I was really surprised to see the list's reaction to Kate Troy's post from
9/13/02. The comments have all been negative, and I think such an unfavorable
reaction stems from a fundamental lack of recognition of what Kate is trying
to accomplish. Let me try to straighten out the situation:
Kate Troy's 9/13/02 email, while on the surface totally without redeeming
value, unbearably ignorant, and embarrassingly juvenile, is actually a rework
of TSE's greatest masterpieces, carefully woven into a tapestry under the
innocuous façade of an "off-topic piece of worthless spam to the TSE list".
"I'm weary of hearing about missing towers; and men going by the names of
Osama and Saddam; I prefer Ben and Jerry. Tom, Dick and Harry."
The reference to "weary" and the rattling off of a list of names is a
straightforward echo of Gerontion:
"HERE I am, an old man in a dry month,
... by Mr. Silvero
With caressing hands, at Limoges
Who walked all night in the next room;
By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians;
By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room
Shifting the candles; Fräulein von Kulp
Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door."
Troy, while seeming to boldly reveal her ignorance in ways few would dare,
actually is continuing the Gerontion motif with:
"I'm weary of hearing about how our people have been hurt, our people
including my cleaning woman deported for having an expired visa; like that
sweet mexican girl
consorted with the devils"
a direct paraphrase of the Eliot Gerontion passage
" Think at last
I have not made this show purposelessly
And it is not by any concitation
Of the backward devils "
Even the use of the lower case 'm' for Mexican is not meant as an arrogant
put-down by a intellectually bankrupt buffoon -- rather, think about Eliot's
use of the lower case 'j' ("And the jew squats on the window sill, the
owner") to startle the unsuspecting reader.
Troy uses the literary device of repetition ("I'm weary of thinking of three
men in two cars on a Florida highway… I'm weary of thinking about the world
our borders") to subliminally convey her message: "I'm weary of thinking".
To feel the full force of her words, we look again to Gerontion's "Thoughts
of a dry brain in a dry season."
But Troy's tour de force is not limited to references to Gerontion. Her
prose-poem packs in reference after reference to TSE's most beloved works.
For the sake of brevity, I'll point out but a few:
Troy: "But, the next time Paris needs to be liberated,
I do so hope you have a Plan B"
TSE: (Portrait of a Lady):
"Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall
My buried life, and Paris in the
Spring, I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world
To be wonderful and youthful, after all."
Troy: "The lady in the harbor glistens"
TSE: (Ash Wednesday):
"Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness"
Troy: "her towers are now dust"
TSE: (Little Gidding)
"Ash on an old man's sleeve
Is all the ash the burnt roses leave.
Dust in the air suspended
Marks the place where a story ended."
Troy: "I'm weary of hearing about missing towers"
TSE: (In addition to the Gerontion reference, also "The Waste Land")
"What is the city over the mountains
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
Troy: "And if you do not [have a Plan B], then do not fear. . ."
TSE: (East Coker):
"Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God."
You get the idea.
And of course Troy's entire email, taken as a whole, is intended to mentally
evoke those immortal TSE lines:
[Prufrock] --- "a tedious argument/Of insidious intent"
as well as
[East Coker] --- "Dung"
Thanks again to Kate Troy for bringing us back to Eliot as only Kate can.
-- Steve --