Sunday, June 26, 2005

George Johnstone and Charmian Clift

"The difficulty - perhaps the real tragedy - was that because of the time in which Charmian and George lived, the opposed issues of freedom versus control were seen as individual idiosyncrasies or faults, and not as symptoms of a broader and more ordinary conflict. Again, George Johnstone in 1963 was starting to understand:
"It may be argued that [Cressida] is fundamentally, by instinct, and even by upbringing, a natural pioneer of changing values. (Is Simone de Beauvoir a valid and genuine prophet of the same change in values? Is Doris Lessing?) The point is that David Meredith, at heart and by instinct, emphatically is NOT.
"The work of writers such as de Beauvoir and Lessing would provide a political framework which would enable some women to move beyond the personal aspects of gender conflict, to see oppression as the result of a complex patriarchal system. For Charmian Clift in 1950, however, this framework was not available. Consequently, the anger, the resentment, were all focused on the spouse. But because Charmian was a woman of her own time, there was also a sense of guilt and puzzlement at the very fact of the resentment. After all, she had the husband she wanted; she had two beautiful children; she had good looks and good health; she had enough money for books and records and other little luxuries as well as essentials. (...)
"another problem was the extraordinary expectations which both she and George placed upon their relationship. It was as if they had to live up to an idealised myth of marriage. The ideal union was, of course, the sense of the couple united in love and literature which had been promoted by the publicity surrounding the Sydney Morning Herald award. According to Garry Kinane, 'they both shocked Neil Hutchinson by openly declaring that they "made love every night"', often the consummation of an evening's writing together. This was the kind of statement that furthered the mystique which surrounded these two. If the Melbourne myth was of Love Persecuted, the Sydney legend was Love Triumphant."
- from the Life and Myth of Charmian Clift, by Nadia Wheatley (pp. 237-9).

2 Comments:

Blogger Sebastian Aristos said...

Well, this certainly provokes a few thoughts about the nature of relationships and power.

It reminds me of what Dr. Phil says about sex being about 10% importance when there are no problems with it, but being about 90% importance when there are.

I remember really enjoying reading the George Johnson novels, as they certainly evoked a cosmopolitan and bohemian lifestyle, so meeting their son while I was reading them was an amazing experience.

2:51 pm  
Blogger asgif666 said...

Seconds Dr Phil's comments, and omg, please fill us in on the details of meeting their son while reading about them? I feel all agog....But if you thought George Johnstone good, please read more Charmian Clift: she seemed the one who looked for the mystical, the ineffable, the pagan "It" that would make sense of it all...even George sensed it, in his wanting to possessively "own" that core of Charmian that seemed intensely private, as opposed to his very public persona ;-P
Sadly, she did not seem to find it (again)....Hence she became "our own Sylvia Plath" ;-P

4:05 pm  

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