Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Thoughts from Powell, Rilke and Maso

Wooden Toys from Dresden
at the Chicago Christkindlmarket, 29 November 2012

The last couple of entries on this blog featured favorite
lines from Padgett Powell, Rainer Maria Rilke and Carole Maso.
[click links above or scroll down]
With the holidays upon us, here are a few more of their thoughts
on various and assorted impending festivities,
along with a few more photos from the Chicago Christkindlmarket.

~~ from Powell ~~

p 33 . . . When you are in charge of satisfying children at Christmas, how serious are you about stuffing the stockings?

p 104 . . . For New Year's Eve, do you prefer a big loud drunk party at which say someone pogos nude across the room, or would you like to stand beside a tree alone and see if there is any wind in it?


The Star Store

~~ from Maso ~~

You have to love a novel whose very
first line is a celebration of celebrations!

p 3 . . . Each holiday celebrated with real extravagance. Birthdays. Independence days. Saints' days. Even when we were poor. With verve.

p 53 . . . It was Christmas Eve Day. I wore bells.

p 66 . . . Mardi Gras. The farewell to flesh. I dressed in feathers. Pointed beak and glitter. How we danced, through lights and confetti. The good-bye to the body.

Not forever, but for now.

p 84 . . . We were racing toward death, Francesco. We knew it even then.

How we celebrated each holiday, each saint's day. With verve.

Touch then this moment. Caress it with your mind.

p 108 . . . How we celebrated each Epiphany, each Bastille Day.

p 199 . . . It is the week before Christmas. In the apartment across the way, a man works on a dollhouse. So what if we are doomed? He will die rubbing a small chair smooth.

p 231, 241 . . . At the top of the stairs. A far - off green light in the night.

At the lip of the sea on Christmas night . . .

He bounded up the sea - soaked steps, carrying oysters, clams, sea urchins, crayfish, mussels, lobster. The fruits of the sea, he said in English. The jewels of the sea, and laid them at my feet. Twelve fish. It was Christmas Eve Day. That night we ate twelve fish. The green light of the lighthouse, snow on the beach. He knelt at my feet. One wave after the next over me. The sound of the foghorn. The smell of the sea. And sex. Will you marry me? Will you marry me? Will you marry me?

I will.

The Candle & Lantern Store

~~ from Rilke ~~

Two of Rilke's ten Letters to a Young Poet (click to read online) are Christmas letters. In Letter #6, written on December 23, 1903, Rilke writes:

"My dear Mr. Kappus,
I don't want you to be without a greeting from me when Christmas comes and when you, in the midst of the holiday, are bearing your solitude more heavily than usual. But when you notice that it is vast, you should be happy; for what (you should ask yourself) would a solitude be that was not vast . . . ."

Rilke urges Kappus not to exchange "a child's wise not - understanding . . . for defensiveness and scorn," not to be deceived by the pseudo - dignity of "grownups."

" . . . if you suspect Christ was deluded by his yearning . . .
Why don't you think of him as the one who is coming, who has been approaching from all eternity, the one who will someday arrive, the ultimate fruit of a tree whose leaves we are? . . . living your life as a painful and lovely day in the history of a great pregnancy? . . . Dear Mr. Kappus, celebrate Christmas in this devout feeling that perhaps He needs this very anguish of yours in order to begin . . . ."
(pp 53 - 63)

Five years later, Rilke writes Letter #10 from Paris, the day after Christmas 1908:

"You must know, dear Mr. Kappus,
how glad I was to have the lovely letter from you. The news . . . was very good news indeed. That is really what I wanted to write you for Christmas Eve; but I have been variously and uninterruptedly living in my work this winter, and the ancient holiday arrived so quickly that I hardly had enough time to do the most necessary errands, much less to write."
(pp 1-5 - 09)

I must confess to taking some comfort in the realization that I'm no different from Rilke when it comes to completing after Christmas many of the tasks that I hoped to complete before!


Magi at the Market


  1. I like the quotes you include about reading; my husband and I are quite addicted to books, and I am a writer and librarian. These are great photos of the Christmas market, and a thoughtful post.

  2. Terra, thank you so much! I have added a copy of your Christmas book to my amazon shopping basket & look forward to reading it!