Notes on Words

for Writers, Readers, Logophiles and Logorrhetics

Constancy — July 19, 2012

Constancy

“He—for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it—was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.” 13

Image
Such a soulful look I’ve never done seen

I’m re-reading Orlando. The first time I read it, probably five years ago, I instantly counted it among my favorite books, and the second go-around is not disappointing. Some books will reverberate softly for the first reading but then go dead for the second. But others are rich and varied enough that they continue to have something to offer.

“Heaven knows why, just as we have lost faith in human intercourse some random collocation of barns and trees or a haystack and a waggon presents us with so perfect a symbol of what is unattainable that we begin the search again.” 215-6

Though I’ll use a lot of quotes here, Orlando is not a book which yields up bushels of quotes which bear repeating in everyday life—though there are a few. I’m inclined to seeing it as Leaves of Grass was intended: every line is equal to the others, and part of a whole. The book acts like it has no structure, words and images brimming off of the page and gushing stickily through concepts and events.

“Then, looking down, the red hyacinth, the purple iris wrought her to cry out in ecstasy at the goodness, the beauty of nature; raising her eyes again, she beheld the eagle soaring, and imagined its raptures and made them her own. Returning home, she saluted each star, each peak, and each watch-fire as if they signalled to her alone; and at last, when she flung herself upon her mat in the gipsies’ tent, she could not help bursting out again, How good to eat! How good to eat!” 144

Orlando, the character, behaves the same way—fluid, capricious, exploding with personality. He (or she, as he wakes up female in the third chapter and stays that way) is an ecstatic, capable of achieving incredible joy.

“ ‘All ends in death,’ Orlando would say, sitting upright, his face clouded with gloom. (For that was the way his mind worked now, in violent see-saws from life to death stopping at nothing in between . . .” 46

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