Thursday, August 25, 2011

An annotation for Cy Twombly

 "                    ....  Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made."
                                     from Wallace Stevens, "The Idea of Order at Key West," from 1934

I have been reading Patricia Meyer Spacks's annotated Pride and Prejudice. I was worried that she might include too many instances of mere "translation":  Bingley's "design" means his "plan," that sort of thing.  And there are a few simple explanations... but principally what matters to Spacks is her observations.  She discusses the importance of the "visit" -- acquaintances must begin, yet only a man may visit another man, and that first visit should be made promptly (p. 31, note 13) -- I feel these notes are very useful to twenty-first-century readers, who do not "visit."   About a request from her father, "What say you Mary? for you are a lady of deep reflection..." that poor Mary is unable to answer, "Mary wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how," Spacks says this: "Austen's capacity at least momentarily to solicit sympathy for foolish Mary, as earlier for foolish Mrs. Bennett, suggests the breadth of her comprehension" (p.37, final sentence of note 17).  It isn't simply vocabulary, or story ... it is the very nature of the author's "comprehension."

This got me wondering about the nature of annotation, and, beyond its meaning an explanation or comment,  the origins of the word: it comes from the Latin annotare, "to mark."  And I thought how used we are to annotating texts and reading marginal notes in texts; but we are not at all used to the idea of annotating a painting. Museum and gallery labels inform, but distract from the thing itself. Perhaps words are not the useful thing to comment on painting. Maybe we need to go back to Stevens's "Idea of Order": creative marks may be made to comment on other creative works... paint and pencil annotate paintings and drawings. So here is an annotation for Cy Twombly from me, a drawing called "Orange Slices":

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