I am most definitely slogging through The Art of T S Eliot by Helen Gardner.
I should define “slogging” for you because, for me, it has one mental picture whenever I see or hear that word. Remember Kate Winslet in Titanic? Remember the scene where she is trying to run through the halls of the sinking ship wearing a ballgown and the water is rising? That, to me, is slogging. The three elements of a slog are a long dress, water, and running.
As I started reading TAoTSE, I could feel the water rising. I prayed, Please, God, help me. The more I read, the more I could feel the water rise — ankle deep, knee deep, almost waist deep. I wasn’t quite drowning, but I sure wasn’t getting it.
Then I found this sentence:
Any attempt such as this to analyse … must murder to dissect.
My daughter Helen is taking Anatomy and Physiology this year. She is dissecting a cat. Because we have a much-loved (although rather annoying) cat, Trinity, Helen knows about cats. She has stroked her fur, watched her pounce, felt and heard her purr, seen her eat, and maybe even cleaned the litter box. I’m sure that as Helen looked at the muscles on her dissected cat, she could picture them put to use in Trinity. In other words, familiarity with a cat makes the dissection a little more meaningful.
Here I must make a confession that may get me thrown out of this group. I am not terribly familiar T S Eliot. In fact, I think the only thing I remember ever reading of his was “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” which I read in 10th grade and from which I remember one line, “Do I dare to eat a peach? Shall I part my hair behind?”
If only we had chosen a book analysing e.e. cummings! I have read and re-read, savored and pondered his poems. Or how about Billy Collins; Owen just gave me a book of his poetry which I love. Or Shakespeare’s sonnets — I have memorized some of those! In fact, I have memorized poems by Lewis Carroll, Robert Service, Alfred Noyes, A. A. Milne, and so many others. For whatever reason, I have stayed away from T. S. Eliot.
So please forgive me, dear Greener Trees Reads friends. I may fall rather behind. Before I go any further in TAoTSE, I need to track down a copy of The Four Quartets, one that’s in a book that I can hold in my hands and dog-ear the pages. I need to read and re-read. I need to familiarize myself with the cat, as it were, before I dissect it.
And, odd as it may sound, I’m looking forward to this slog.