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Some Reflections on Dolls

February 9, 2012

I’ve been reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s Rodin and Other Prose Pieces. The title essay is great, of course, but some of the shorter lesser-known essays are also quite good. I especially lovedĀ  ‘Some Reflections on Dolls’ which you can read online here. The essay feels a little like a writing exercise at first, but whereas most essays of this kind may be merely academic, Rilke is able to take this metaphor into strangely moving territory. Here are some quotes:

“Fed like the ‘Ka’ on imaginary food, when it seemed absolutely essential that they should be given real food, they messed themselves with it like spoiled children, being impenetrable and incapable of absorbing, at any point, even a drop of water in their extreme state of well-enough known solidity”

“as it was their habit, during the day, to be lived unwearyingly with energies not their own.”

“When one thinks how grateful other things are for tender treatment, how they recover under it, indeed, how they feel even the hardest usage to be a consuming caress, provided only that they are loved, a caress which, no doubt, wears them away, but beneath which they take, as it were, courage which permeates them the more strongly, the more their body gives way (it makes them almost mortal, in a higher sense, so that they are able to share with us that grief which is our greatest possession)”

“I know, I know it was necessary for us to have things of this kind, which acquiesced in everything. The simplest love relationships were quite beyond our comprehension, we could not possibly have lived and had dealings with a person who was something; at most, we could only have entered into such a person and have lost ourselves there.”

“It made no response whatever, so that we were put in the position of having to take over the part it should have played, of having to split our gradually enlarging personality into part and counterpart; in a sense, through it to keep the world, which was entering into us on all sides, at a distance.”

“It was silent then, not deliberately, it was silent because that was its constant mode of evasion, because it was made of useless and entirely irresponsible material, was silent, and the idea did not occur to it to take some credit to itself on that score, although it could not but gain great importance thereby in a world in which Destiny, and even God Himself, have become famous above all because they answer us with silence. At a time when everyone was still intent on giving us a quick and reassuring answer, the doll was the first to inflict on us that tremendous silence”

“Are we not strange creatures to let ourselves go and to be induced to place our earliest affections where they remain hopeless? So that everywhere there was imparted to that most spontaneous tenderness the bitterness of knowing that it was in vain? Who knows if such memories have not caused many a man afterwards, out there in life, to suspect that he is not lovable?”

“The child must accustom itself to things, it must accept them, each thing has its pride.”

“Beginners in the world, as we were, we could not feel superior to any thing except, at most, to such a half-object as this, given to us the way some broken fragment is given to the creatures in aquariums, so that it may serve them as a measure and landmark in the world around them. We took our bearings from the doll. It was by nature on a lower level than ourselves, so that we could flow towards it imperceptibly”

“dumb soul of the tube of the good little trumpet: how amiable you [were] and almost comprehensible.”

“Sexless as the dolls of childhood were, [the doll-souls] can find no decease in their stagnant ecstasy, which has neither inflow nor outflow.”

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Mourning Photos

October 5, 2009

“The painting may cheerfully portray the life of the deceased, but to nineteenth-century eyes, the daguerreotype, in showing the moment of death, or one just afterward, does a better job at portraying the person, the essence of the child, his soul.”



Two Essays

September 16, 2008

Two essays for thought…

1.) “Is Poetry a Job, Is a Poem a Product?” by Murat Nemet-Nejat

Not your typical why-can’t-poets-make-money type of whiny essay, he draws some really cool parallels between poetry and money, observations about class, and audience.

2.) “Sucking” by Ariana Reines

Went to see her read this past week, and came across this essay when I googled her beforehand. Intelligent, funny, personal. I like what she says about shit. And the French.

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