Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Me and Leonard Bast, we're like *that*

For those of you who may not remember Leonard Bast, he is the failed aspirational with whose shabby umbrella the heedless Helena Bonham Carter Helen Schlegel makes away from the Beethoven concert in Howards End (both the film and the book and yes, no apostrophe there, can't think why), who later fathers Helen's baby in a peculiarly bloodless and as it were offstage encounter*, and who comes to a highly symbolic end when a Wilcox** attacks him with the flat of a decorative ceremonial sword, whereupon he has a heart attack and grabs a bookcase to stop himself falling, and the bookcase falls on him and showers him with books.

Which is to say, he is hit in the head by an out-of-control swarm of the books he so loves, and his heart fails him. And I know exactly how he felt.

Nonetheless, I have been out into the garden for long enough to report, on this second day of Spring,

the following eruption of yellow, white, and yellow-and-white things:

Banksia roses
Climbing white roses
Honey-eaters' chests
Lime blossom
Lemon blossom

* Later ridiculed by Katherine Mansfield, who concluded that the baby had been fathered by the umbrella.

** The pragmatic, business-minded 'telegrams and anger' and 'panic and emptiness' family, later recalled in the name of Vic Wilcox in David Lodge's 1986 (?) novel Nice Work, which, like some of Margaret Drabble's from that period, recalls and formally echoes the narrative mode, characters and concerns of the 19th century 'condition of England' novel, in which the urbane, cosmopolitan, well-off South of England is contrasted with the struggling industrial North.


elsewhere said...

You know, I named Leonard the cat not as a direct ref to Leonard Best, but because I felt the name had those kind of resonances. But he turned out to have exactly the opposite kind of personality.

Ampersand Duck said...

Ooh, lucky you. My garden goes all gender-specific, with lashings of pink and white.

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

I named Leonard the cat after Leonard Woolf, though it turns out her (Leonard's) real name is Tiger. But gosh, Howards End, one of my favouritest books. I wish Margaret and Helen were my sisters.

Bernice said...

Arrr Katherine Mansfield's wit is grossly under-rated. Sincerely believe she ranks very very close to Ms Parker. And let us remember she once described E M Forster as having the passion of a tepid teapot. Bless her.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Same book, I think, Bernice, and by extension she was talking about Forster in general. 'Forster never gets any further than warming the teapot. See this teapot. Is it not beautifully warm? Yes, but there ain't going to be no tea.'

I find in my fifties that three-quarters of my conversation is actually quotation. It's kind of sad.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

I disagree with her, though, BTW -- there is a tiny magnificent moment, half a second, in the movie of Howards End where Anthony Hopkins as Mr Wilcox practically bares his teeth in a momentary flash of sexual jealousy and rage over Margaret and the ownership of Margaret, and you see one of the many things Forster was doing that the book does not spell out. Hopkins can read, which is why he has been such a particularly great actor in literary adaptations, starting with Pierre in the wonderful 1970s? 80s? BBC War and Peace.

I have twice in my life managed to prevent certain social disaster, one of these occasions involving an entire pub full of upset people at a big literary wake, by heeding the voice in my ear of Mrs Wilcox: 'Separate those people who will hurt each other the most.' Which, again, is an indication of a very hot teapot.

genevieve said...

Bloody fine cinematic teapot, that one. I was astounded how well the two melded, thanks to more than one reading actor I reckon, when I finally got to the book.
Thanks for the lemony bits - I'll be singing "all yellow" all morning now.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Good point, Genevieve -- Hopkins and Thompson seemed to be in perfect accord about how it was to be done. Excellent movie, though I regret the circumstances under which I saw it: in the company of a man who, well, never mind.

genevieve said...

oh dommage. Best see it again then on a big screen in a warm room, with some good viognier (my daughter and I both enjoy that now, thanks to your tips here.)
The very small moments Redgrave also has at the beginning just resonate through the whole thing. I will never forget her as Mrs Wilcox.
I think I'd better buy it, actually.

Bernice said...

No sadness or shame in being able to quote so well that which deserves to be quoted. You can quote; I just vaguely remember the essence. Bloody monkey bars.

Paradoxical Cat said...

Spring is a riot of yellow in the south of NZ too. Our yellows include gorse, forsythia, lupin, kowhai, wattle, daisies, buttercup and things I don't know the name of.

I sometimes wonder if it is some sort of kindergarten lesson for the new bees. "Today we visit the yellow flowers."