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Theodora Goss
Posted on Monday, November 17, 2003 - 09:14 pm:   

Some upcoming things I'm excited about:

Heinz Insu Fenkl has mentioned that his story "Song Bird" is appearing in an online academic journal called


He says,

"It's a special issue with the theme "Bridges/Drawbridges" and includes lots of transnational, border-crossing writing. Paula Burnett's intro doesn't use the term interstitial, but these works are all put in a post-colonial framework with all the appropriate discussion associating the theme back to the academic memory of Edward Said. (The intro to the issue is worth reading for those who want to get familiar with this particular angle of study in the academy.)"

Also, I heard that Prime Books is bringing out a novel by Minsoo Kang. I've loved Minsoo's writing since I first read "Three Stories" in LCRW, so I'm very interested to see what he does at novel length.
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Posted on Sunday, December 07, 2003 - 04:39 am:   

What are the Interstitialists going to do about the past? I keep my powder dry as far as the future - and the discussions here on these Night Shade Boards leading to idealistic intaglios of positive Interstitiality - are concerned. But are we going to explore past writers and discover Interstitiality in the waxing and waning of their words and names? Is Interstitiality all front end and no back end? Proust, in his cork-lined room, was an Interstitialist (in the dictionary sense) literally and ideally - and below is a passage from his 'In Search of Lost Time' to demonstrate this.

I should have liked to take, the very next day, the fine, generous 1.22 train, whose hour of departure I could never read without a palpitating heart on the railway company’s bills or in advertisements for circular tours: it seemed to me to cut, at a precise point in every afternoon, a delectable groove, a mysterious mark, from which the diverted hours still led, of course, towards evening, towards tomorrow morning, but an evening and morning which one would behold, not in Paris, but in one of those towns through which the train passed and among which it allowed one to choose; for it stopped at Bayeux, at Coutances, at Vitré, at Questambert, at Pontorson, at Balbec, at Lannion, at Lamballe, at Benodet, at Pont-Aven, at Quimperlé, and progressed magnificently overloaded with proffered names among which I did not know the one to choose, so impossible was it to sacrifice any. But even without waiting till next day, I could, by dressing with all speed, leave Paris that very evening, should my parents permit, and arrive at Balbec as dawn spread westward over the raging sea, from whose driven foam I would seek shelter in that church in the Persian style. But at the approach of the Easter holidays, when my parents had promised to let me spend them for once in the North of Italy, suddenly, in place of those dreams of tempests by which I had been entirely possessed, not wishing to see anything but waves dashing in from all sides, mounting ever higher, upon the wildest of coasts, beside churches as rugged and precipitous as cliffs, in whose towers the sea-birds would be wailing, suddenly, effacing them, taking away all their charm, excluding them because they were its opposite and could only have weakened its effect, was substituted in me the converse dream of the most colourful of springs, not the spring of Combray, which still pricked sharply with all the needle-points of the winter’s frost, but that which already covered the meadows of Fiesole with lilies and anemones, and gave Florence a dazzling golden background like those in Fra Angelico’s pictures. From that moment onwards, only sunlight, perfumes, colours, seemed to me of any worth; for this alternation of images had effected a change of front in my desire, and -- as abrupt as those that occur sometimes in music -- a complete change of key in my sensibility. Then it came about that a simple atmospheric variation was sufficient to provoke in me that modulation, without there being any need for me to await the return of a season. For often in one we find a day that has strayed from another, that makes us live in that other, evokes at once and makes us long for its particular pleasures, and interrupts the dreams that we were in process of weaving, by inserting out of its turn, too early or too late, this leaf torn from another chapter in the interpolated calendar of Happiness. But soon, in the same way as those natural phenomena from which our comfort or our health can derive but an accidental and all too modest benefit until the day when science takes control of them and, producing them at will, places in our hands the power to order their appearance, free from the tutelage and independent of the mandate of chance, so the production of these dreams of the Atlantic and of Italy ceased to depend exclusively upon the changes of the seasons and of the weather. I need only, to make them reappear, pronounce the names Balbec, Venice, Florence, within whose syllables had gradually accumulated the longing inspired in me by the places for which they stood. Even in spring, to come upon the name Balbec in a book sufficed to awaken in me the desire for storms at sea and for Norman Gothic; even on a stormy day the name Florence or Venice would awaken the desire for sunshine, for lilies, for the Palace of the Doges and for Santa Maria del Fiore.
But if these names thus permanently absorbed the image I had formed of these towns, it was only by transforming that image, by subordinating its reappearance in me to their own special laws; and in consequence of this they made it more beautiful, but at the same time more different from anything that the towns of Normandy or Tuscany could in reality be, and, by increasing the arbitrary delights of my imagination, aggravated the disenchantment that was in store for me when I set out upon my travels. They magnified the idea that I had formed of certain places on the surface of the globe, making them more special and in consequence more real. I did not then represent to myself cities, landscapes, historical monuments, as more or less attractive pictures, cut out here and there of a substance that was common to them all, but looked on each of them as on an unknown thing, different in essence from all the rest, a thing for which my soul thirsted and which it would profit from knowing. How much more individual still was the character they assumed from being designated by names, names that were for themselves alone, proper names such as people have! Words present to us a little picture of things, clear and familiar, like the pictures hung on the walls of schoolrooms to give children an illustration of what is meant by a carpenter’s bench, a bird, an anthill, things chosen as typical of everything else of the same sort. But names present to us -- of persons, and of towns which they accustom us to regard as individual, as unique, like persons -- a confused picture, which draws from them, from the brightness or darkness of their tone, the colour in which it is uniformly painted, like one of those posters, entirely blue or entirely red, in which, on account of the limitations imposed by the process used in their reproduction or by a whim on the designer’s part, not only the sky and the sea are blue or red, but the ships and the churchyard the people in the streets. The name of Parma, one of the towns that I most longed to visit after reading the ‘Chartreuse’, seeming to me compact, smooth, violet-tinted and soft, if anyone were to speak of such or such a house in Parma in which I should be lodged, he would give me the pleasure of thinking that I was to inhabit a dwelling that was compact, smooth, violet-tinted and soft, that bore no relation to the houses in any other town in Italy, since I could imagine it only by the aid of that heavy first syllable of the name of Parma, in which no breath of air stirs, and of all that I had made it assume of Stendhalian sweetness and the reflected hue of violets. And when I thought of Florence it was of a town miraculously scented and flower-like, since it was called the City of the Lilies, and its cathedral, Our Lady of the Flower. As for Balbec, it was one of those names in which, as on an old piece of Norman pottery that still keeps the colour of the earth from which it was fashioned, one sees depicted still the representation of some long-abolished custom, of some feudal right, of the former status of some locality, of an obsolete way of pronouncing the language which had shaped and wedded its incongruous syllables and which I never doubted that I should find spoken there even by the inn-keeper who would serve me coffee on my arrival, taking me down to watch the turbulent sea in front of the church, and to whom I would ascribe the disputatious, solemn and mediaeval aspect of some character in an old romance.
If my health had grown stronger and my parents allowed me, if not actually to go down to stay at Balbec, at least to take, just once, in order to become acquainted with the architecture and landscapes of Normandy or of Brittany, that 1.22 train into which I had so often clambered in imagination,
I should have wished to stop, for preference, at the most beautiful of its towns; but in vain did I compare and contrast them -- how to choose, any more than between individual persons who are not interchangeable, between Bayeux, so lofty in its noble coronet of russet lacework, whose pinnacle was illumined by the old gold of its second syllable; Vitré, whose acute accent barred its ancient glass with wooden lozenges; gentle Lamballe, whose whiteness ranged from eggshell yellow to pearl grey; Coutances, a Norman cathedral which its final consonants, rich and yellowing, crowned with a tower of butter, Lannion with the rumbling noise, in the silence of its village street, of a coach with a fly buzzing after it; Questambert, Pontorson, ridiculous and naive, white feathers and yellow beaks strewn along the road to those well-watered and poetic spots; Benodet, a name scarcely moored that the river seemed to be striving to drag down into the tangle of its algae; Pont-Aven, pink-white flash of the wing of a lightly posed coif, tremulously reflected in the greenish waters of a canal; Quimperlé, more firmly anchored, ever since the Middle Ages, among its babbling rivulets threading their pearls in a grey iridescence like the pattern made, through the cobwebs on a church window, by rays of sunlight changed into blunted points of tarnished silver?
These images were false for another reason also -- namely, that they were necessarily much simplified. Doubtless whatever it was that my imagination aspired to, that my senses took in only incompletely and without any immediate pleasure, I had committed to the safe custody of names; doubtless, because I had accumulated there a store of dreams, those names now magnetised my desires; but names themselves are not very comprehensive; the most that I could do was to include in each of them two or three of the principal “curiosities” of the town, which would lie there side by side, without intermediary; in the name of Balbec, as in the magnifying glasses set in those penholders which one buys at seaside places, I could distinguish waves surging round a church built in the Persian style. Perhaps, indeed, the enforced simplicity of these images was one of the reasons for the hold that they had over me. When my father had decided, one year, that we should go for the Easter holidays to Florence and Venice, not finding room to introduce into the name of Florence the elements that ordinarily constitute a town, I was obliged to evolve a supernatural city from the impregnation by certain vernal scents of what I supposed to be, in its essentials, the genius of Giotto. At most -- and because one cannot make a name extend much further in time than in space -- like some of Giotto’s paintings themselves which show us at two separate moments the same person engaged in different actions, here lying in his bed, there getting ready to mount his horse, the name of Florence was divided into two compartments. In one, beneath an architectural canopy, I gazed at a fresco over which was partly drawn a curtain of morning sunlight, dusty, oblique and gradually spreading in the other (for, since I thought of names not as an inaccessible ideal but as a real and enveloping atmosphere into which I was about to plunge, the life not yet lived, the life, intact and pure, which I enclosed in them gave to the most material pleasures, to the simplest scenes, the same attraction that they have in the works of the Primitives), I moved swiftly -- the quicker to arrive at the lunch-table that was spread for me with fruit and a flask of Chianti -- across a Ponte Vecchio heaped with jonquils, narcissi and anemones. That (even though I was still in Paris) was what I saw, and not what was actually round about me. Even from the simplest, the most realistic point of view, the countries which we long for occupy, at any given moment, a far larger place in our actual life than the country in which we happen to be. Doubtless, if, at that time, I had paid more attention to what was in my mind when I pronounced the words “going to Florence, to Parma, to Pisa, to Venice,” I should have realised that what I saw was in no. sense a town, but something as different from anything that I knew, something as delicious, as might be, for a human race whose whole existence had passed in a series of late winter afternoons, that inconceivable marvel, a morning in spring. These images, unreal, fixed, always alike, filling all my nights and days, differentiated this period in my life from those which had gone before it (and might easily have been confused with it by an observer who saw things only from without, that is to say who saw nothing), as in an opera a melodic theme introduces a novel atmosphere which one could never have suspected if one had done no more than read the libretto, still less if one had remained outside the theatre counting only the minutes as they passed. And besides, even from the point of view of mere quantity, in our lives the days are not all equal. To get through each day, natures that are at all highly strung, as was mine, are equipped, like motor-cars, with different gears. There are mountainous, arduous days, up which one takes an infinite time to climb, and downward-sloping days which one can descend at full tilt, singing as one goes. During this month -- in which I turned over and over in my mind, like a tune of which one never tires, these visions of Florence, Venice, Pisa, of which the desire that they excited in me retained something as profoundly personal as if it had been love, love for a person -- I never ceased to believe that they corresponded to a reality independent of myself, and they made me conscious of as glorious a hope as could have been cherished by a Christian in the primitive age of faith on the eve of his entry into Paradise. Thus, without my paying any heed to the contradiction that there was in my wishing to look at and to touch with the organs of my senses what had been elaborated by the spell of my dreams and not perceived by my senses at all -- though all the more tempting to them, in consequence, more different from anything that they knew -- it was that which recalled to me the reality of these visions that most inflamed my desire, by seeming to offer the promise that it would be gratified. And for all that the motive force of my exaltation was a longing for aesthetic enjoyments, the guide-books ministered even more to it than books on aesthetics, and, more again than the guide-books, the railway timetables. What moved me was the thought that this Florence which I could see, so near and yet inaccessible, in my imagination, if the journey which separated it from me, in myself, was not a viable one, could yet be reached circuitously were I to take the plain, terrestrial route. True, when I repeated to myself, giving thus a special value to what I was going to see, that Venice was the “School of Giorgione, the home of Titian, the most complete museum of the domestic architecture of the Middle Ages,” I felt happy. But I was happier still when, out on an errand and walking briskly on account of the weather, which, after several days of a precocious spring, had relapsed into winter (like the weather we invariably found awaiting us at Combray in Holy Week) -- seeing on the boulevards that the chestnut-trees, though plunged in a glacial atmosphere that soaked through them like water, were none the less beginning, punctual guests, arrayed already for the party and admitting no discouragement, to shape and chisel and curve in its frozen lumps the irrepressible verdure whose steady growth the abortive power of the cold might hinder but could not succeed in restraining -- I reflected that already the Ponte Vecchio was heaped high with an abundance of hyacinths and anemones, and that the spring sunshine was already tingeing the waters of the Grand Canal with so deep an azure and such noble emeralds that when they washed against the foot of a Titian painting they could vie with it in the richness of their colouring. I could no longer contain myself for joy when my father, in the intervals of tapping the barometer and complaining of the cold, began to look out which were the best trains, and when I understood that by making one’s way after luncheon into the coal-grimed laboratory, the wizard’s cell that undertook to contrive a complete transmutation of its surroundings, one could wake up next morning in the city of marble and gold, “its walls embellished with jasper and its streets paved with emeralds.” So that it and the City of the Lilies were not just artificial scenes which I could set up at will in front of my imagination, but existed a certain distance from Paris which must inevitably be traversed if I wished to see them, at a particular place on the earth’s surface and at no other -- in a word, were entirely real. They became even more real to me when my father, by saying, “Well, you can stay in Venice from the 20th to the 29th, and reach Florence on Easter morning,” made them both emerge, no longer only from the abstraction of Space, but from that imaginary Time in which we place not one journey at a time but others simultaneously, without too much agitation since they are only possibilities -- that Time which reconstructs itself so effectively that one can spend it again in one town after one has already spent it in another -- and assigned to them some of those actual, calendar days which are the certificates of authenticity of the objects on which they are spent, for these unique days are consumed by being used, they do not return, one cannot live them again here when one has lived them there. I felt that it was towards the week that would begin with the Monday on which the laundress was to bring back the white waistcoat I had stained with ink that they were hastening to absorb themselves, on emerging from that ideal Time in which they did not yet exist -- those two queens of cities of which I was soon to be able, by the most thrilling kind of geometry, to inscribe the domes and towers on a page of my own life. l3ut I was still only on the way to the supreme pinnacle of happiness; I reached it finally (for not until then did the revelation burst upon me that on the clattering streets, reddened by the light reflected from Giorgione’s frescoes, it was not, as I had continued to imagine despite so many admonitions, men “majestic and terrible as the sea, bearing armour that gleamed with bronze beneath the folds of their blood-red cloaks” who would be walking in Venice next week, on Easter eve, but that I myself might be the minute personage whom, in an enlarged photograph of St Mark’s that had been lent to me, the illustrator had portrayed, in a bowler hat, in front of the portico) when I heard my father say: “It must be pretty cold, still, on the Grand Canal; you’d do well, just in case, to pack your winter greatcoat and your thick suit.” At these words I was raised to a sort of ecstasy; I felt myself -- something I had until then deemed impossible -- to be penetrating indeed between those “rocks of amethyst, like a reef in the Indian Ocean”; by a supreme muscular effort, far in excess of my real strength, divesting myself, as of a shell that served no purpose, of the air in my own room which surrounded me, I replaced it by an equal quantity of Venetian air, that marine atmosphere, indescribable and peculiar as the atmosphere of dreams, which my imagination had secreted in the name of Venice; I felt myself undergoing a miraculous disincarnation, which was at once accompanied by that vague desire to vomit which one feels when one has developed a very sore throat; and I had to be put to bed with a fever so persistent that the doctor declared not only that a visit now to Florence and Venice was absolutely out of the question, but that, even when I had completely recovered, I must for at least a year give up all idea of travelling and be kept from anything that was liable to excite me.

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Posted on Monday, December 08, 2003 - 07:59 am:   

Since writing above, a consideration came to my mind. (In fact, thank you to the few people who wrote to me off-board, saying that was a great bit of Proust!)
Proust was there fancifying fabulism with the names of real places etc. It makes me think *all* fiction is Interstitialist, i.e writing between realities. Then, I thought *all* art itself, i.e fabrications made for aesthetic enjoyment, must be Interstitialist. So that fact happily prevents Interstitialism becoming just another label...because it is everthing that is imaginatively creative. To such an extent, one wonders why we need the label at all.
All fiction does seem indivisible, being ostensibly concocted situations imaginatively and artistically conjured forth: *more or less* contiguous with reality (or between realities) (as we personally deem reality or realities to be).
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John Telford
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 09:02 am:   

It is clear that Proust is quoting when he talks of walls embellished...jasper...streets paved...emeralds. Sounds like Wilde but probably Ruskin. Anyone know?

John Telford

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Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 12:05 am:   

Well, Proust is often connected with an interest in Ruskin, particularly with the painter character Elstir.
See his amazing amazing 'Yellow patch' passage here regarding Vermeer, too:

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Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 03:38 am:   

A contribution kindly given from a member of the Proust yahoogroups discussion group:

The Stones of Venice?
Also, a reading suggestion, if I may. Mémoires de la comtesse de Boigne. I. Du règne de Louis XVI à 1820. II De 1820 à 1848. Proust wrote about it, and owes a lot to these memoirs. I don’t know if an english translation exists, but there are references in english to Madame de Boigne.

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Courtney DE
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 10:50 am:   

Proust also translated Ruskin into French. He had a lot of help from his mother, who could read English much better than MP could and did a rough translation which he started from.

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