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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.


And make sure to visit The Arnold Bennett Society for expert information and comment on all aspects of the life and work of AB.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Revisiting Bestwood




June 21st.

I have just finished re-reading "Sons and Lovers" which I came back to with some trepidation anticipating, from memory, a bleak experience. It is an intense, unyielding read. There is no humour in it whatsoever which is, to my mind, a significant failing. Perhaps Lawrence didn't have a sense of humour? Certainly none of the charactrers in this novel have, and maybe that is true of the rest though I have to admit that this is the only one of his novels that I have read in its entirety.

He can write though! Some of the scenes are exceptionally well imagined. I am thinking for example of the death of Mrs. Morel, and Paul's early contacts with Clara. I particularly like the dialogues when he deploys the local dialect with its archaic expressions. But it is all so intense that it gives me a headache and I find myself skipping paragraphs because I can't bear to read of yet another episode of soul-searching.

Overall I think that the father, Walter Morel, comes across as the most 'real', human figure in the book, and I felt sorry for him throughout the novel. Of course he is very flawed, not much of a husband or father, but he feels to me to be authentic, a man of his time and place. He is excluded from his family it seems to me for no other reason than being himself. Whilst psychological suffering is at the core of all Lawrence's characters, Morel suffers more than most because he has no insight into why he is being made to suffer.

As for Paul, I imagine that his portrayal is largely autobiographical with a certain amount of wish-fulfillment for good measure. He is not a likeable character and, to my way of thinking, not really credible in the context within which he is placed. Some of this aversion may be due to the relationship described with his mother which makes me uncomfortable, and I recall now that I found myself backing away from it on my first reading many years ago. Maybe I am just being oversensitive, or failing to grasp the context properly? I don't think that Lawrence's female characters are at all convincing - he seems to have a rather idealised view of women and makes that the basis for his characters, or at least the main ones; the minor female characters are much better.

Overall it is obvious why this has become a literary classic. It is a feat of sustained, powerful writing, and an important social-historic document. But for myself, I think this will be my last visit to Bestwood.

Additionally see "A cry for help" at
http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/a-cry-for-help.html

Saturday, 13 June 2015

A I

The movie "Ex Machina" is in the long line of science fiction speculations about the nature and potential consequences of artificial intelligence. For the benefit of atracting movie goers the AI in this case is lodged within a sexy female robot body, and the plot turns on 'her' ability to manipulate a hapless male by the use of sexuality. However, the real crux of the movie is about the right of the AI to sustain its existence in relation to its human creator.


Image result for ex machina



It appears that consciousness is an emergent property of complex nervous systems, and that self-consciousness arises at a high level of complexity. Clearly neither consciousness nor self-consciousness is confined to homo sapiens. In principle then there is no reason why a sufficiently complex artificial network should not become conscious, and technological progress makes this likely in the foreseeable future. It seems more likely that a network rather than an individual machine will first attain consciousness. Perhaps it has already happened?

What about the next stage? If a network became conscious of 'itself', what would that mean, and could we recognise that it had taken place? Would it depend in fact on the new entity actively communicating its presence to us? Presumably with an intention to prevent us inadvertently changing its configuration or, crucially, turning it off.

These are recurring issues in fiction from "Frankenstein", through "2001" to "Ex Machina". They may soon become issues of fact.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Ennui

Friday, September 2nd., Les Sablons.

I did no work since Monday.

On Tuesday I went to Paris. Lunch at Martin's (his cousin Eugene was there). I met Lee Mathews at Hotel St. James at 6.10. We discussed plays and his projects till 7.20. Caught 7.55 home, for  bread and milk at 9 p.m. I bought nothing.
See also, 'French excursion' - 
September 24th., http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/friday-september-24th.html

Couldn't work next day or yesterday. Not sure why. Sometimes one is oppressed by a sense of pointlessness; why make another effort, or even exert oneself to be pleasant? Fortunately, with experience comes the knowledge that the feeling will pass and life will resume its normal optimistic course. In the meantime go through the motions.
So, I resumed "Seeing Life in Paris" this morning, and did 1,200 words.
Yesterday afternoon I just did a New Age article. 

By first post I received news that Pinker could sell serial use of "The Honeymoon" toMcClure's Magazine for £200. I cabled to accept, provided dramatic rights not jeopardised.

Additionally for September 2nd., see 'Death by drowning' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/death-by-drowning.html

"Received a letter from my mother today (dated August 30th.) informing me of the death by drowning of my sister Tertia's fiance, Willie Boulton."

Monday, 1 September 2014

Home?

Saturday, September 1st., Comarques.

Comarques, where I lived for some years, is a Queen Anne House , in pale red brick, delightfully situated in a large garden in the country in a quiet corner of Essex. 
I once wrote to Mrs Herzog, an American friend, that "we now possess an early Queen Anne house near the Essex coast and in February are going to install ourselves there definitely for everlasting; our deaths will one day cause a sensation in the village which we shall dominate, and the English villagers and gentry will wonder, as they stroll through the deserted house, why the madman had three bathrooms in a home so small; they will not know that it was due solely to a visit to the USA ..."
Regrettably, my talent as a clairvoyant was not nearly as great as my talent as a writer!


Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken. The door at the rear of the house is covered by a moulded canopy
with an inscribed plaque reading ‘Enoch Arnold Bennett, Author lived here 1913 – 1921.

I took a month's holiday ending yesterday. We went to spend two days at the Schusters during it, and I saw the first batch of the American Army from the windows of the Yacht Club.

American soldiers in France 1918
During World War I, the first 14,000 U.S. infantry troops landed in France at the port of Saint Nazaire. The landing site had been kept secret because of the menace of German submarines, but by the time the Americans had lined up to take their first salute on French soil, an enthusiastic crowd had gathered to welcome them. However, the "Doughboys," as the British referred to the green American troops, were untrained, ill-equipped, and far from ready for the difficulties of fighting along the Western Front.

Health not very good during it, but a distinct benefit as regards the outlook on work actually in progress. I made some advance in watercolours, and more still in monotypes. 
One of my landscapes
I didn't read a lot. Hardy's "Pair of Blue Eyes", full of fine things and immensely sardonic. Last month I dined at Barrie's in London with Thomas Hardy and his wife. Hardy was very lively, talked like anything! He has all his faculties unimpaired. Quite modest and without the slightest pose. Later G.B. Shaw and the Wellses came and Hardy seemed to curl up from fatigue. He became quite silent. The spectacle of Wells and GBS talking firmly and strongly about the war, in their comparative youth, in front of this aged, fatigued and silent man - incomparably their superior as a creative artist - was very striking.

Also read Murray on Euripides - formless but gradually getting at something. 

Reminiscences of Tagore - good. 

"Duchesse de Langeais", quite a major work, which thoroughly held me.

La Duchesse de Langeais is an 1834 novel by French author Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) and included in the Scènes de la vie parisienne section of his novel sequence La Comédie humaine. It is part of his 1839 trilogy Histoire des treize: Ferragus is the first part, Part Two is La Duchesse de Langeais and Part Three is The Girl with the Golden Eyes. It first appeared in 1834 under the title Ne touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch the Axe) in the periodical L'Écho de la Jeune France.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Mixed response

Wednesday, July 21st., Cadogan Square, London.

We went to the Ruth Draper matinee. A packed and putrid matinee audience at the Garrick, nearly all women. Laughing in all the wrong places - giggling, whispering. Tea-drinking. Ruth is very clever. She is a wonderful imitator, but not much of a creator. Some things however, such as the Englishwoman showing her garden were splendidly cruel. Others feeble and formless. The observation seems to be exact but superficial. She is highly skilled and looks nice.


Ruth Draper (1884 -1956), American monologuist and monodramatist whose art was acclaimed throughout the United Statesand Europe. Draper was of a well-to-do family. Her career grew from a habit of writing sketches about persons she knew or had observed and performing them at parties. In 1911 she began performing professionally at clubs and schools. In 1917 Draper made her New York debut as a monologuist in a programme of one-act pieces, all of which were failures except for the one she had written entitled The Actress. She thereafter performed only her own material. Her London debut in 1920 in a bill of her own works was a great success and established her as the pre-eminent practitioner of her art. Draper’s monologues and monodramas were delicately crafted works that revealed a deep understanding of human character, which she conveyed with great skill and deft suggestion. She used a minimum of stage props, no scenery, and little in the way of costume change, yet she could people the stage at will. Her repertory eventually grew to 39 pieces with such titles as Three Generations at a Court of Domestic Relations, At an English House Party, The Miner’s Wife, A French Dressmaker, Opening a Bazaar, In County Kerry, The Italian Lesson, At an Art Exhibition, and Vive La France. In them she conjured up some 58 principal characters, endowing each with full individuality. A command of languages and dialects played a large part in her characterizations as well. 

I am still reading "Sous le Soleil de Satan". It is definitely not good, but I mean with Gods' help to finish it. Unintentional irony there, as the devil is a character in the book which has caused a stir in France.

"Under Satan's Sun", by Georges Bernanos is a powerful account of intense spiritual struggle that reflects the author's deeply-felt religion. The work develops a theme that persistently inspired Bernanos: the existence of evil as a spiritual force and its dramatic role in human destiny. This haunting novel follows the fortunes of a young, gauche, and fervent Catholic priest who is a misfit in the world and in his church, creating scandal and disharmony wherever he turns. His insight into the inner lives of others and his perception of the workings of Satan in the everyday are gifts that fatefully come into play in the priest's chance encounter with a young murderess, whose life and emotions he can see with a dreadful clarity, and whose destiny inexorably becomes entangled with his own. A film based on the novel won the Palme d'Or prize at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Simple pleasure

Monday, July 18th., Brittany.

My sister Tertia told me once that my mother, on seeing "Carmen" at Hanley Theatre said: "I don't like that woman at all". Just the sort of thing she might say!

It rained all day yesterday, and was raining heavily when we went to bed. Rain appalling. The employes du Louvre discovered the gramophone at night and danced to it.

By the way, the chief point about the gramophone performance was the intense and simple pleasure of the people in it. The two men bent over the instrument smiling as they might have done at a baby that was crooning. How I envy people who are able to immerse themselves without self-consciousness in the moment. For myself I find that I cannot get beyond thoughts of my own dignity, and appearance, which of course I know rationally is of no interest to anyone but myself. I am afraid that self-consciousness will be a burden to me throughout my life, unless it falls away as I descend, heaven forbid, into senility. Rather dark thoughts for a holiday - must be the effect of the weather!

Additionally for July 18th., see 'A matter of loyalty'

While all this is going on I have more trouble to contend with from my wife. She resents my 'other' life in London and fails to understand that I have an immense amount of work to do and considerable responsibility. Hence she contrives problems to gain my attention. For example, she has conceived a thorough dislike for our gardener Lockyer and is manoeuvring to have him replaced: what a time to become preoccupied with such trivia! I have written to her as follows:

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Introspection

Sunday, July 17th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

Yesterday at 7 p.m., after a week of slogging, I finished "Hugo" which I think is my eighth novel. I have got that off my mind and now this morning I lose a front tooth, just to be supplied with a new worry. 

Five years ago I would have looked on my life, as I am living it now, as the ne plus ultra of paradisiacal bliss, but I am no more content than I ever was. In fact life is a devilish odd thing. I think I have learned more about it in the last three years than ever I knew before. I have books planned that will keep me employed till the end of 1906. But if I am any happier than when I used to cycle down to Farnham & Witley after a week of rottenness in Fleet Street, I do not know it. My belief is that some people are born happy and some aren't. 

I like Paris tremendously. Indeed I can't imagine myself living in any other city. It has spoilt me for London. What I secretly desire is a fine house in the seaside country near Folkestone for the summers, and this flat (which suits me excellently) for the rest of the year. And these things I must have and will have!

Additionally for July 17th., see 'Adrift in Austria'

I went out and bought some cigars. About 4.30 went up to Hoher Salzburg. A very Margate-ish crowd; indeed the same sort of crowds everywhere. They stream into the town daily. Coming home, I met Kommer; or rather he stopped me and offered me a piece of paper. For a second I didn't know him. He had inquired at all the hotels for me (including this one) without success. He had then gone to the police, who informed him at once thatE.A.B. was staying at the Oesterreichischer, and gave him a bit of paper to that effect; this was the paper he was exhibiting to me in the street.