Three Guys One Book on Harriet the Spy

Three Guys One Book on Harriet the Spy

Something’s off with the comments section on TG1B, so this is what I wanted to say:

Three points:

 

First, Fitzhugh wrote two sequels which I’ve never read: The Long Secret and Sport (there are also sequels by other writers but I’m not interested in those).

 

Second, one of the best bits about Harriet the Spy I’ve read compared it to, among other titles, John Le Carré’s A Perfect Spy as a thematic equivalent, almost a childhood version. 

 

Third, as is obvious, I loved this book, so thanks for writing about it here!

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Approaching Gnosticism?

I recently mentioned Brenda Hillman, whose Loose Sugar (scroll down for review) I own and love, and how I feel distant from her Gnostic sensibilities, even as it profoundly shape her poetics, which I find resonant. Yes, there is a contradiction here.

I might be coming close, thanks to “On Song, Lyric, and Strings,” a piece she wrote that clarifies my recent reflections on the lyric. You can see her argument in Section 2, where she offers lyric as “an element in poetry, not a type” and talks about how “once lyric meant unbroken music, but since the nineteenth century, it may be broken.” I now realize my position, which is close to this, isn’t so much anti-lyrical after all.

Hillman also provides what I thought was a hilarious though insightful comparison between Emily Dickinson and Eminem, which I’ll quote here for certain key terms that mean a lot to the work I do (emphases mine)

In lyrics, identity quests might be aided when the certainty of a rhythm is crossed with a question; Dickinson’s poem “I’m Nobody—who are you?” and Eminem’s line “I’m Slim Shady I’m the real Shady” have in common the fact that their speakers present contradictory riddles as deflections for saying who they think they are—Dickinson in iambic and Eminem in trochaic rap. Much pop music has this gnostic quality, making animate assertions about losing the self while finding it. To the complaint that contemporary poetry is too musically inaccessible, I’d note that the temporary difficulties of such poetry instruct us about possibilities of meaningful expression of the quotidian

A lot of this makes sense to me, except for the question of how essential it is to Gnostic thought that it is about “losing the self while finding it.” If left at that, then it’s something that fits with my own poetic sensibilities. I may even accept the idea of knowledge as revealed in a-logical mystery, but I feel close to an understanding here.

I think I like the way Loose Sugar and other work by Hillman presents dualities without resolving them in a synthesis (Hegelian or something else). I think I can appreciate her use of Gnostic thought and alchemy as specific forms of negative capability or as a way to still function even when holding two fundamentally opposing views (I’m referring to the is-it-Fitzgerald-or-not bit in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy). I’m just not sure it’s my way of doing so, since there are a whole lot of other approaches to the binary, such as apophenia.

ADDENDUM:

Hillman’s article, which I only read last night is eerily in sync with a lot of what I’ve written in an essay I just finished, so much so that I am compelled to revise my essay and mention the Hillman to avoid being suspected of plagiarism.

On top of that, Hillman also specifically mentions HolderlinRobert DuncanWalter BenjaminPaul CelanGerald Manley Hopkins (an influence on W.S. Graham and John Berryman), and Annie Finch. I can’t help but wonder if this is this is the pneuma approaching.

In Smiley’s World

As preparation for my most-anticipated film for 2011, based on one of my favorite novels of all time, I’m currently listening to the recent Radio 4 adaptation. (Later, I plan to re-watch the television adaptation and to re-read the book, of course.)

I’ve just finished listening to the second of its three parts this morning, which means I’m as fully immersed as work and the rest of my life allows, which led to several misadventures this morning (and no, this is by no means an attempt at a Le Carre pastiche; I doubt I’ll ever have that man’s facility with language).

I arrived at the office and immediately opened the briefcase handcuffed to my wrist my bag, which contained a highly-sensitive dossier recommendation letter I wrote for an agent a student who was picking it up that morning from my local runner the Department secretary. The student requested for this letter by dropping me a note in a dead-letter drop my pigeonhole last week. He arrived as I was encoding preparing the document for his pick-up this morning. I was momentarily startled, as if he broke cover, but I simply handed him the letter and wished him luck in his mission application.

The next bit is a little funnier since I virtually sound like I’m in the intelligence business here, with minimal moments of sous rature:

One of my research assistants handed me the highly-confidential (it really was, as indicated by the stamp on the sealed envelope I was given) mission briefing project appointment from HR. (Come to think of it, it IS a mission briefing, since it details a special and somewhat secret project I’ve been tasked to do.) It was a vital document that needed to go to my contact in Personnel, who had been calling me about it for the past two weeks, so I immediately went out and headed over there to pass it on.

Since I’ve been quite absent-minded these days, it took me a while to notice the envelope had my name on it as a receiver: I was so overwhelmed by the importance of the document, which up until this morning I didn’t even know existed, that I thought it was something for Personnel’s eyes only. Realizing my mistake, I opened it, clumsily tearing the envelope in my haste, certainly looking as if I was about to read something I wasn’t supposed to. I signed the document, but realized at the last minute that I needed to take note of details (like my salary) I needed to tell Control my wife.

So I took photographs of the document with the camera on my mobile phone.

I also picked up my paycheck today, and of course, I had to show my papers faculty ID first before signing a release form that had me leaving Accounting with a smile on my face and Smiley on my head heart head heart END TRANSMISSION.