REVIEW OF A JUST RE-CLAMATION:”THE SECRET DUBLIN DIARY OF GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS” BY ROBERT WALDRON

I have just finished reading this startling , lovely and ineffably poignant book.

It really DOES bring up for debate and consideration, what is the “truth” of a person’s/writer’s (inner) life: in this case, what was the reality, the “inscape”(to use Hopkins’ OWN phrase) of this great poet.

Even one of the biographies which is most sympathetic and non-maginalising to/of Hopkins’ UNDOUBTED homosexuality(in affect, if not practice),in his life and works,  that of Robert Bernard Martin(“Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Very Private Life”, 1991),balks at full revelation at times,( and even he has often , by heterosexist and/or homophobic academics, been accused of being reliant on suposition and overexaggerating the importance of Hopkins’ sexual orienation). But in Waldron’s case we have a novella/”novella”, ie a well-worn form of putative “fictionalisation” which is, amazingly and ACTUALLY,a more REAL, three-dimensional and sensually complete account of Hopkins’ later years in Dublin than the poet’s (often destroyed)OWN accounts, never mind the biographers(except for the poems “Epithalmion” and the “The Bugler’s first Communion”which are apologetically and unashamedly and OVERTLY homoerotically laudatory of the beauty of the male body-I read “Epithalmion” on my You-Tube channel “stevskaskov”; two useful poems to argue with homophobic critics, with direct textual proof, of direct homoerotic, explicitly sexual/physical content).

What is so refreshingly revolutionary(and i use the strong word advisedly) about this novella is that Waldron does the following:

1.He reclaims GMH in his WHOLE self, INCLUDING his sexual orientation and his passionate love of the male body, sublimated into religion and nature in life, but celebrated often OVERTLY in his poetry,( sometimes linked with the {manly} BODY {sic!} of Christ). So we get the WHOLE picture: not only the homoeroticism, but the religious(theistic) doubts, the celebration , at other times, of God and Christ, and the worship of Nature/landscape, being the earthly manifestation of God’s grandeur and beauty.

2. It has taken a “fictionalised”/novelistic rendition of these years in Hopkins’ life  to accomplish this; after YEARS of academic hegemonic hoodwinking, heterosexist, homophobic, gay-love-blind “scholarship”. The ironies are exquisitely painful in the double invisibilisation of those critics’ marginalisation of GMH’s sexual orientation mirroring the torments and guilts imposed upon, and internalised by the poet himself, throughout his tortured life, by way of the rigours, contradictions and hypocrisies of established(in this case Jesuitical)religion.

3. The novella, to some significant degree anyway, achieves a completion and even, possibly, a REDMPTION, GMH, in actuality probably never had(though because of censorship and internalised SELF-censorship, we can never be certain; for instance GMH BURNT a lot of his early homoerotic poems). At the end, we are not sure if the young priest, John, DOES actually sexually, as well as (obviously) emotionally love GMH; but Gerard is at last able to say the words “I love you ” to Sean,his second love, in the years the book deals with, who has gorged his own eyes out for the sin of just LOOKING AT a woman naked. So, for Gerard, there is SOME fulfilment there and also, of course-though we would, today, probably call it sublimation-through his often (homo)erotically charged, voluptuous, shimmering, crazily and beautifully metered, poetry, unique, stylistically, as it is.

4. This is an ANGRY book; it obviously is not a “polemic”(often used pejoratively), setting out a (pejoratively again, like we are trying to take over the world, instead of just wanting equality)”pro-gay bill of rights”. In this way it echoes Sebald’s methods; the story tells it all, and makes the (strongly) political points by default(compare “Dr. K takes the waters at Riva, from “The Emmigrants”, upon which I have written earlier on these two blogs). The anger, it seems to me, is about how religion, particuarly established hierarchical religion, if interpreted wrongly, or used for social control, can turn the self AGAINST the self(gay people are especially at risk here, but women too ), and split the body from the mind, in an irreconcilable polarisation(which is not even the intent of the particualar religion, AT ROOT, anyway, where Christ was meant to be the BODILY incarnation of God’s spirit). Which leads, as Waldron so poignantly demonstrates,to one good man, gouging out his own eyes for looking on physical beauty; this character also feels guilty of the “sin” of despair, and is scared of “suicide” because that again was /is a “sin”; he is bound up, sadistically, every way he turns. The anger is raw and comes out naturally through the content and expression of the text(lovingly referential to GMH’s compound adjectives and other poetic devices!).Iam not sayingWaldron approves of this bastardization of the message of (theistic) religion, Christianity in particualar: he seems to be angry, on GMHs’ behalf, at its self-destructive, masochistic tortuous-tortured perversions; obviously not railing at its original, unadulterated message.

POSTHUMOUSLY(I stress) , sadly and ironically, this beautiful novella, together with the great poet’s own work, comes the closest to completion and (I would call it spiritual,not being a theist myself) fulfillment and completion than anything else written about the man himself before; both spiritual in content yet voluptuous, and, yes, unapologetically homoerotic, like GMH’s own poetry. It is at least an ATTEMPT at redemption of Hopkins’ tortured time on this earth..

ANYONE interested in the possible evils of established religions and the possibility of (non-theistic or even, non -corrupted theistic) redemption should read this book; and -do i still need to say it? – they should do so, WHATEVER their sexual orientation

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About decayetude

ENTHUSIASMS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, ESPECIALLY OBSCURE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS; BACH/HANDEL LITERATURE, ESPECIALLY THOUGHTFUL, WELL-WRITTEN(STYLISTICALLY)NOVELS W G SEBALD WALTER BENJAMIN THEODOR ADORNO(JUST BEGINNING!) AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY GAY MEN'S WRITING;QUEER THEORY STIMULATING DISCUSSIONS(EMOTIONALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY) GOOD RICH THICK ESPRESSO MICHAEL PONTI SPRITUALITY/LIFE'S "AURA"(BENJAMIN), WHATEVER TRANSCENDENTAL THING YOU WANT TO CALL THIS MEMORY-the elusiveness thereof. LOST TIME AND AN ATTEMPT AT ITS REDEMPTION(NON THEISTICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY)
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3 Responses to REVIEW OF A JUST RE-CLAMATION:”THE SECRET DUBLIN DIARY OF GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS” BY ROBERT WALDRON

  1. Merry says:

    Good to read your review. Now I look forward to reading the book. By the way, the one review of it on the US Amazon site was positive. Love, Merry

  2. decayetude says:

    Thanks, merry; have corrected the typos!Love Steve

  3. decayetude says:

    Thanks Gill for ur likes for my various verbal peregrinations!Love Steve

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