The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘limbo’


November 25, 2014 | by


John Singer Sargent, Violet Paget (Vernon Lee), 1881.

Vernon Lee—the pen name of the English writer Violet Paget—was a travel writer, novelist, musician, and critic with a strong interest in aesthetics. One of the first to bring the concept of Einfühlung, or empathy, into English criticism, she was also an outspoken follower of Walter Pater’s aestheticism. “An engaged feminist, she always dressed à la garçonne,” someone has written, amazingly, on Wikipedia. 

Lee’s work is included in any collection of Victorian ghost stories. Her work is haunting in the true sense and not merely because it deals so frequently with possession. Her stories are graceful, engaging, surprisingly strange. There are often lesbian subtexts; the supernatural was a vehicle for a writer like Lee to indirectly explore such themes.

I first came to Lee through a novella called A Phantom Lover in a collection from the 1960s. As with many of Lee’s works, the narrator is male. This one also features a woman given to cross-dressing, specifically period Elizabethan cross-dressing. A nameless painter is invited to an isolated, beautifully preserved country house to do portraits of the young squire and his wife. The latter proves to be a mysterious and somewhat perverse creature, remote and self-absorbed, utterly obsessed with the story of a long-dead ancestor. The love triangle that arises is not what one might expect: it’s far creepier. Find it if you can, and then if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to seek out the 1890s collection Hauntings. Read More »

In Limbo

July 3, 2014 | by

A photo from the German Federal Archive: a waiting room in April 1978.

Twice this week, I was stood up. In both cases there were extenuating circumstances, attempts to communicate, and sincere apologies—which I had no trouble accepting. The truth is, I didn’t mind; the truth is, I love waiting.

Good thing, because I’m writing this from the DMV, an institution that brings us as close as we can come to Limbo, now that Limbo is no more. I can’t seem to find a pattern in the numbers being called, but I have no reason to believe mine will come anytime soon. And this is profoundly relaxing.

I have a friend who has talked about “the power of being early.” This is debatable—if anything, it’s the person who keeps another waiting who wields a certain power—but it’s certainly true that, once you’re waiting, you have surrendered control, which, as any yoga teacher will tell you, is paradoxically empowering.

I am struck by how relaxed everyone is in this DMV. The air-conditioning is on high; someone else is running things; there is a pleasant feeling of solidarity. As Milton said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” And he knew a thing or two about Limbo—if not the DMV.