Thursday, November 12, 2009

multiply variety

I just noticed an interesting connection. While reading Eliot's poem "Gerontion" I noticed how nearly identical the overall mood is to Chandler's The Big Sleep; not the content, the mood. But perhaps General Sternwood, in the latter, is modelled on Gerontion? Furthermore, Sternwood's greenhouse houses many orchids, and Sternwood refers to himself--in his near-death condition--as living on heat like a spider. The latter reminds me specifically of the spider in the poem. But even more interesting is the orchid connection, by accident. The original chief of counterintelligence for the CIA was James Angleton, who was friends with Eliot, was very fond of orchids, and saw their entire existence as a metaphor for deception, viz., in his profession of espionage, which Angleton, quoting Eliot, called a "wilderness of mirrors." Passages from "Gerontion" were read at Angleton's funeral. So we have this web of interrelations between Eliot, Chandler, Angleton, Orchids. Eliot doesn't mention orchids, but Chandler and Angleton do. And Chandler and Angleton seem to lean on Eliot for inspiration, and both see orchids as a key metaphor. So we've found this curious link, via Chandler and Angleton, between Eliot and Orchids. More than anything, however, all of these persons and objects point to an indescribable mood. And perhaps the Orchid is the symbol for that particular mood.

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