A review and a link to other reviews of The Unquiet Grave by Cyril Connolly . In The Unquiet Grave () Cyril Connolly orchestrates a series of journal Following Connolly’s death in , numerous friends and acquaintances have. How to describe Cyril Connolly’s The Unquiet Grave: It is one of those excerpts from The Unquiet Grave, by Palinurus (Connolly’s authorial.
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Notebooks Elevated: On The Unquiet Grave: A Word Cycle by Palinurus (Cyril Connolly) – The Millions
Though I have concerned myself much with the academic question of what it means to defy genre classification, I have no easy or convincing answer. These books are odd mixes of opinion, quotation, recollection, personal philosophy, and meditation, and all have — some more than others — a fragmentary or aphoristic style of composition that can at times verge on the hallucinatory.
The closest approximation of this sensation that I have found elsewhere is in the reading of private notebooks and unbound papers: Here, a fragmentary transcription of a conversation at a party; there, a formal letter to a parent; there, again, a diaristic meditation on the fear of marriage.
All is produced of the same brain, in the same hand, and this common origin is the sole tie that binds the disparate sheaf. Connolly and his ilk turn the casual essay-istic style of the notebook into art. They refine, polish, and uplift the fragmentary, meandering private style: They make it palatable, even beautiful.
Private writing, when it is really and truly private, is not necessarily charmingly haphazard: Almost inevitably, it slips into the unendurably dull, the defeatingly self-obsessed, the clumsy, sloppy, and rough. It is hard going. There are occasional pleasures to be had, gems of wit and observation here and there, to be sure, but these are the exception and not the rule. The beauty, the strange beauty, of The Unquiet Grave and its cousins lies in its elevation of notebook style — that quirky yet potentially enchanting melange of squib, meditation, quotation, anecdote, and philosophical monologue — to high art.
The casual, associative meandering that stands in place of traditional chronology- and logic-driven narrative techniques creates the illusion that what we read was actually just dashed off casually in snatches of free time, while the quality of the thought, and the quality of the prose belies this informal, nonchalance of organization.
In their variety and strangeness, these passages I hope will give something of an introduction to the book:. Evasion through comfort, through society, through acquisitiveness, through the book-bed-bath defense system, above all through the past, the flight to the romantic womb of history, into primitive myth-making.
The refusal to include the great mass-movements of the twentieth century in our art or our myth will drive us to take refuge in the past; in surrealism, magic, primitive religions, or eighteenth-century wonderlands. We fly to Mediterranean womb-pockets and dream-islands, into dead controversies and ancient hermetic bric-a-brac, like a child who sits hugging his toys and who screams with rage when told to put on his boots.
Man is now on his guard against insect parasites; against liver-flukes, termites, Colorado beetles, but has he given thought to the possibility that he has been selected as the target of vegetable attack, marked down by the vine, hop, juniper, and tobacco plant, tea-leaf and coffee-berry for destruction? What converts these Jesuits of the gastric juices make, — and how cleverly they retain them. Which smoker considers the menace of the weed spreading in his garden, which drunkard reads the warning of the ivy round the oak?
Most gifted of lemurs, who hated aeroplanes in the sky, on the screen, and even on the wireless. How he would have hated this war! He could play in the snow or swim in a river or conduct himself in a night-club; he judged human beings by their voices; biting some, purring over others, while for one or two well-seasoned old ladies he would brandish a black prickle-studded penis, shaped like a eucalyptus seed.
Using his tail as an aerial, he would lollop through long grass to welcome his owners, embracing them with little cries and offering them a lustration from his purple tongue and currycomb teeth.
His manners were of some spoiled young Maharajah, his intelligence not inferior, his heart all delicacy, — women, gin and muscats were his only weaknesses. Alas, he died of pneumonia while we scolded him for coughing, and with him vanished the sea-purple cicada kingdom of calanque and stone-pine and the concept of life as an arrogant private dream shared by two. Why do we reward our men of genius, our suicides, our madmen, and the generally maladjusted with the melancholy honours of a posthumous curiosity?
Because we know that it is our society which has condemned these men to death, and which is guilty because out of its own ignorance and malformation it ths persecuted those who were potential saviours; smiters of the rock who might have touched the spring of healing and brought us back into harmony with ourselves.
The Unquiet Grave: A Word Cycle by Palinurus
Somehow, then, and without going mad, we must learn from these madmen to reconcile fanaticism with serenity. Each one, taken alone, is disastrous, yet except through the integration of these two cojnolly there is no great art and no profound happiness — and what else is worth having? For nothing can be accomplished without fanaticism, and without serenity nothing can be enjoyed.
Perfection of form or increase of knowledge, pursuit of fame or service cyrl the community, love of God or god of Love, — we must select the Illusion which appeals to our temperament, and embrace it with passion, if we want to be happy.
This is the farewell autumn precept with which Palinurus takes leave of his fast-fading nightmare. Your email address will unquift be published.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. The Millions’ future depends on your support. Become a member today. There have been many additions to the coming-out genre in the years since, in fiction and non-fiction. Everyone knows the conventions. The lonely child is burdened by primal needs.
He nurses his secret in a world that despises him and slowly, after years of heartbreak, overcomes fear of societal or familial rejection and admits to the world the man he truly is. His family and his society at that point either accept or reject him. A rgave months later Miller expanded it into a book. Miller had endured many insults by the time he told his story and a quiet anger permeates his prose as he asserts his dignity and refuses any further humiliation.
Veterans of the nascent gay-rights connol,y still quote them through hisses. For then I would know them condemned to a state of permanent niggerdom among men, their lives, whatever adjustment they might make to their condition, to be lived out as part of the pain of the earth. He was expressing an illiberal rage incongruous with his Jewish name. I for one wish every genocidal hate monger posed as many questions to himself as Epstein did in his essay.
Unfortunately, he was a good man. And the essay was a portrait of an intelligent human being whose prejudices made him less intelligent. Epstein read all the popular materials on homosexuality then available to members of his intellectual class. He quoted GideFreudDr. But Were Afraid to Ask — as well as some early studies of homosexuality in the animal kingdom. Tue the nature vs. But the piece took strange directions. Epstein pointed to several homosexuals he had met throughout his life, the pederast in Chicago, the lecherous mayor of a small Southern town, and a Lebanese army buddy who moonlighted as a drag queen.
They were all miserable, or if not miserable, at least troubled and strange. He admired those who repressed their homosexual desires. Everything we do looks weird to them. Miller was a novelist and journalist whose work was fun, light and funny, if a little square.
His life was interesting. Later he tried to develop an aborted TV series that was to feature Jackie Connloly and Barbara Stanwyckand spent hundreds of hours interviewing Harry Truman for another aborted TV series.
Notebooks Elevated: On The Unquiet Grave: A Word Cycle by Palinurus (Cyril Connolly)
In between, he had written a few bestsellers. A few days later he had lunch with Victor Navaskywho was then a staff member at The Times Magazine.
This is the account of that lunch from the book connoly of his memoir: Epstein was not calling for a roundup to the camps. He simply wished, in his good honest heart, with his pompous style, that they be freed from the affliction of homosexuality.
But it may have been a good thing that Miller misread Epstein, for it filled him with righteous connollg and provoked him to come out for the first time to his straight friends, there in that restaurant, at the age of Who knows how reluctant he really was. Miller had spent years listening to people with no knowledge speak about a particular at the very core of teh being.
At some point he had to answer back. Ina good few thousand years into human history, a literate man would have had access to several books about homosexuality. Gore Vidal had published in The City and cyrio Pillara novel about a man doomed by a youthful love.
More patient readers had the novels of Jean Genetthat aged outlaw who was then hanging out with the Black Panthers.
Every freshman at Columbia University spent their first week of school reading The Iliadwhich featured the love story of Achilles and Patroclus. Camp had seeped into the wider culture, but these books treated the subject of homosexuality as text not subtext. If you chose to condescend to gay people, you did so in the shadow of a canon.
The ’50s and ’60s can look at one angle like a sexual dark age in which cinnolly highly-sexed monks guarded the great secret of a more liberal civilization in libraries for a future time that would be better able to handle these fantastic truths. But these books were widely read and all easily misunderstood. Vidal and Baldwin were iconoclasts. Their novels were not vyril happiness. They were paeans to self-loathing.
And this is where Miller, with all his unbearable whiteness, found a place. He was a middle-aged Midwesterner who wrote with irony cyyril he had to but was just as capable of writing without it.
Epstein says, to everybody who is straight. Baldwin always demanded to be loved or at least, grxve a Whitmanesque lilt, to live inside you and for gravw to live unquidt him. Miller was comfortable with camp language and employed it in his novel What Happenedbut here Miller described the basic need most humans, straight and gay, actually have, in a plain prose unencumbered by genius, the kind of voice you could hear over lunch at a restaurant on West 46th Street.
The story Miller tells in On Being Different is self-consciously un-extraordinary. There is no Achilles and Patroclus.
There is no melodrama and for that reason gay men easily found and still find in his story parallels with their own lives.
Miller draws a portrait of himself as the one man on earth least capable of living the life of an outlaw. He was an effeminate boy, a budding pianist, growing up in Marshalltown, Iowa in the s and ’30s. From the age of four to the age of 17 someone called him a sissy everyday to his face, five days a week. He had three close friends, all misfits in this small homogenous culture, a Jewish boy, a polio victim, and a middle-aged woman cyrl a clubfoot.
He headed to the local train depot for his earliest sexual encounters, picking up boys from freight trains lost in Depression-era America. None of them ever made fun cyrll me. I was never beaten up.