To clarify...


THIS is what I meant in my post about Petrarch. Perhaps unsurprisingly, AS Byatt can say it better than I:

"There are poets," Beatrice wrote in her Finals paper, "whose love poems seem to be concerned neither with praise nor with blame of some distant lady, but with true conversation between men and women. Such is John Donne, though he may also revile the whole sex in certain moods. Such might have been Meredith if circumstances had been happier. A brief attempt to think of other 'love' poets who expect reciprocity of intelligence must persuade us of the pre-eminence of Randolph Henry Ash, whose 'Ask and Embla' poems present every phase of intimacy, opposition and failure of communication, but always convince the reader of the real thinking and feeling presence of her to whom they are addressed.
(Possession: A Romance)

Reciprocity of intelligence: what a thrilling phrase.

In any case, I'm not anti-romantic; I just don't find it romantic to be made into an idealized object (or, conversely, make anyone else into an idealized object). I don't find it romantic to be stalked or called a "goddess" or any of the rest of it, but instead to be an equal partner in a true conversation. Which is lucky, since that's what I've got.

I'm finding Possession predictably delightful thus far. Also trying to put together a post on Honoré Balzac's Père Goriot in the next few days.


Photo credit: Chris Trotter


  • I could not agree more. I also could not love Byatt's Possession more. It hasn't even been that long since I read it, and your post makes we want to read it again.

  • "Essay goddess"! Ha ha, don't get mad now, Emily, I'm only being real... :D Off-topic: Your two-day old post just showed up on my blogroll tonight. Weirdness.

  • I love that quote from Possession (the whole of Possession, really!), and yes, I absolutely agree.

  • Here! Here! Possession is loads of fun, glad you are enjoying it. Can't wait to here your thoughts on it.

  • Well said and quoted. Idealism removes us from human connection, just as revulsion does - who wants adoration, when you could be talking enthusiastically with someone who gets what you're saying? I almost feel like giving a huzzah here.

  • Sara: I'm digging Possession so far! Although I've been exhausted all week, so haven't had as much time to read it as I'd like. Hopefully this weekend!

    Richard: Now where is the tongue-sticking-out emoticon when you need it?!? Re: the lapse, that would be because it's been sitting on my desktop for two days & I've only just hit publish...this week has been nuts. :-P

  • Nymeth: Possession is one of "those" books for so many people, it seems. So far I totally agree about its charms!

    Stefanie: Loads of fun is just how I'd describe it. Which is just what I'm in the mood for right now. :-)

    Jodie: Amen, sister. Someone who gets what you're saying, all the way.

  • Ah, Possession, such a joy and a treat. Thanks.

  • Don't you love how Petrarch appears in Possession? It's a good thing I read your review, since I wouldn't have known anything about Petrarch before.

    I'm all wrapped up in Byatt right now!

  • I just checked back on your Petrarch post to understand what you mean here. You inspire me to read John Donne. I've read very little of him before and that was in school. I don't remember much of the details in Possession. I just know I had mixed feelings about it. Loved some things about it, and didn't others. Ultimately, though, the remembrance of it makes me want to grab a copy of The Children's Book, despite the many negative reviews around the blogosphere.

    Anyway, I totally see you and David in reciprocal intelligence and being in true conversation. You are so admirable, my friend.

  • I started on Possission a long time ago and never got it finished but after reading your review, I think that I will have to give it a second go. Thanks :-)

  • Kinna: It's such fun, isn't it?

    Marieke: Yes! Byatt's take on Petrarch was so satisfying after wading through him myself. I'm looking forward to discussing Possession when we're both finished.

    Mark David: I thought so! :-)

  • Claire: Aw, thanks! :-) I definitely want to check out The Children's Book - the types of criticisms I've seen have actually made me more interested to read it, rather than less (funny how that happens sometimes).

    Willa: The Byatt's a lot of fun - I hope you enjoy it when/if you get back to it. :-)

  • I love this post. I'm catching up backwards so before I left a comment, I went to your Petrarch post. Ah, yes, clarification. I'm constantly in need of it. I do love that phrase "reciprocity of intelligence." I enjoyed Possession but didn't love it as much as many others seemed to.

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    link to Wolves 2011 reading list
    link to more disgust bibliography