Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Her" by H.D. The modern novel in hermetic terms.

Hilda Doolitle belonged to the Pound Era. That familiar description does her a real injustice. The novel Her, written, in 1927, though not published until the 1980s, shows why. In 1927, Hilda Doolittle, by now known as the poet H.D. writes a wonderful analysis of the early Pound. He emerges not as biographies of Pound like to tell: the sun around which satellites, like H.D. revolved. He is subsumed into a different kind of modernism— H.D.’s version! And this is every bit as challenging as Pound’s.

The novel concerns a love triangle. George Lowndes (aesthete and poet Ezra Pound) is in love with Hermione Gart (Hilda Doolittle). Hermione is infatuated with George and Fayne Rabb (Hilda Doolittle’s female love, Frances Gregg). The biographical nature of the novel and its relevance to the Pound industry have promoted one reading of the novel. Critics such as Gubar, Du Plessis and Guest have done much to revise their H.D. along Feminist lines, but really this is a core hermetical work. (H.D. extended this cryptogram to become Hermetic Definition in her final volume of poetry).

The key passage in the novel is when Hermione feels the temperature rising (p.59).

“Degree…degree…degree…Hermione went up like the Mercury in the thermometer.”

Hermione/Her, as she begins to see through her perception, sees George as a ridiculous Harlequin. Harlequin, of course, in his multi-coloured garb is a lower form of Mercury, the trickster, the satirist, the mocker, Eshu, the shifter of perspectives. And Her, linking to Her(mes), god of speed must “Run, run, run…and stoop to fasten nothing…run, run.” (p.220). Hermes, God of communication, underpins the whole novel such that simple letters and telephone messages reverberate with crisis and extraordinary meaning to Hermione/Her Gart/Her.

Her is breathtaking modernism. Reading it again after many years only serves to remind how wooden recent novels are in comparison to the living heart-wood of H.D.’s work.

“Precinematographic conscience didn’t help Her. (The reader reads her, pronoun, then is thrust into the mind of a character/narrator/author who is intent on not being a pronoun with male language). Later conscience would have. She would later have seen form superimposed on thought and thought making its spirals in a manner not wholly related to matter but pertaining to it and the peony petals magnified out of proportion and the people in the room shrunk into tiny insects while the teacups again would have magnified into hemispheres.”

What strikes most in Her, as in the work of H.D. generally, is the extraordinary intellect and power of the narrative voice…the female narrative voice— it has a hard, analytical edge and a soft, synthetic surface at the same time. There are few male novelists who have come anywhere near creating this level of authenticity in their female characters, and not many female novelists either.


JD said...

Eshu, you must know by now that I am fascinated by HD. It's a shame though, that I can't find her works where I am. I will definitely be looking out for 'Her' when I get into Jo'burg in the next couple of days.
I'm very much into HD's style of writing.
'Another wonderful piece, Eshu!

Eshuneutics said...

Wow, enjoy your journey. HD is not that easy to find, I know. But she is worth finding in every sense of that word.

ISBN-13: 978-0811208178

This is the ISBN number for "Her".
USA is the best source.

Unsane said...

Sounds very interesting.

Eshuneutics said...

Hi, how good to hear from you-- hope you are well.