WCW, A Voyage to Pagany. Novel about an American Poet traveling through Europe.
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The imagists are strongest when observing, describing and imbuing what they see with brief solitary externalizations. They were a hit or miss batch of poets. One must sift through pages of their verse for the clear, bare, honest moments when they get things right and add some wise levity to the way one sees the world. From what I can tell, they are weak on plot, character development and inventions of breadth or believable substance.¿A Voyage to Pagany,¿ William Carlos Williams¿ travelogue of a 1924 trip through Western Europe, includes three sections where he processes his surroundings as a sharp-minded, independent traveler and four sections where he engages with women who he loves amorously (one of whom is his sister, which creeps me out and severely weakens a good fifty pages of prose.)When Williams is alone or at least focused on listening to real people (chapters 1-3, 15-18, and 21-25), his book is an adequately rewarding pleasure. During the sections of the book (most of it) where he frolics about, gaily but with foreboding, in the company of women at least twelve years younger than his forty, the book is an unconvincing and tedious chore. I never knew Williams could write like such an idiot; but I never knew him to try his hand at extended and repetitive lover¿s quarrels (in which he tends to occupy the more passive, feminine side of the equation). His two main relationships are especially falsified in the neatness of their conclusions and the unlikely but oh so narratively convenient behavior of his lovers. Perhaps these women seem so much like young female incarnations of belief systems with which Williams is playing because he was actually traveling with his wife and decided to thinly veil his protagonist in order to write out his threadbare fantasy trysts. Sadly, his efforts to narrate from his false perspective seem to shackle his descriptive powers with a forceful set of intentions; his experimental or daring descriptions, throughout these chapters, are flat and out of tune. The roving familiarity of two married forty-somethings from New Jersey might have proven more interesting.Now, with more charity, to focus on the chapters that contain some of this author¿s talent. In chapters 1-3 and 15-18, Williams plays a three stringed instrument with which he attacks Christianity in bitterly humorous ways, scavenges for the remains of a stronger, realer and more human ¿pagany¿ and makes poetic comments about simple and beautiful things:1)¿The train came to the hollow of Rouen with its great gloomy cathedral filling the bottom of the bowl: a great pile of stone, full of death. Evans looked and was chilled as if it had been the angry center of all this country which it was depriving silently, sordidly, of its life; as if it were drawing the life in; stone sitting in state over the green;¿ ¿White sisters are running sterilely about stone corridors; pure arduous in their devotion, gone in spirit; little plowgirls, diverted; girls from near the sea diverted from looking out at the water.¿2)Of a church in Florence: ¿But a beauty had shone through their work, through it¿through its Christian disguises. He, Evans, had been penetrated, he permitted it to penetrate him. A Greek beauty¿a resurgent paganism, still untouched.¿3)¿It was the Arno flooding its banks, from whose liquorous bounty an army of sunbeams were drinking so that the air was luminous with mist and the grass and the herbage everywhere was dripping. It was the Arno preparing to bring all its country charm to pass under the old bridge.¿If this is not your style, there is still a thirty-four page window of text worth exploring (chapters 21-25). The brief glimpse into the medical halls of Vienna (which maintain their eminence even as the city struggles with the unhealthy aftermath of war) is an exceptional bit of reporting. Williams the pediatrician was a far keener witness to his Viennese counterparts than Williams the poet was to his coevals in Paris¿or to his surrou