Monday, December 01, 2003

Good praise. "Her contemporaries invited the reader into their souls, had no secrets, cultivated extreme individuality and extreme experience; she (while just as unhappy and unstable as they, an orphan at two, a borderline alchoholic, two long lesbian relationships ending in the suicide and insanity of companions) practised decorum and wit, was recessive, fugitive, kept pointing to a world beyond herself, in what now seems a brilliantly and heroically diversionary defensive strategy, a form of camouflage or display. What she offered her correspondents and her readers was not herself -- fearing or deprecating the gift -- but the world, which has rarely seemed more fascinating or beautiful than in her descriptions of it." -- Michael Hoffman, in Behind the Lines, on Elizabeth Bishop.
There will now be a pause for reading, elongated by my new need to track down everything Elizabeth Bishop ever did.
[Behind the Lines, by Michael Hoffman, Faber, 2001. Reviews repackaged as gruffly journalistic 'pieces' rather than 'essays', many of them containing lines quite as strong as those quoted.]

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