Flaws In The Glass: A Self Portrait – Patrick White

FITG(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

His style is tedious and it encourages a lot of skipping. Some hilarious accounts of his prep school house master being so obsessed with sex that it encouraged it. An interesting account of how he felt he belonged neither to Australia, where he was born, nor England, where he was educated as he had been taken out of one society but not firmly implanted into another. He owes a lot to en older lover who taught him what he knows about culture but who also imparted a snobbery very similar to many tales of people being influenced beyond recognition by more dominant partners. He had not felt the benefit of any grace when he was confirmed because he nervously knelt on a step too low and the bishop couldn’t really reach. He went through the prayers in a manual each fortnight before communion always hoping for a miracle that he would feel something. This miracle never happened. His later lover was Greek Orthodox – a faith which relies less on emotion as it has a lot of ritual paraphernalia – unlike protestantism which is over-wordy. Ceremonial can appeal to many levels and does not require intellectual assent in the way that Protestantism does. In the war he is obssesed with the fatalistic look in Greek eyes. Turned down the chance to be initiated into Jewish mysticism – he had been researching this for a novel but remarks that novelists become superficial because they read up a subject sufficiently to write about it end then move on to the next subject. As in his residence, so in his interests, he has no abiding city.

(Patrick White (1912—1990), the Australian writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973, was undoubtedly one of the most powerful novelists of the 20th Century.  With his rare and varied gifts and exceptional vision of the world,  he has been hailed as a “phenomenon…a challenge”)

Quotations:

‘Growing up in a period when drabness was expected of the male sex, my vanity could not express itself through dress.. Instead I suppose I’ve indulged my vanity by tricking myself out in words. Not all ornamentation.Part of me is austere enough to have conveyed the truth, I like to think, but again that could be vanity’

” When I sailed form Piraeus I was painfully haunted by the thin trickle of a tune squeezed from the concertina-player’s chest as he stumped through the streets winding around the Lykavittos, and the almost solid blast of perfume from stocks in the fields fringing the city. All this is gone by now.”

“Jerry-built apartment blocks stand in the fields where the stocks grew; exhaust fumes from unmufflered cars cannot escape from the labyrinth of Lykavittos. Never were there such victims of progress as contemporary Greeks. Peasants who sold their fields in Thessaly and Thrace live like battery fowls on their steel and concrete balconies or expose themselves to television in the cells behind, in every interior the same box flickering the same message. They tell themselves they are happy. They are prosperous, at least for the time being, stuffed with macaroni, fried potatoes , and barbecued meat. Livery and neurotic. The human contacts of village life are of the past, along with those tough, golden, classic, hens scratching freely amongst the dust and stones”.

Crete “turned out to be a bit of a trial”

“Poetry resists academic pretension, just as the mystery of religious faith evaporates on contact with dogma.”

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