Grace Dane Mazur uses the idea of the hinge to illuminate real and metaphysical thresholds in fiction, poetry, myth, and ordinary life. From ancient narratives of Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Parmenides, and Orpheus, to modern works by Katherine Mansfield and Eudora Welty, the exploration of the Other World acts as a metaphor for the entrancement of reading and writing.
Looking at Lascaux, Renaissance and Byzantine images of Christ harrowing Hell, Rubens, Vermeer, and others Mazur contemplates writing, attention, Hades, the gates of Hell, trap doors, demons, love, the human body, forbidden looking, Virgil, Ovid, Nicodemus, Nighttown, and the melancholy of twilight.
Table of Contents
The Hinges of Hell
Introduction to the Hinge
Hardware and Definitions
The World of Fiction and the Land of the Dead
Thresholds and Instabilities
Descents or Passages to the Other World
"The Garden Party"
The Other World of Fiction
The Story of Orpheus and Its Condition
How Rubens Sees Orpheus
What Rubens Knows about Looking
How Virgil Looks at Orpheus
The Difference between Looking and Seeing
Getting around the Forbidden
Ways of Looking at the Divine
The Local Forbidden
How Ovid Sees Orpheus
Disobedience in General
Forbidden Looking and Writing
Hell and Hinges Revisited
Christ Harrowing Hell
Nicodemus on Hell
The Importance of Hinges
Hinges and Writing
"Music from Spain" and Its Trapdoors
A Trapdoor in Nighttown
Hinges of the Mind and of the Heart
Hinges and Creative Work and Demons
And Saw That It Was Good
The Hinge of the Act
List of Figures
GRACE DANE MAZUR is the author of the novel, Trespass, and a collection of stories, Silk, which was a New York Times notable book of the year. After studying painting and ceramics at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, she went to Harvard University for her BA and PhD in Biology. She was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard working on morphogenesis and micro-architecture in silkworms when she hinged into literature. She now teaches fiction in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson and is the fiction editor at Tupelo Press. She lives in Cambridge and Westport Massachusetts, with her husband, the mathematician Barry Mazur.
"Ordinary things can lie around unnoticed until someone comes along whose poetic imagination makes the vital connections and uncovers the riches lying concealed in their depths. Grace Dane Mazur has created an inspired fugue, writing with sensitivity and passion as she finds in the common hinge a multilayered, apocalyptic and powerful metaphor of entrances and exits, openings, initiations and descents."
—MARINA WARNER, author of Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media into the Twenty-first Century
"Hinges, by Grace Dane Mazur, is a masterpiece of literary and artistic insight. To read it is to experience all over again the thrill of reading. It makes you want to revisit the world’s great masters of verbal art—Homer, Virgil, Milton, and so many others. Page after page, the reader sees something radiantly new about each of them—and about the reader’s own self at the moment of reading them. The author of this remarkable book has an uncanny instinct for seeing things as they really are at that liminal moment when the reader, in reading, crosses over from the everyday to the eternal."
—GREGORY NAGY, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University
"Mazur’s book is strange in wonderful ways. It perches itself on the liminal perspective, where the risks of instability can yield long sight. Reaching deep into inspired erudition, it is filled with quirks and profundities, told in a voice that is both of this world and not."
—REBECCA NEWBERGER GOLDSTEIN, author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction
"What lies between everything and nothing—asleep and awake, reader and book, the space between words, the hero/heroine and the world they occupy and from which they must escape—what lies between all that, and on what invisible spring is it all tightly held and delicately balanced and vulnerable to becoming undone? With stunning and direct simplicity, Grace Dane Mazur illuminates these darknesses, revealing an imagination that is original and vital. Here is a book I absolutely needed to read."
—JAMAICA KINCAID, author of Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalaya