Her Vivacity Gladdened Life

by Mark Chmiel

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, Knopf: Everyman’s Library,  1992 

I’ve acknowledged previously the importance of Reinaldo Arenas and Eduardo Galeano  during the late 1990s into 2000 as I was trying to figure out how to write what became The Book of Mev.  Also, during that period I read with relish James Boswell’s Life of Johnson.  That biography proved a fecund  encounter, as  some of my marginalia became a “To Do” for my project…

  1. Include a letter to make the point [get another voice in there]
  1. Include some of her more creative pieces [journal or no]
  1. Force, vivacity, and perspicuity [vigor]
  1. Long footnotes of clarification at the bottom of the page
  1. Spend six hours writing, one after the other, all the topics and fragments in my Mev log

  1. Include comments from others  
  1. Include even reviews of Struggle or Faces
  1. Cullings from Mev’s journals
  1. Allusions, images — return to Gabrielle Rico
  1. “by taking from each those characteristic excellencies which were most worthy of imitation” 135
  1. How the dead occupy our dreams
  1. With whom do I converse?  
  1. Daily habitual practices:  exercise, piano, etc.
  1. Check out his Idler essays!
  1. Include Mev’s examinations of conscience
  1. “luminary of learning”  JB 231
  1. Topics:  on meeting Mev, Chomsky…
  1. Ardor and assiduity
  1. Include a range of Mev’s journal entries indicating her sparkling spirit
  1. Include others’ letters of testimony
  1. Include our exchange of letters, too
  1. Alas, so many old letters and journals to reread
  1. Wild mind exercise:  generate 20 pages on Mevinski
  1. Writing exercise of noticing what I notice, say, in the month of July, minute particulars…
  1. Johnson studying Greek & Italian at  67  690
  1. Some books you read once, you don’t necessarily study & digest it 795
  1. Be practical:  J, how do you do first-aid?
  1. Check out Milton’s Tractate of Education
  1. Mev “gladdened life”  1003
  1. List:  collection of the excuses people make for not writing promptly

_________________

The following were pages I marked for rereading—

SJ’s letter to a grieving friend on p. 130

SJ’s letter to Boswell 297-8

Boswell pressing on death — 379- 80

On death 739

On writing a journal 783

On death 835-6

Letter on loss of beloved 920-1

Summation of character 1241-43

_________________

Wherever narrative is necessary to explain, connect, and supply, I furnish it to the best of my abilities; but in the chronological series of Johnson’s life, which I trace as distinctly as I can, year by year, I produce, wherever it is in my power, his own minutes, letters, or conversation, being convinced that this mode is more lively, and will make my readers better acquainted with him, than even most of those were who actually knew him, but could known him only partially; whereas there is here an accumulation of intelligence from various points, by which is character is more fully understood and illustrated.

–Boswell, Life Johnson, 11

 

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