The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

May 2019


7 May 2019, around 10.11.

A dark photograph, in which books on shelves appear in a narrow band of light

Noticing new angles.


15 May 2019, around 1.11.

The shadow on the wall

The thing about The Fifth Child is that, for so slight a book, it does not seem to be quite sure what it wants to achieve. The first half or two-thirds focus on the parents of the eponymous child and the decisions they make to further their rather banal vision of the ideal life. The pace is slow and the focus narrow. One watches the slow tick of the characters’ brains and the reader’s sympathy wars with impatience. Then the fifth child appears and the novel veers sharply – the pace more rapid, years flustering past, the ideal life derailed by the unexpected consequences of those earlier decisions, now with the frenetic lack of appeal of Kubrick’s ‘Clockwork Orange’.

Taken on its own terms, the novel seems to want to compare the prelapsarian ideal of privileged bourgeois family life – the hapless main characters continually rescued from their imprudence by their affluent family – with the consequences of the fall from grace resulting from the at once selfish desire to more substantially embody that ideal and the selfless desire to model that ideal for others. This would not be a problem were the characters strong enough to appeal, but they lacked even the virtue of appealing vices, being rather self-absorbed and dull (a misanthropic comment, but it seems to reflect Lessing’s view of them). The best the characters can achieve, in the end, is a perverse stoic clinging to the destructive, a willful blindness. Perhaps the willfulness is intended to be interesting (like Lear’s, like Oedipus’s), but at a year’s remove from reading, I can’t think that I would recommend it to anyone.

Indeed, I would have forgotten the novel entirely save that I saw the incomplete draft of this post and thought of the rather vague and overwrought notion I had that brought in Duras and Lispector to make a point about the opacity of prose in the novel (the ways in which it conceals while appearing to reveal or the other way around) that I have long since forgotten. I wonder what I meant to say – but not enough to reread the books that sparked the thoughts to begin with.


15 May 2019, around 6.06.

A colorwork pullover on a hanger hanging from a picture rail above a fireplace

There is only one sweater that I make, really. I try to follow different patterns, but the result usually ends up being more or less the sweater that I always make. This holds true for other things too – the ways in which I work, the ways in which I read, usw. I try other practices, I try to follow other patterns, but I keep returning to the ways that yield the results I imagine I like best


22 May 2019, around 10.38.

Maidenhair fern, covered in droplets

A rut is only a problem if you don’t like where you’re going.

ego hoc feci mm–MMXXIV · cc 2000–2024 M.F.C.

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