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reading novels and “the true wonder of it”

November 18, 2009

A comment rimwell recently made about reading Dostoevsky–

“we’re so used to the “finalized” character or event, or at least the finalized reading of a character that seems to be demanded by non-Bakhtin criticism (even by Ivanov) that we forget that things can be forgiven or that things didn’t have to turn out this way . . . what if someone just recognized?”

–is similar to something lovingly said in one of Wilbur’s poems:

The Reader

She is going back, these days, to the great stories
That charmed her younger mind. A shaded light
Shines on the nape half-shadowed by her curls,
And a page turns now with a scuffing sound.
Onward they come again, the orphans reaching
For a first handhold in a stony world,
The young provincials who at last look down
On the city’s maze, and will descend into it,
The serious girl, once more, who would live nobly,
The sly one who aspires to marry so,
The young man bent on glory, and that other
Who seeks a burden. Knowing as she does
What will become of them in bloody field
Or Tuscan garden, it may be that at times
She sees their first and final selves at once,
As a god might to whom all time is now.
Or, having lived so much herself, perhaps
She meets them this time with a wiser eye,
Noting that Julien’s calculating head
Is from the first too severed from his heart.
But the true wonder of it is that she,
For all that she may know of consequences,
Still turns enchanted to the next bright page
Like some Natasha in the ballroom door–
Caught in the flow of things wherever bound,
The blind delight of being, ready still
To enter life on life and see them through.

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