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The Forces of Habit and the Ethics of Self-Composture in Patrick White’s Fiction

The Forces of Habit and the Ethics of Self-Composture in Patrick White’s Fiction Mica Hilson e F Th orces of Habit and the Ethics of Self- Composture in Patrick White’s Fiction In an early passage from Patrick White’s novel e Th Twyborn Aa ff ir (1979), the pro- tagonist oer ff s a spirited defense of the odors that waft from a man’s body: “Even what you call their smelly smells can have a perverse charm. The smell of an old man, for instance. So many layers of life lived—such a compost!” (52). The meta- phor of compost for accumulated life experience is quintessential White, drawing inspiration from the natural world, but also celebrating its grossness rather than its supposed purity 1 I . t also represents a peculiar way of thinking about the “layers of life lived,” which might be more conventionally represented as inscriptions upon the body (e.g. the lines on the face that tell a story) or as hard geological layers, solidly encrusted around a stable core. Compost is layered, but the layers are loosely assembled, shifting as the organic matter decomposes and the pile recom- poses itself accordingly. Tellingly, the novel’s protagonist delivers this paean t as- o s co em lf- post while living as Eudoxia Vatatzes, http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Comparatist University of North Carolina Press

The Forces of Habit and the Ethics of Self-Composture in Patrick White’s Fiction

The Comparatist , Volume 40 – Nov 11, 2016

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © Southern Comparative Literature Association.
ISSN
1559-0887

Abstract

Mica Hilson e F Th orces of Habit and the Ethics of Self- Composture in Patrick White’s Fiction In an early passage from Patrick White’s novel e Th Twyborn Aa ff ir (1979), the pro- tagonist oer ff s a spirited defense of the odors that waft from a man’s body: “Even what you call their smelly smells can have a perverse charm. The smell of an old man, for instance. So many layers of life lived—such a compost!” (52). The meta- phor of compost for accumulated life experience is quintessential White, drawing inspiration from the natural world, but also celebrating its grossness rather than its supposed purity 1 I . t also represents a peculiar way of thinking about the “layers of life lived,” which might be more conventionally represented as inscriptions upon the body (e.g. the lines on the face that tell a story) or as hard geological layers, solidly encrusted around a stable core. Compost is layered, but the layers are loosely assembled, shifting as the organic matter decomposes and the pile recom- poses itself accordingly. Tellingly, the novel’s protagonist delivers this paean t as- o s co em lf- post while living as Eudoxia Vatatzes,

Journal

The ComparatistUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Nov 11, 2016

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