicit displays of affection, in his own novel. And then there's the stereotype characters with the categorical names, similar to Moliére's comedies, with their friends and flaws and failures. But still, some potential for being loved. Even by the readers. Surprising, perhaps, for a book which - in its thematics - holds strikingly enormous amounts of disdain; against people of different belief, different nationality, different sex, or sexual predilections, hound dogs, stray dogs, modern literature, immodest clothing, female hairdo's, and french cuisine. Blemished, also, with a large number of errors; both in fact and writing; and an overload of exaggerated accounts regarding the businesses of any and all persons involved, and the manner in which these are performed. Fielding's way too elaborate at times, way out of line, and - now and again - he can be utterly boring. The poesy doesn't work, the characters seem flat, the story's far from constantly engaging. Yet, this is a true classic, and it's a great novel; for it beholds an impeccable ability to entertain. Hence retaining its sense of nerve, and keeping hold of the public's attention. With a language and manner of writing that is, at times, and at its best, quite brilliant; charming, funny, absurd; and - indeed - shining with eloquence. Including, again at times, those sharp and witty comments made by the narrator; possibly posing as the author himself, in the novel; who retells the story as though it were the truest fact and draws us in, step by step, into the wild world of moralistic satire that is "Joseph Andrews". And, yes, I was - if not flabbergasted or overwhelmed - rather fascinated, thereby. So much, I decided to employ this novel for some further, personal explorations:

The Tale of Andrews & Adams, respectively, and their amazing undertakings.
By Scaramouche, the Po(t)et, instantly continuing about her business, and the traditions of last semester; involving poetic "summaries" - or, more like, derivations - of, and based upon, the most famous (of) pieces found on my curriculum. Have embarked on my massive amount of new course reading; covering some twenty-something centuries, reaching back to the ancient ages; antique darkness; and must, consequently, before I go on any further, address them - that is, the ones I find particularly interesting - in the only appropriate, rewarding manner I could possibly imagine. My choice being poesy, as always, in order to be able to express my meaning adequately and explicitly. So, this be my kind of interpretation, not univers(it)ally accepted, but it is a habit, a method, which I intend to stick to; and of which I am extremely proud. A poem, recapturing (hopefully) the story, the tone and the characteristics of "Joseph Andrews" and its main figures. Spoilers ahoy, by the way. And with that, I thank yee all for any granted attention, and hope one enjoyed this slight introduction to a famous british writer and to the literary course which yours truly, currently, is part of.

there was a man called joseph andrews
taking on such grand adventures
accompanied by nonetheless than
adams, may the goddess bless'im,
wielding nothing but his crabstick
against the horrors, fierce and thick
and wild, the world of sins in which
they rumble 'round, in turns of glitch
additionally, heaps and loads of
misfortune and pounds to borrow
for they shan't be losing out
to vanity, to evil's pout
yet falling victim far too often
no sins shall their mindset soften
will not allow the slightest waiver
instead preserve their chaste behaviour
whilst on the road to regained virtue
impressing all with what they've been through
mirth and hope, so bland, so luring
lustful glances ever stirring
in spite of all - how they remain
forever faithful, shun the vain
and dedicated to morale
united with one's rightful tally
holding hands, in sincere promise
honour's very own portcullis
avoiding all that's depravating
shocking, cunning, devastating
they rush to every strangers' aid
still, in their beds, are never laid
protectors of the fairest thought
won't see no human soul distraught
with modesty maintained, thereto
such bright ideals contrived by few
intent, determined, more than any
they're set to rescue dear old fanny
this girl whom joe intends to marry
and adams rescues out of worry
together, these three soon endevaour
to behold that righteous flavour
hearing stories, as they walk
the greatest tales, the saddest talk
the sudden threats of animals,
ridicule, placed on pedestals
and brought to tears by slow emotion
sorrow, dread, as hearts' erosion
ties are broken, bonds are tied
foretold much truth, if more belied
engaging, also, in discussions
facing then the repercussions
grave as they may be, however
still got time for sunny weather
induldging in the finest moments
battling next some fierce opponents
always end up where they head off
getting out of anything rough
troubleness becomes not them,
all they want is to laugh again

1 comment:

elgen said...

det var grei aa male deg! husker du naar jeg tok fotoen? det var siste dagen med theresa ved gamlehaugen! *schnief*

megastor klem!

og takk for gaven din!