Maybe it's just me. Does any other reader out there (of the few who actually read this) find that reading--the Reading Beast--is actually an autotrophic being? I'm at a point in my life when I can't really spare the time or the money to casually head over to the book store and spend a couple hours parsing out a new author to approach, and if reading--or at least, my Reading--didn't manage to feed itself, I would quickly lose energy, atrophy, wind down, and just watch television (not that I don't do too much of this-the-latter anyway). Thankfully, authors can't seem to help revealing their own inspiration for writing the very book I'm reading in the words of their characters and narrators. While this has happened with likely half the books I've read in the last year (and if not directly then indirectly in narrators' and characters' word, with little research (thank Worldwide Web!) I learn who and what inspired these authors), I've been able to create, or locate rather, a whole network of authors and artists and poets and musicians that tie back to those authors, and aren't subsequently found creators so more so a sure thing (reading enjoyment-wise), since they inspired those of whom I already approve, than something I gamblingly picked up at the bookstore from some, say, bargain shelf?
I recently finished Kate Milford's YA The Boneshaker, a fantastic (and phantastic) little novel that successfully manages to combine American folklore, deals with the devil, steam-punk, crossroads, and bicycles. I loved it. I want to read it again. If I were still teaching 7th grade English, I'd put it on my yearly book list and do up study questions and research projects and everything. In the story--or the American of the story--are demons and angels. Well, the angels are fallen angels, or, in this case, "jumpers," and one of comes out during a traveling medicine show and admits that he can't tell if he's alive or dead (this is before we know he was a "jumper"). When the protagonist, a spunky young teen by the name of Natalie Minks, approaches him and asks about it, the old--VERY old--man mentions a poet named Rilke who said something of the same think: angles can't tell if they're alive or dead.
Rilke? Sounded familiar. Sounded like one I was supposed to read in college and maybe skipped to go play steel drums.
The next day, at the library (no home internet connection at this point), I looked him up (sadly, I couldn't post then, as per the library's stringent web security measures) and was delighted with what I found. I expect there will be more posts on Rainer Rilke and, if nothing else, his elegies:
The First Elegy
Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the Angelic
Orders? And even if one were to suddenly
take me to its heart, I would vanish into its
stronger existence. For beauty is nothing but
the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear,
and we revere it so, because it calmly disdains
to destroy us. Every Angel is terror.
And so I hold myself back and swallow the cry
of a darkened sobbing. Ah, who then can
we make use of? Not Angels: not men,
and the resourceful creatures see clearly
that we are not really at home
in the interpreted world. Perhaps there remains
some tree on a slope, that we can see
again each day: there remains to us yesterday’s street,
and the thinned-out loyalty of a habit
that liked us, and so stayed, and never departed.
Oh, and the night, the night, when the wind full of space
wears out our faces – whom would she not stay for,
the longed-for, gentle, disappointing one, whom the solitary heart
with difficulty stands before. Is she less heavy for lovers?
Ah, they only hide their fate between themselves.
Do you not know yet? Throw the emptiness out of your arms
to add to the spaces we breathe; maybe the birds
will feel the expansion of air, in more intimate flight.
Yes, the Spring-times needed you deeply. Many a star
must have been there for you so you might feel it. A wave
lifted towards you out of the past, or, as you walked
past an open window, a violin
gave of itself. All this was their mission.
But could you handle it? Were you not always,
still, distracted by expectation, as if all you experienced,
like a Beloved, came near to you? (Where could you contain her,
with all the vast strange thoughts in you
going in and out, and often staying the night.)
But if you are yearning, then sing the lovers: for long
their notorious feelings have not been immortal enough.
Those, you almost envied them, the forsaken, that you
found as loving as those who were satisfied. Begin,
always as new, the unattainable praising:
think: the hero prolongs himself, even his falling
was only a pretext for being, his latest rebirth.
But lovers are taken back by exhausted Nature
into herself, as if there were not the power
to make them again. Have you remembered
whose lover has gone, might feel from that
intenser example of love: ‘Could I only become like her?’
Should not these ancient sufferings be finally
fruitful for us? Isn’t it time that, loving,
we freed ourselves from the beloved, and, trembling, endured
as the arrow endures the bow, so as to be, in its flight,
something more than itself? For staying is nowhere.
Voices, voices. Hear then, my heart, as only
saints have heard: so that the mighty call
raised them from the earth: they, though, knelt on
impossibly and paid no attention:
such was their listening. Not that you could withstand
God’s voice: far from it. But listen to the breath,
the unbroken message that creates itself from the silence.
It rushes towards you now, from those youthfully dead.
Whenever you entered, didn’t their fate speak to you,
quietly, in churches in Naples or Rome?
Or else an inscription exaltedly impressed itself on you,
What do they will of me? That I should gently remove
the semblance of injustice, that slightly, at times,
hinders their spirits from a pure moving-on.
It is truly strange to no longer inhabit the earth,
to no longer practice customs barely acquired,
not to give a meaning of human futurity
to roses, and other expressly promising things:
no longer to be what one was in endlessly anxious hands,
and to set aside even one’s own
proper name like a broken plaything.
Strange: not to go on wishing one’s wishes. Strange
to see all that was once in place, floating
so loosely in space. And it’s hard being dead,
and full of retrieval, before one gradually feels
a little eternity. Though the living
all make the error of drawing too sharp a distinction.
Angels (they say) would often not know whether
they moved among living or dead. The eternal current
sweeps all the ages, within it, through both the spheres,
forever, and resounds above them in both.
Finally they have no more need of us, the early-departed,
weaned gently from earthly things, as one outgrows
the mother’s mild breast. But we, needing
such great secrets, for whom sadness is often
the source of a blessed progress, could we exist without them?
first music ventured to penetrate arid rigidity,
so that, in startled space, which an almost godlike youth
suddenly left forever, the emptiness first felt
the quivering that now enraptures us, and comforts, and helps.