What is called awkwardness?. Attention conservation notice: 11,000 words, many pettifogging, and many others digressing, about a five-year-old book.
Yonder we are having a book discussion thingy on Transformative Experience, with the chapters introduced/summarized/responded-to by individual commenters with an accompanying comment thread. I am not one of the volunteers for any of the weeks but, as the poster, had thought I might abuse my privileges to say something anyway. Since the things I have said expanded to great length, I have instead posted them here, below. They are something of a mess, having been said in haste.
I am fond of quoting a bit from Harry Mathews' interview in The Paris Review:
Do you not care whether your stories make sense?
I don't say there is no sense or no meaning. There is, but it's not one that exists outside of the work. Robert Louis Stevenson--and he's not exactly considered a modernist writer--once wrote: "The novel, which is a work of art, exists, not by its resemblances to life, which are forced and material, as a shoe must consist of leather, but by its immeasurable difference from life, which is both designed and significant, and is both the method and the meaning of the work." For me, that's it. He's really my favorite prose writer of all. His pithiness and efficiency--he says an awful lot in that one sentence.
How to get over, how to escape from, the besotting particularity of fiction. "Roland approached the house; it had green doors and window blinds; and there was a scraper on the upper step." To hell with Roland and the scraper! Yours ever, R.L.S. (to Henry James, 1893)
This seems to me to mirror exactly what Josipovici, at least, took Valéry's concern with sentences like "the Marquis went out at five" to be, in What Ever Happened to Modernism; it's too bad that (at least there) no notice is taken of this peculiar similarity—it would for one thing help Josipovici in his claim that modernism isn't a matter of stylistic habits.
Here's an interesting bit from Amy Bauer's "Philosophy Recomposed: Stanley Cavell and the Critique of New Music", from the Journal of Music Theory's special issue on the fortieth anniversary of ♥ "Music Discomposed" ♥, which by chance I turned to after finally publishing the previous post:
For Cavell, there are no empirical, much less philosophical, guarantors for the value of art, the assessment of which relies on experience and a kind of knowledge “in feeling,” borne by conviction but resistant to prescription or prediction. (77)
Not interesting in itself in isolation, perhaps, but it seemed to resonate with the importance of "sticking" etc. for Lawlor.
Yes, I’m still concerned with “Knowing What One Wants”; what can I say? I write slow, especially when I write one or two days a week at most (and not for very long on those days, even). So! Recall, or learn hereby: Lawlor starts by describing three views all of which hold that “in normal cases, if one knows one’s own desire, that is the result of a constitutive, not a cognitive, relation between the attitude known—the desire—and the reflective attitude involved in knowing about it” (55). “Normal” cases means, roughly, cases where (as I’d like to put it) the knowledge can be self-ascribed first-personally; it excludes, e.g., taking one’s therapist’s word that one wants something. But, per Lawlor, in fact “[k]nowing what one wants can be a cognitive accomplishment, in the sense that one finds out about an independently constitute object of knowledge (one’s desire), through means that are routinely epistemic (namely, through inference)” (56).
This post is pretty long (and not very well organized!), so...
The stream of versification has dried up somewhat, partly because of less, you know, inspiration, and partly because the plum-related stuff is now elsewhere. But:Higgledy piggledy
A small thought about the paper that was also the subject of my previous post (and, don't you worry, is intended to be the subject of my subsequent post, at impractical length). Lawlor places a great deal of weight in §3 on what it feels like to a person attempting to figure out (as that person would put it) what they want; in particular, on the fact that it feels like they're figuring out what they want, i.e., what they in fact presently do desire though they don't know it. It seems to me that this use of how-it-feels presumes on its being both remarkably innocent and remarkably sophisticated.
Innocent the way Gombrich denied that there was an "innocent eye": that "the way it feels" is simply given, not colored by how, for instance, the general vocabulary for talking about desire might lead us to conceptualize our experience. "I don't know which one I want" when said of two dishes at a restaurant, for instance, doesn't suggest to me that there is one I want and I don't know which one that is (just as "I want a wife" doesn't suggest that there is a specific wife whom I want), but that's the form of phrase we have for talking about our desires or lack thereof. If one has a set of recurrent imaginings, feelings, etc. regarding a second child and is brought to reflect on them, "I don't know whether I want a second child" is how one is apt to put it; isn't that apt to influence whether or not one conceives of the recurrent whatevers as signs of an unknown desire, rather than something else?
Sophistication is the flip-side of innocence: if the way it feels isn't simply given, then we're sufficiently discerning to tell that this is the way having an unknown desire feels, and it's also not the way anything else feels. Recall the (apocryphal? from my perspective, anyway) anecdote about Wittgenstein, which I have from either Ted Cohen or David Hills, who, hearing someone explain that we shouldn't fault people for having thought the sun goes around the earth because "that is how it looks, after all", asked how it would look if the earth went around the sun (perhaps adding "while revolving", I don't know). Well, it would look the way it does look, one hopes, since, one believes, that's what it does do. How would you feel if you didn't have a desire unknown to you, but rather [competing explanation]? Maybe the same!
Quite a title for what will actually be a slim post! Here's the sitch—we're trying to answer the question why certain "imagings" of images or sentences hold our attention and are experienced as contentful, telling us things, when "this is an illusion", because "images are not missives sent from oneself to oneself".
Here is a possible answer. Suppose that one's mind includes many system,s attentional, computational (comprised of many task specific computational modules), memorial, affective, visual, auditory, speech-producing and consuming, and so on. One also has self-monitoring systems, built to register bodily states and needs … The information stored and processed continually by all these systems is quite enormous; but attention is limited, as are resources … In this competition for agential, person-level, resources, it gives an attitude, a need, or an emotion a decided edge if it can cause representations that have a powerful pull on the attention. The attention is commanded by representations with auditory and visual aspects, and held by information that tells a coherent story. So if a desire can cause an image or images that catch and hold the attention, relevant systems of intention-formation may more readily engage in ways favorable from the perspective of the desire. … No agency needs to design the image so that it speaks just so about the desire. It is enough that having such effects in creature [sic] like us is a way for desires to get their way with us.
All this is from p 64 of Krista Lawlor's "Knowing What One Wants" and it is, seh allows, "entirely speculative". But if this is the account she's going to go with, it seems to open up some territory that ought to be acknowledged and addressed. (Does one address territory?) The account is evolutionary in spirit, I take it, in that desires need not to be conceived of as having designs or being capable of fashioning actual messages to us, it's just that the desires that happen to cause representations that are as-if-of the things the desires themselves are concerned with fare better in actually being acted on than other desires do, so … something something evolutionary pressure, I suppose; there seems to be a missing element to the story, given that there isn't a notion of reproduction at play that would explain why desires would come more often to tend to cause imagings that catch and hold the attention and that correspond in some systematic way to what the desires are of. Given a soup of desires, one that tended to catch and hold the attention might meet with greater success than the others, in that intentions and actions would be formed and performed that led to the desire's being fulfilled. But that doesn't mean that it will transmit that same tendency to its successor desires, whatever that notion might mean. Whatever, though; let us wave our hands over that question in the manner prescribed by ritual and custom. Here's a more interesting issue.We know from the evolution of creatures that some of them are both poisonous and brightly colored, the coloration serving to warn predators of the poison. (Handy at the individual level, one must admit.) And one knows also that some other creatures have (as it were, not by design, etc.) cottoned on to the utility of bright coloration and taken the shortcut of just being brightly colored, and omitted to actually be poisonous—so much work! The coloration gives you most of the benefit of being both brightly colored and poisonous at a fraction of the cost. Couldn't something similar happen with desires, on this sort of account? The benefit that accrues to a desire that p of catching and holding the attention and intention is the benefit of my actually bringing it about that p, fulfilling the desire; this, however, will be a benefit to any desire that would be fulfilled by my doing whatever it is I'll do to bring it about that p, i.e., not only by desires actually about p. Suppose I harbor the perverse desire to degrade the soles of my shoes; couldn't it catch and hold my attention by causing representations as if of the pleasantness of going for long walks? Going on the walks will also affect my shoes, and such a representation might actually be more reliable, from the perspective of this desire, than a representation of the pleasures of down-at-the-heels shoes, which would be apt primarily to puzzle me. The desire that q, which I find distasteful, might clothe itself in representations of p, which I find more reasonable. Of course this as-it-were strategy is not without its risks, since I might hit on a way of bringing it about that p that doesn't bring q about too, but it might on the whole be as it were worth it to the desire that q, depending. So there seems to be a question, on this account, that faces any would-be agent inferring from representations to the desires that supposedly caused them: were these representations of doing this caused by a desire with the selfsame content (is that what I desire)? Or were they caused by a more vulpine desire, which comes to me with ovine representations? How could one tell? One might think that Lawlor is actually acknowledging this possibility, albeit not drawing attention to it, when she writes that "typically causing the right kind of images gets the desire a better chance of being fulfilled." One will likely assume, on first reading, that "the right kind of images" means the kind of images that will be interpreted to have the same content the desire has. But if the point of these images is to catch and hold the attention and thereby make more likely the undertaking of actions that will get the desire fulfilled, the right kind could well be quite other.
And for Lawlor, I think, the question is, suppose that the representations as if of doing p were actually caused by a desire that q, but the agent doesn't know this, and self-ascribes a desire that p. The agent might even then (mightn't she? if not, why not?) experience the "characteristic changes" (p 62) in her imagings that show the question to be settled; she experiences a "sense of ease" (p 59), the attribution "sticks" (p 57). What should we conclude about her? That despite the actual cause of the representations, her inference that she desires that p is correct? I'd be inclined in that direction, but I'm unmoved by Lawlor's position and paper overall anyway. If we do say that, then how do we justify it? If, on the other hand, we prefer to say that she's just mistaken, and really doesn't desire that p, only that q, then what are we to make of her ease, the attribution's stickiness, etc.? (Maybe we're to deny that in this case it could really happen that way.) The (limited, piecemeal) discussion of the attribution's sticking, once made, and the "characteristic changes" and whatnot after the reflection and inferring, seems to me to be a weak point in the account, one that serves as a bactrio-nasal inlet. This question doesn't actually, I suppose, require the possibility of the kind of mimicry described above (though I do think that's worth addressing)—the agent could just misinterpret the representations the desire that q caused along p-lines and find herself at ease with that interpretation. (Right? Or, again, if not, why not?) Maybe "misinterpretation" isn't really the right term, since by hypothesis these representations (and even "representations" isn't the right term, for the same reason) aren't messages or any kind of interpretandum in the first place—but the imaging characteristically caused by a q-desire can't guarantee its being taken qishly.
A bit later Lawlor writes that "whether or not one's desire actually causes one's imagings and other internal promptings is a separate question. The point I note here is that our inference is structured in such a way as to suppose that desires cause imagings and other internal promptings" (p 65). But how could this be a separate question? It seems rather central to me; if we're engaging in some kind of causal inference from an internal prompting to the existence of a desire that caused it, then the soundness of the inference seems to depend quite a bit on the desire's actually having caused the prompting. If the inferential pattern merely supposes that there are such causal relations, then, on the one hand, something that I take it is necessary to separate Lawlor's position from one like Taylor's, namely that the desire in question definitely already exists and is therefore decidedly not constituted by the interpretive activity of the agent is free to go by the wayside. (Lawlor wants to distinguish the inferential account from a constitutive account, and also describes the cognitive element of the inferential account. But someone who says, as Lawlor summarizes Taylor, that "knowing what one wants owes to the fact that self-interpretation … puts in place the very facts known" (p 51), will of course allow that there's cognitive activity associated with knowing what one wants. Hermeneusis doesn't come for free. The claim to deny is that the thing known preëxists the knowledge thereof.) One is free, in particular, to claim that the causal supposition is a dispensable manner of speaking, that what one essentially has is, say, a sandy mental irritant around which reflection and interpretation build up a pearly desire, which was not the cause of the irritation but the product of the interpretation. ("What's this grain of sand then" is of course a good question. But I think on the whole there are lots of advantages to thinking this way, among them that it can capture the path-dependence of reflection and satisfaction with its results in a way that taking the desire as independently constituted can't obviously do.) And even if we don't go that far, then, on the other hand, this pattern of inference does not seem like a very reliable way to go about getting self-knowledge—if our desires don't cause the internal promptings, then the inference is just structured wrong.
Having learned of its existence I'm not sure how long ago, I am now at last reading The Golden Gate (whose author's name, as I have recently learned, rhymes with its title, and not with the name of the third biblical son); finding myself not quite sure what to make of it, I have done as I normally do in such situations, and tried to read the opinions of the more penetrating and informed: for instance, it boasts a blurb by the much-admired-by-me John Hollander, creator of the lines "O Bug bug bug bug bug that did require / The quietest devotions of our doubt" and the creator of the quite literally magisterial Rhyme's Reason, and no doubt many more serious verses as well. The review from which the blurb came is not available online, it seems, but many records of Hollander's and Marjorie Perloff's strong disagreement regarding the novel are; for instance, in this interesting paper about the receptions of The Golden Gate and Lyn Hejinian's Oxota (of which I had never heard before).
I was particularly interested in reading Hollander's take because he, I reasoned, clearly knows his formal verse, and apparently thought Seth's to be "expertly controlled", while I have been finding several cases of (to my mind) prosodic gracelessness; spondees choking up a line, say, or weird rhythms or weird enjambment being forced on a sentence, all in ways that call attention to the lines and their strictures—no Frost-like facility here. (Of course, it took me three chapters to finally notice that Seth's sonnets are in Onegin-like tetrameters, not classical pentameters, and didn't actually notice, but had to be informed, that they also hew to a strict scheme of masculine and feminine rhymes.* So my judgments regarding meter and such may not be worth much.) It seems likely, judging from the above-linked article, that both Hollander's and Perloff's review were made in a context of poetic strife of which I am largely ignorant, so perhaps both the former's enthusiasm and the latter's disdain are overstated. I've found more of Perloff's review online than Hollander's and at least one of her assertions—that nothing John says or does suggests that he's even heard of the Venerable Bede—is hard to reconcile with what else he's described as reading not much later in the book. And this bit of criticism seems perhaps overstated:
In its preference for signification over representation, Hejinian’s poetics [in her vaguely Onegin-inspired long poem Oxota] is antithetical to Seth’s in that, like John Ashbery, with whom Perloff contrasts Seth (“Homeward Ho” 44–45), Hejinian refuses the illusion of representation of reality, while accepting and exploiting the multiple possibilities for signification and reference in language. For Perloff, Seth’s work fails because the formal sound and visual devices of the Pushkin stanza are divorced from the representation, or indeed stifle it, so that the signifying possibilities of “language charged with meaning,” as Ezra Pound put it, are not exploited (28).
Is that the reason Seth's work fails, if it fails? Perloff pays it the backhanded compliment of saying that at least it sends us back to Byron and Pushkin, implying that their work does not fail. But it seems unlikely that the static and extremely restrictive Onegin stanza is married to the various situations described in Eugene Onegin (though I admit I haven't read it), suggesting that the reason Perloff cites can't really be right, as it would prove too much. So that's puzzling. The charge, though, that Seth not only is doing something he shouldn't be attempting but isn't even doing it well, does leave her open to this clever rejoinder, to the effect that he isn't doing that at all and he is doing what he's actually doing just fine:
Perloff singles out the unrealistic elements of Seth’s work apparently caused by the need to keep to Pushkin’s stanzaic form (“Homeward Ho” 39–42). It is also possible, however, to read the interference created by rhyme and rhythm as pointing toward the false claims to easy mimesis made not only by the apparently straightforward narrative of Seth’s novel but also by the nostalgic certainties that Perloff identifies in 1980s U.S. literary criticism and the culture at large (“Homeward Ho” 43–44). Indeed, a reading of the novel through its infelicities and failures might underscore the aporia at the novel’s heart. For all the shifts in love and bridging gestures of the novel, the nuclear threat remains, and the rule of law and strictures of verse triumph over “morality” and “direct” expression.
Zing! Perloff gulled by exoteric reading! On this take the apparent metrical solecisms, etc., are proper and necessary, drawing attention to the fact that something rules the text that's unconcerned with the niceties of narrative and the fates of Liz and John and Jan and Phil; they take us out of the simple pleasures of reading about the characters (and the simple characters of verse, for that matter) to remind us of the inhuman structuring rules, and thereby that we aren't getting a representation of reality. It would be nice if more were done to connect the formal aspect of this reading to the thematic claim about law (apter, one suspects, to speak of realpolitik or something like that) and morality, and for that matter it would be nice if the claim weren't tossed off in the final paragraph of the paper, since it's important for the paper's success that the reading be made to stick, or at least to appear plausible (and one might as well acknowledge that looking to the real-life Seth may not provide a lot of support for it). For instance: more could be made of the fact that the "I" of the narrative is ok with metafictional games (nowadays we have to call it something like that, even if in former days the author might more innocently or more serious have addressed his or her readers), interrupting the narrative in the middle of chapter four with an entirely unconvincing and unnecessary explanation for his failure to depict Ed and Phil having sex (had he just skipped straight to the following scene, the missing depiction would have been missed less), and beginning chapter five with five stanzas describing and defending the novel's genesis and form, in a way that more or less asserts the primacy of the form over the incidents it's used to relate. (Bonus: scan the line "Why, asks a friend, attempt tetrameter?". The extra two syllables are surely intentional, given the easy availability of the line "A friend asks, why tetrameter?".)
Instead of further substantiating that take on The Golden Gate, Edmonds makes a similar claim (in the opposite direction) about Oxota:
At the same time, while “representation” is rejected at one level in Oxota, at another level the novel aims to represent the experience of Hejinian in Leningrad, an experience ironically intertwined with the rejection of direct representation through the poetics of estrangement.
This is perhaps actually a rather obvious point (and one that could be bolstered by noting that Hejinian's poem is closer to being self-expressive, as well, and to represent something real, being autobiographical) and one might well think that a claim Hejinian makes about her poetics in a passage Edmonds quotes is more or less cheating: "I am free to signify place though not to represent it" strikes me as saying something like "I am free to represent place though not in the way you'd expect (unless you know my work in which case you might well expect precisely this)". Perloff's response to a further statement of poetic method Hejinian makes, too, seems rather overblown: "Once writing is no longer regarded as the vehicle that conveys an already present speech, every word, indeed every morpheme can be seen to carry meaning, to enter relationships with its neighbors". We surely didn't need langpo or its kin to be able to say this, did we? It seems to be the condition of poetry generally, not to mention of the lowest form of pun, the Tom Swifty. (For all the antiromantic rhetoric of the langpo crowd, and of some manifestos of which Hejinian is a signatory, that claim would be reasonably at home in the Athenaeum or slipped into Novalis's Monologue.) It's not even clear why writing has to be divorced from speech for this to be the case, as if one could never craft an utterance. (One couldn't play tricks with lineation or enjambment in speech, but speech has its own modes that writing doesn't.) I am confessedly unsure what to make of Perloff's various claims anyway (not having access to all the relevant texts is doing me no favors, I'm sure); I know she likes Ron Silliman's work, for instance, and that fondness seems undamaged by her acknowledgement that "Albany" exhibits "a razor-sharp realism of description". Nor, as far as I know, has she turned her back on Hejinian, one of whose who claimed that "The self as the central and final term of creative practice is being challenged and exploded in our writing", after her discovery (it took her until 1998, apparently—she shoulda asked me) "that we can easily tell a Charles Bernstein poem from one by Steve McCaffery, a Tom Raworth sequence from one by Allen Fisher, a Maggie O'Sullivan 'verbovisivocal' text from one by Susan Howe" (and presumably all of these from one by Lyn Hejinian). Not that someone who denied that poetry was the Authentic Immediate Expression of a Self would have to believe that his or her verse would be indistinguishable from someone else who issued a like denial—obviously—but she is putting this forward as something to be noted. (This line of inquiry, which seems to be preoccupied with the lyrical, is of course at right angles to anything involving the Seth, for which, as a third-person narrative verse, the appearance of an "I" at all is an intrusion. But perhaps it serves as a reminder to be careful about the programs of the programmatic, and not to oversell them.)
*I seem to be unable to retain the preferred terms.
In My Life in CIA, a pale sexton, who's avoided the sun to heighten his whiteness since the accidental death of his black ("like Siberian anthracite") lover, says of his new habit of remaining indoors and seeing after the church that employs him that he occupies himself "minding [his] keys and pews". We readers know that he says so as a witticism and not ingenuously because as he does he "smile[s] faintly". Nicely done, church-bleached sexton, and Mathews as well, we readers think, until, perhaps merely pretending not to understand the conventions of fiction, we recall that this book takes place mostly in Paris and the characters are, presumably, speaking French to each other. (The fact that some actual French words are occasionally interjected—on the order of "merde" and "adieu"—doesn't matter; those are just bits of color, clumsily left un-Englished to remind the reader of the setting.) So: what did the sexton really say, to bring the faint smile forth? Did it have the same subject matter? Was it also a pun? How impressed with Mathews' rendition should we be? I say "perhaps merely pretending" because it seems to me that there should be something French that the sexton could have said, more or less equally clever and meaning something more or less similar, if we're to attend not merely to the meaning of his words but to the words qua words, and their sounds etc., themselves, and that Mathews is getting off easy, doing something cheap, if he hasn't got an answer to the question. And partly, too, because Mathews seems like the kind of author who would have an answer to that question.
At this point you, varied reader, are no doubt thinking that while spooneristic puns do have something to do with sounds, it is not really a "phonological trick", and so the title of this post is a bit inept. That is a good thought. This post is not about My Life in CIA, though it is about a novel by Harry Mathews, and admittedly begins in a way that does not make its actual matter obvious. Consequently I will now reveal that it concerns a bit of the "Lewis and Morris" chapter of his earlier novel Cigarettes, and will even, in the next paragraph, reveal the bit itself. (Scandalous.) In the remainder of this paragraph I'll just give a bit of background—will do so, in fact, starting with the next sentence. Lewis, having read Morris's art criticism, is eager to enter his good graces, and Lewis's sister introduces them; they meet a few times thereafter but their relationship doesn't begin in earnest until Morris sees Lewis's photo in the paper: Lewis, and many others, were arrested when the police raided Lewis's crucifixion. (This is an objective genitive.) They then embark on a sadomasochistic affair in which Morris subjects Lewis to basically monthly humiliations and tortures, with plentiful verbal abuse, while, in between, getting him set up with an apartment and job and coaching him in his writing. (Late in the chapter Morris reveals that he gave several of Lewis's efforts to an editor of Locus Solus, the little magazine that, in real life, Mathews co-edited.)
At their last meeting, Morris has Lewis mix up a bunch of quick-setting cement, covers him in oil, and then makes a living statue out of him (with holes obligingly provided for his eyes, ears, and nose). He then, per usual, chews Lewis out, saying how (oratio obliqua) worthless and repulsive Lewis is, and, from the bottom of page 151 to the top of 152, such things as (oratio recta):
"Even if I don't like reading you the stations, I won't spread jam. So please, Louisa, get it and go. You're a mess, a reject, a patient—I could go on for days. And don't tell me—I have your nose wide open. I'm sorry. Spare me the wet lashes, it's all summer stock. Because the only one you've ever really been strung out on is your own smart self, and you always will be. And for what—to keep catching my rakes in your zits? Forget it, Dorothy. This is goodbye. Remember one thing, though. No matter what I've said to you, no matter how I've turned you out, the truth is"—Morris's eyes become wet; he turns a surprising shade of red—"the truth is, and I'm singing it out: I lo—
Morris's eyes become wet and he turns read not, or at least not necessarily, or not solely, because of the emotion involved in what he does not in the end say, but rather because, or at least in part because, of his weak heart, which has finally just now given out; he dies, leaving Lewis encased in the cement. Lewis manages to break free (by causing himself to totter back and forth) and call for help, bringing further infamy on himself: "Morris", we read on page 254, "might well in these consequences be completing his last aborted sentence, which Lewis had unhesitatingly grasped in its entirety: 'The truth is, I loathe you'."
The first time I read Cigarettes, I took it that Morris had been cut off in saying, finally, "I love you"; Lewis's revelation two pages later came as a shock. Note, though, that each interpretation makes semantic sense. "No matter what I've said to you" could refer to Morris's speeches to Lewis in their assignations, or in his encouragements afterwards. "No matter how I've turned you out" seems apter to involve unsavory slang than a metaphor for grooming, but, eh. At any rate, I was prepared to accept that Lewis's reconstruction was, after all, correct (and it does seem more in keeping with Morris's general M.O.). (So it was a bit surprising to read in this generally good paper the claim "Lewis (mis)interprets Morris’s dying words as “I loathe you,” thus confirming the pain, inadequacy, and self-hatred he so needed Morris to act out on him" (528), since it's far from clear that it's a misinterpretation—even allowing for the fact that Lewis himself is the narrator and not presenting everything with a totally even hand.) But really, isn't this a dirty trick Mathews has pulled? (Or perhaps it's Lewis who's pulled it. Still a dirty trick!) "Love" and "loathe" begin with the same two letters, but if Morris had reached a point in his utterance that it would be natural to transcribe as "lo—" (rather than "l—"), he would have reached the disambiguating vowel—wouldn't he have? The reader is lulled into thinking "love", or perhaps suspects, given the scene, that it's "loathe"—but it wouldn't be so unclear for Lewis, whose ears, recall, are unstopped. The reveal on p 254 doesn't just prompt a reassessment and reconsideration of what one had read before (meaning the matter that had been related before), it prompts a revisitation of the actual text, the letters themselves, that one had read, in a different sense, before: it was "lo", right? But then—
Anyway, it's dissatisfying.