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Brian Howard: Portrait of a Failure Paperback – 1 Nov 2005
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This book is fascinating -- Arthur Calder-Marshall, Daily Telegraph
A biography of artist and socialite Brian Howard.See all Product description
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Of course, he didn't produce the great opus everyone, for whatever reason, expected of him and that he - to a certain extent that's hard to judge - expected, in a rather desultory way, of himself, but he lived a fuller life - an aesthetic one, devoted to literature, which Proust maintains - in a poignant passage amongst so many other poignant passages of his - is the only REAL life to be lived - than most who pass their life, as Thoreau famously put it, in "quiet desperation". He rather reminds one of Shelley's - a poet he read much and admired - poem "The Sensitive Plant" though perhaps with sharp petals: His wit could cut and hurt. In the end, one feels more appreciative of the fact that such a person existed for a time on this planet. Further, how can one call someone who writes a poem such as the following a failure?:
No soap can wash away this sundust
And no scrubbing, this salt dust of the sea.
What is this powder with which you are covered
When the sun lies on your skin, slantingly?
Something like pollen, yet finer, lighter
And more of a mineral thing. It glows
A St. Elmo's fire, a quicksilver wire
Which grows with the sun and with the sun goes.
Is it the true state of being clean? It smells
like an approaching island, or a shipload of hay.
Made of seadust, sunsalt and flesh, is it the true sign
Of being well and whole? It cannot be washed away
All I know is, this thing is not a substance
Found on the ill or ugly, or on those
Whose favourite word is `No'. It is very often
Worn by the beautiful instead of clothes.
All I know is, the desperate have washed you
Using their holy water, for two thousand years
And still the dust I speak of burns upon you
As bright as Love. Brighter than all their tears.
As Howard said in a letter to his mother, "Failure has its successes, you know."