I’ve been deep in Melville’s Pierre; or, the Ambiguities for the last week (sample sentences demonstrating the novel’s weirdness: “With Mrs. Glendinning it was one of those spontaneous maxims, which women sometimes act upon without ever thinking of, never to appear in the presence of her son in any dishabille that was not eminently becoming” or “Not that in the despotism of other things, the thought of Lucy, and the unconjecturable suffering into which she might so soon be plunged, owing to the threatening uncertainty of the state of his own future, as now in great part and at all hazards dedicated to Isabel; not that this thought had thus far been alien to him.” What is unconjecturable suffering? I don’t think I’ve ever felt it). The novel is so hilariously, insanely bad that there must be some purpose to its badness, and I’ve been plumbing that purpose while trying to let my prose purple through pernicious exposure—with only some success. My theory: the novel’s language, structure, and incestuous tropes point to the past’s simultaneous constructing and strangling influence on the present.
Turning that general idea into a specific and sound paper, however, is tough, not least because of the source material. A presentation on it yesterday went reasonably well, but I’ll be continuing work over the next weeks or months, and we’ll see how that goes. This is a longish way of explaining why posts have tended towards the short and to the point lately: they act as a counterweight to the massive textual leviathan I’m wrangling in my other life.