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Who knew rabbits were so judgmental? Not I.


Persepolis is a-comin'! The film version of Marjane Satrapi's graphic novels about growing up in Iran, that is. (I can't help but feel the term I really want to use, graphic memoir, implies that it is excessively gory or sexual - which it isn't - rather than that it is expressed in the form of comics.) Judging from this review at Ogg's Movie Thoughts, it sounds like the perilous transfer from one medium to another has been navigated with grace and nuance.


Sidney was so much fun yesterday, that I had to return to Astrophel and Stella today. I promise that I won't be making my way sonnet by sonnet through the cycle for the next 109 days, but after a hard day slaving over the editing of my knotty academic prose style, I had to celebrate with sonnet II:

Not at the first sight, nor with a dribbed shot,
Love gave the wound, which, while I breathe, will bleede;
But knowne worth did in tract of time proceed,
Till by degrees, it had full conquest got.
I saw and lik'd; I lik'd but loved not;
I lov'd, but straight did not what Love decreed:
At length, to Loves decrees I, forc'd, agreed,
Yet with repining at so partiall lot.
Now, even that footstep of lost libertie
Is gone; and now, like slave-borne Muscovite,
I call it praise to suffer tyrannie;
And nowe imploy the remnant of my wit
To make myselfe beleeve that all is well,
While, with a feeling skill, I paint my hell.

Why, you ask, is this a fitting way to unwind after hours of trying to untangle my endless streams of subordinate clauses? Because clearly Sidney could give me a run for my money in sentence complexity! This entire reflection on the pernicious stages through which his speaker became Love's victim is, in fact, one made up of only three sentences, divided by a truly impressive array of rhythmically deployed colons, semi-colons and commas.

What fascinates me about this poem's structure is that, although it is not a Petrarchan sonnet (a octave made of two groups of four lines each which set out a problem using two rhymes, then a sestet which resolves it using two new rhymes) in its rhymes, it is one in its argumentative structure and punctuation. In other words, if it were an exact imitation of the Italian model the first eight lines would rhyme a-b-a-b a-b-a-b or a-b-b-a a-b-b-a and the last six would rhyme in some variation of c-d-e-c-d-e or c-d-c-c-d-c. Instead it is follows the developing English language adaptation of having four quatrains before a couplet, although it doesn't seem to be at all interested in whining about how rhyme-poor English is as a language and maintains a two rhyme octave of sorts, rhyming a-b-b-a a-b-b-a c-d-c-d e-e.

What this cleverly hybrid sonnet inherits from its Italian grandparents is the structure of its argument or narrative:
  • The first sentence is the first quatrain, and establishes the determination of love to conquer the speaker.
  • The second is the second quatrain, which is made up with a rhythmic chain or staircase effect detailing the minute steps with which the speaker fell in love - seeing, liking, loving, obeying (and, we will learn in the next lines, ultimately enjoying the abasement of obedience).
  • The third sentence is the sestet, although the sestet is here made up along the English model of a third quatrain and a witty couplet. In the sestet he explains how utterly abject it is to revel poetically in his in abjection, throwing in a bit of a contemporary anti-Russian stereotype while he's at it.
But the couplet - here's where both Shakespeare and Sidney shine in the art of quippy reversal. The couplet in an English sonnet is a thing to be savored, uttered to oneself in moments of bitter melancholy (Does no one else ever do this? Ah well.), or trotted out as a zinger at insufferable dinner parties. The motivation for writing is as darkly presented here in Sonnet II as it could ever be, with the speaker gathering to his abject self "the remnant of my wit" in the service of self-delusion. This image of poetry as the gilding of denial, "the painting of my hell" is absolutely thrilling in its cynicism.


As you can tell, today was largely taken up with horrible workiness. I did, however, manage to finish Woody Allen's Manhattan, which surprised me with its delicacy. D and I also watched the first episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm and felt, I think I can accurately say, underwhelmed. Next stop: Cinema Paradiso, the film that has the distinction of having spent the longest time on our TiVo.

3 Responses so far.

  1. kookie says:

    The rabbits were weird. Maybe they need a cheezeburger.

    Give 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' another couple of chances. It takes a while to get into the flow of what he's doing. I didn't like it at first and now I love it.

    "Cinema Paradisio" is an amazing movie. I think you'll like it.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the rabbits. I'd never have found them on my own.
    And thanks for letting me know about Persepolis on film. I've lost my copy of the book (it's in a box somewhere, but not here, with Persepolis 2, a 12-volume (I think) set of Pepys' diaries, and some other favorites). According to Wikipedia, the English version of the film will feature the voices of Gena Rowlands, Sean Penn, and Iggy Pop. Interesting combination, that.

  3. I agree, kookiejar, they are definitely in need of cheezeburgers. Or possibly buckets.

    Meanwhile I hadn't heard that very strange "cast list" (of voices) for the English version of Persepolis, grace, so thanks for sending it on. And I love the idea of Sartrapi making friends with Pepys in your boxes of books.

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