Friday Mishmash


First of all I have to send out a huge apology to the Slaves of Golconda who are discussing Margaret Laurence’s book The Stone Angel. I got my timings all wrong on this one and have only managed to read the first chapter; it’s been that kind of week. But I’ll be eagerly following the discussion at the site and at the Metaxu Café forum.



What I’ve spent the past two days reading is books on poststructuralism, which is what I was going to post about here today; only forgive me bloggers, it’s Friday, I’m tired and I’m going out this evening, and the sheer fact of having read about poststructuralism for two days is sufficient to make me not want to think about it any longer just at present. It is quite fascinating, I assure you, and a kind of limit point in critical theory, not to mention a way of thinking that has eased itself insidiously into contemporary culture. So I will try and get my thoughts in order on it. In the meantime, here’s Terry Eagleton, putting it into a very large, labyrinthine nutshell:



‘Nothing is ever fully present in signs. It is an illusion for me to believe that I can ever be fully present to you in what I say or write, because to use signs at all entails my meaning being always somehow dispersed, divided and never quite at one with myself. Not only my meaning, indeed, but I myself: since language is something I am made out of, rather than a convenient tool I use, the whole idea that I am a stable, unified entity must also be a fiction.’



Now you know how it is when you have something very difficult to do; some subversive imp inside you just insists you play around on the internet every once in a while. Not that I’m a big Youtube fan, but I had this snippet of a song playing around in my mind, which is a sponge for about a stanza and a half plus a chorus of every song I’ve ever heard. Anyhow, the song was Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ and for some obscure reason I thought I’d see if I could find a video clip of him, and lo and behold, here he is, singing it at the age of 70, although the extraordinarily old-fashioned appearance of the film and the set seem to suggest a broadcast date circa 1850. Some bloggers are very clever and can post this sort of thing lock, stock and barrel on their sites. Alas, not me; a link is the best I can do. But I keep playing it because I’m finding it so very intriguing. There’s something so… so ravaged about Gordon Lightfoot, with his gaunt cheekbones and cracked voice, and on the walls all around are huge photos of him as a handsome young man. The camera keeps closing in on these photos and then pulling out to incorporate elderly, mustachioed Gordon, singing as if his life depended on it, and yet singing about himself as a ghost. There’s such a poignant quality to this version, I find, something in its brokenness, its imperfection, the strangeness of an elderly man singing his heart out that way. And then, well, I have to say that there’s also something in his stance with his guitar and the way he becomes his song, something still so authoritative in his muscular arm emerging from his t-shirt, that as the clip progresses he seemed to me to be oddly virile. I read a review at amazon that said ‘if there’s such a thing as an alpha-male folkie, Lightfoot certainly fits the bill’. Perhaps it’s just me. I do like older men (although I didn’t realize I had raised the bar quite so high), and particularly those I associate with a full and insightful possession of their feelings. The song is about the way that we retell our love stories in airbrushed ways, wanting to cast ourselves as that bit more glamourous, that bit more romantic, more noble, more tragic, than we were. Like all great songs there’s a moment of powerful transition, when Gordon asks us to consider that transforming our feelings into these all too recognizable shapes means that something significant gets lost. He’s been singing about ‘A movie queen to play the scene/of bringing all the good things out in me.’ And Gordon knows this is the moment that counts; he’s had his eyes screwed shut and then he opens them and fixes his gaze on his audience with the words ‘But for now, love, let’s be real.’ Then he moves into the famous bit, ‘I don’t know where we went wrong, but the feeling’s gone/and I just can’t get it back.’ The simplicity of those lines is the key, and the punch of the truth, the phrase that no one who loves wants to hear. I don’t know; the oldness of the clip, the song, Gordon, it’s all proving hypnotic at the moment.



Well, that was a bit random, wasn’t it? Litlove watching Youtube videos, whatever next? I really need to get poststructuralism out of my head and down on paper, and to read a few more books!


11 thoughts on “Friday Mishmash

  1. Youtube video watching does seem a jump from poststructuralism (but then maybe not?). I don’t have sound on the computer I’m using, so I’m not getting the full effect of the video, but he is looking rather gaunt, isn’t he? No doubt listening has an entirely different sort of mind numbing effect than poststructuralism reading. Sorry to hear you didn’t finish the Laurence, but sometimes work does need to go before pleasure! 🙂

  2. I missed the Slaves’ completely this time around, too! Aghh! Oh well, I’ll go follow the discussion as well. I love the mish-mash quality of your post–I love when I get a random glimpse into my favorite bloggers’ heads every now and then. Now I’m off to YouTube to check out Gordon Lightfoot and find something about the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the only other Gordon Lightfoot song I can remember…see, that’s why I love blogging, for the random but interesting places our blogger friends can take us 🙂

  3. This is kind of neat. We can’t be fully known, only what we are projecting of ourselves at any one time, which is that picture for that moment, then we get multiple projected moments from different points in time of a singer, so we can see like the fragmented image of how one is built up out of a series of projections. It’s like one of those sets of cards which you can flick through, with each card minutely moving the image, so it dances or tells a mini-story. We are millions of cartoon images, each separate and singular, but we flick them together and hey presto there’s our story, which is how we make our self, or the illusion of ourself, because really the cards are all separate. Then again, not being too good at this sort of thing, perhaps I’ve failed to read your mind. Hope you have a good evening out.

  4. A wonderful mish-mash (or is it a Hodge Podge?). My mind is often exercised by the thought that, no matter how hard I try to put the real and essential “I” into someone else’s mind, that “I” is filtered by the other’s experiences and learning and expectations. Sometimes I think there are thousands of “I’s” out there, each different. The original “I” is solid and real and I know “I” very well. All the secondary “I’s” differ in a greater or lesser degree and, yes, bookboxed’s idea of a series of cartoon images is most apposite. Perhaps this is why Rolf Harris’ idea of using three portrait artists to each create an image of one person was so fascinating.

    I have come to a tentative conclusion that, while I know myself better than anyone else, my self-image is constantly being altered by the feedback I get from other’s more or less different images of me.

    Hey, not fair, making me think this deeply when I was up till after 2am, caught in a new novel!

  5. I’m just going to say, I think you are allowed a bit of You Tube watching, a bit of Gordon Lightfoot. Otherwise, I think your head might explode from all your brilliance! Happy weekend, Litlove!

  6. Since we’re taking a day off from books and criticism, would it be appropriate to mention in the context of selves and our projections thereof the amazing Todd Haynes film on the life of Bob Dylan (so far) “I’m Not There,” in which six characters portray different ages and aspects of Mister Zimmerman and Gordon Lightfoot knockoff Kris Kristofferson narrates? If not, I withdraw the comment.

    I looked up GL for you, Litlove, to verify he’s still alive. You might consider sending him a birthday card (unless this tribute was it) on November 17, when he’ll turn 70.

  7. I often wonder whether my years studying literature and especially theory were somehow wasted years, given that I have turned away from academia. But, then, I read a post like this and I remember that the theory I learned is with me in the things I see and the way I think and surely the way I write and so those six years meant something after all. This juxtaposition is actually quite meaningful — a snippet of a person and a life on Youtube: is it less or more than all the words he could give us?

  8. Danielle – I’ve been enjoying everyone’s posts and I’m wondering how much information I can coax out of fellow Slaves about the death of Hagar’s son! I should think Gordon without the music is pretty surreal! Gentle Reader – you are immensely kind to find interest in my random post! Thank you! And I’m also guiltily glad it’s not just me who couldn’t make enough time for Margaret Laurence. I’ll see you at the discussion forum! Bookboxed – that’s a wonderful evocation of post-structuralist identity; yes, just like one of those leaping characters drawn in the corner of a notebook page and animated by flicking through. That’s a very insightful idea! Archie – well that’s pretty impressive for someone who went to bed at 2am! I got to bed at midnight last night and have been worth nothing today! You also write wonderfully well about the tricksy gaps and lacunae of identity. I can see I will have to get this poststructuralist post together. Courtney – that is just such a sweet thing to say! Thank you! I worry, though, if I get hooked on Youtube, where it will all end… David – I don’t think you’ve ever said anything that wasn’t wholly appropriate here! I watch so few movies, but I know that you, by contrast, are well versed in film, so I would always follow up your suggestions. I’m astonished to learn that Gordon Lightfoot will only be seventy this year. However old is he in that clip, then? He looks 70, and yet it appears to have been filmed at least forty years ago – how very enigmatic! Emily – I think from reading you that I could tell you have academic training; the way you look at things is so clear and insightful. Those six years are where they will be most useful to you now – right down deep inside. I love what you say about the juxtaposition, and your question is wonderful. I’m not sure, is my answer at the moment, but you’ve got me thinking about that now!

  9. Too bad about not finishing Stone Angel! Next time. I remember really enjoying poststructuralism in my theory class long ago. Looking forward to your post on it. As for Gordon Lightfoot, I think he looks great. His voice isn’t what it used to be but he still manages some sweet notes now and then. “I do like older men (although I didn’t realize I had raised the bar quite so high)” made me laugh. You know, the older we get the older the older man has to be too 😉

  10. I’ve been familiar with that song for a long time, but I’d never taken the time to figure out what the lyrics meant. How sad they are! It’s particularly poignant, as you say, when sung by someone getting on in years.

  11. Stefanie – LOL! I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you are absolutely right! I’m very much enjoying the discussion at Metaxu cafe, and I’m sure I’ll catch up with the Laurence at some point. Poststructuralism next week! Dorothy – it’s nice to find other bloggers who know the song (not many people here in the UK would be aware of it). I must say I didn’t really start to think about the lyrics until I found the video clip. Who says the internet isn’t a great boost for one’s education!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s