Apr. 24, 2009

Autopsy in the Form of an Elegy

by John Stone

In the chest
in the heart
was the vessel

was the pulse
was the art
was the love

was the clot
small and slow
and the scar
that could not know

the rest of you
was very nearly perfect.

"Autopsy in the Form of an Elegy" by John Stone from Music from Apartment 8. © Louisiana State University Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist and journalist Clare Boylan, born in Dublin (1948). She is best known for her work Emma Brown (2003), in which she set out to finish a novel that Charlotte Brontë had begun. Boylan had been fascinated with Charlotte Brontë for a long time, and she had even tried to write a play about the end of Brontë's life. Then she found an 18-page fragment of a manuscript that Charlotte Brontë had begun writing in the 1850s, shortly before her death. It was two chapters of a novel featuring a protagonist named Emma, and Clare Boylan set out to finish the novel that Brontë had started. 

She went through Brontë's personal letters, all of her published works, and all sorts of biographies. She wrote a first draft, but she was not satisfied with it. So she got out of the library and onto the streets, and wandered around the places in London that Charlotte Brontë would have walked: Euston, Soho, and the East End. She took notes and infused more life into her book, and in 2003 she published Emma Brown. One critic compared what Boylan had done to an artist taking an isolated sliver of a Renoir painting and then completing the painting perfectly.

Clare Boylan grew up in a suburb of Dublin, the youngest of three daughters. She wrote about her childhood: "A suffocating respectability combined with a feeling of being center-stage (for God and the neighbors saw all things) meant we lived in a constant state of fear and stasis. Behind lace curtains, eccentricities, failures, petty scandals, loomed like monsters. Family secrets, and the poignant and comic efforts of people to conceal them, have remained a strong force in my fiction."

She died from ovarian cancer in 2006. Her novels include Last Resorts (1984), Black Baby (1988), and Beloved Stranger (1999).

It's the birthday of novelist Anthony Trollope, born in London (1815). Many of his novels originated from daydreams that he had as a child. He worked for the post office, and became a postal surveyor. And every morning before breakfast, he sat down to write 1,000 words, publishing about three books every two years. He wrote realistic novels about the daily life of ordinary people, including The Warden (1855), Barchester Towers(1857), and Framley Parsonage (1861).

It is the anniversary of the Easter Rebellion in Dublin in 1916. It was called "the poet's rebellion" because it was led by six poets and writers, including Patrick Pearse and James Connolly. Dressed in makeshift uniforms and carrying antiquated rifles, they took over the General Post Office, and were easily arrested. But the British government executed them a few weeks later, which made them into martyrs and set in motion a movement for Irish nationalism. In 1921, Ireland finally achieved independence from Great Britain.

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