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!