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Hugh Hood Biography

Hugh Hood Comments:

(1971) My interest in the sound of sentences, in the use of colour words and the names of places, in practical stylistics, showed me that prose fiction might have an abstract element, a purely formal element, even though it continued to be strictly, morally realistic. It might be possible to think of prose fiction the way one thinks of abstract elements in representational painting, or of highly formal music…. It's the seeing-into-things, the capacity for meditative abstraction, that interests me about philosophy, the arts and religious practice. I love most in painting an art that exhibits the transcendental element dwelling in living things. I think of this as true super-realism. And I think of Vermeer, or among American artists of Edward Hopper, whose paintings of ordinary places, seaside cottages, a roadside snack bar and gasoline station, have touched some level of my own imagination which I can only express in fictional images…. Like Vermeer or Hopper or that great creator of musical form, Joseph Haydn, I'm trying to concentrate on knowable form as it lives in the physical world. These forms are abstract, not in the sense of being inhumanly non-physical but in the sense of communicating the perfection of the essences of things—the formal realities that create things as they are in themselves. A transcendentalist must first study the things of this world, and get as far inside them as possible…. That is where I come out: the spirit is totally in the flesh. If you pay close enough attention to things, stare at them, concentrate on them as hard as you can, not just with your intelligence, but with your feelings and instincts, you will begin to apprehend the forms in them…. The illuminations in things are there, really and truly there, in those things. They are not run over then by the projective intelligence, and yet there is a sense in which the mind, in uniting itself to things, creates illumination in them…. The poetry of Wordsworth supplies us again and again with examples of this imaginative colouring spread over incidents and situations from everyday life…. Like Wordsworth, I have at all times endeavoured to look steadily at my subjects. I hope my gaze has helped to light them up.

(1978) I am trying to assimilate the mode of the novel to the mode of fully-developed Christian allegory, in ways that I don't fully understand. I want to be more "real" than the realists, yet more transcendent than the most vaporous allegorist. In short, I am following what I conceive the method of Dante…. Now let me put it to you that since I am both a realist and a transcendentalist allegorist that I cannot be bound by the forms of ordinary realism.

(1979) I think it would be marvellous for Canada if we had one artist who could move easily and in a familiar converse with Joyce, and Tolstoy, and Proust; and I intend to be that artist if I possibly can; and I am willing to give the rest of my life to it. I don't say that to put down Margaret Atwood or to make Margaret Laurence seem insignificant. That isn't my point at all. I want simply—and I think every artist does—to do what I think I can do as fully, and as powerfully, and as many-modally, and as exhaustively, as I can…. I really want to endow the country with a great imperishable work of art. If I do, it will be the first one that we have. I think it would make an enormous difference to the confidence of this country if we did have one thing like the plays of Shakespeare or War and Peace or A la recherche du temps perdu, and we knew it, and were sure of it. Jalna, ha, ha, won't do. It isn't good enough. I think that The New Age and the works of mine which go with it and around it will be good enough, and I think it will do a lot for the country.

(1995) I am now, February 1995, at work on the eleventh volume (of twelve) in the novel sequence The New Age/Le nouveau siècle, which I've been working on since I began to make notes for the project in late 1966. The first volume actually appeared, as The Swing in the Garden, in 1975, and the final book in the series is scheduled for publication at the end of 1999 when the "new age" will really be directly in front of us as new century and new millenium. At this moment I can feel myself beginning to wonder how it will feel to write the closing page. Now I can suspect what Gibbon, Proust, and Joyce of Finnegans Wake (seventeen years in the making) must have gone through towards the end, an end that Proust unfortunately never saw. Temptations and distractions of a long work!

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