Monday, February 28, 2011

In Which I Attempt To Convert The World To Romanticism (and SNOW!)

It snowed outside my house over the weeken. As a Southern Californian this is a big deal. You should have seen us all crowded around the door like characters in a Christmas special, grinning like idiots as the strange white powder landed on our lawn. When it snows up in Julian we sometimes make a day trip to get out and throw snow balls at each other for an hour or so but the last time it snowed right outside my door I couldn't have been more than ten. It was a bit like watching fragments of my childhood drift out of the sky. I feel slightly guilty that the storm that has been wreaking havoc on the rest of the country only gave us light sprinklings of feary dust that melted before noon but mostly I just enjoyed the feary dust.

But on to book related things.

Last week my friend L.T. Host blogged about Post Modernism. Partially inspired by her nod to a literary movement, and partially inspired by the mounds of romantic poetry I've been savoring in British Lit this semester, I would like to say a few words about Romanticism.

No one ever reads the romantics without looking at least a little into the lives of the poets themselves. This is perhaps partially true of all historical literature, especially poets, but even more so of the romantics because their lives were such an exiting and tragic expression of the ideas in their poetry. Incest, opium trips, political movements, free love, exile and, above all, early deaths.

Die young; never die. Its such an awful lot like rock and roll.

The rebellion of the younger generations is a theme that shows up a lot in the books I love most. There is something about the combination of naivety and defiance that fascinates me, the courage or desperation of clinging to an ideal long after it has been tattered to shreds, throwing wisdom to the wind in order to chase after futile sensations. Perhaps that is why I've always been so fascinated by the French Revolution, a time when great ideals and heroic intentions turned into abuse and blood-lust. Lloyd Alexander's Westmark trilogy, a book that seriously altered the way I see the world when I was younger, is, looking back, romanticism incarnate. I think I've always had a hard time believing in Reason. As if that were the only reality that existed. As if a long life were the only testament of a happy one.

I sometimes have to remind myself that I am still young. The voices of experience in my head urge me to make safe, easy choices and I have to remind myself that I have years ahead of me to be wise and predictable. Right now I want to take risks and make ridiculous mistakes. I want to experience the sensations of life, the miserable ones along with the happy ones. Of all the things I fear about mortality I fear loosing the desire to live the most. I fear complacency and routine. I fear security. I fear pain and ecstasy making way for a dull, lifeless middle ground.

My Lit Professor tells the class that he plans to convert back to romanticism after he retires. I suppose he has a point. Taking long nature walks and waxing about the human condition doesn't really get one far in life. There are, after all, practical organic considerations like food and shelter that need taking care of. Still, I think Reason and Logic are overly emphasized by the world in general. They are tools for life not Life itself and I am glad that there were --and still are-- poets like the romantics to throw us off balance and direct our attention away from practicality for a little while.


  1. I have always thought first snow was a magical thing. You go to bed in the same familiar world, only to awaken to a world mystically transformed ... the icy contours masking the old familiar landmarks.

    I think you have to be independently wealthy to be able to live as the fabled Romantic poets of old. Making a living is hardly condusive to long, ambling Nature walks.

    But I have always had a fond spot for them. I made the daughter of Lord Byron, Lady Lovelace, a recurring character in three of my fantasies. One historical, the other two urban fantasies.

    I thought it would probably amuse her spirit to no end that I made her undead, kept alive by the power of her intellect and a nudge from a courtly Texas Ranger, himself uniquely undead as well.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog. I fear I waxed too profound and reflective. Come back again, Roland

  2. The snow was awesome, wasn't it? I kept running outside when it was falling, sticking my tongue out to try to catch the flakes. I took tons of pics too. Yay snow!!

    I admit that I have become complacent and predictable. So, writing is the new risk. Something to make my life a little more challenging and exciting. I know there will be tough times, but there will be good times too. And if I reach the end, I will at least be able to say "why yes, I have written a novel". That makes it worth it to me. Even if I never get published (though that's the dream, of course!).

  3. It's nice to be thrown off balance once in a while by art. ;)
    And I loved your quote about rock 'n roll.
    Great, thoughtful post.

  4. I will be happy to send you some of my snow- we've had it since October and I am sooo ready for spring.

  5. I will Roland! Profound and reflective is totaly my thing

    Writing is exciting isn't it Keriann? Always a good way to avoid complacency. And you will have to show me some of those pictures!

    Thank you Lydia. I love being thrown off balance too.

    I would be happy to take some of your snow Stephanie. But dont all of it. I am a whimpy Californian after all. Do you think you could send it by post?

  6. Great post! I love the Romantics, too, for their staunch tragedy and beautiful ideals. Alas, it is too difficult to live a truly Romantic life in our world... but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try!

    I like your Lit Prof's idea of Romanticism as a retiree. I may have to adopt that notion, myself!

    And YAY snow! I wish I'd been up there for it!