Monday, November 30, 2009

Gut Symmetries Winterson

"Forgive me if I digress. I cannot tell you who I am unless I tell you why I am. I cannot help you to take a measurement until we both know where we stand.

This is the difficulty. Now that physics is proving the intelligence of the universe what are we to do about the stupidity of humankind? I include myself. I know that the earth is not flat but my feet are. I know that space is curved but my brain has been cordoned by habit to grow in a straight line. What I call a view is my hand-painted trompe-l'oeil. I run after knowledge like a ferret down a ferret hole. My limitations, I call the boundaries of what can be known. I interpret the world by confusing other people's psychology with my own. I say I am open-minded but what I think is."

"All children stumble over what Einstein discovered; that Time is relative. In mother-time the days had a chthonic quality, we ate, slept, drew, played, world without end, waiting without knowing we were waiting for my father to come home and snap his fingers and whisk us into the gold hour. We became aware, though I can't say how, that he was giving us four whole quarters of an hour."

"I know I am a fool, trying to make connections out of scraps but how else is there to proceed? The fragmentariness of life makes coherence suspect but to babble is a different kind of treachery. Perhaps it is a vanity. Am I vain enough to assume you will understand me? No. So I go on puzzling over new joints for words, hoping that this time, one piece will slide smooth against the next.

Walk with me. Hand in hand through the nightmare of narrative, the neat sentences secret-nailed over meaning. Meaning mewed up like an anchorite, its vision in broken pieces behind the wall. And if we pull away the panelling, then what? Without the surface, what hope of contact, of conversation? How will I come to read the rawness inside?

The story of my day, the story of my life, the story of how we met, of what happened before we met. And every story I begin to tell talks across a story I cannot tell. And if I were not telling this story to you but to someone else, would it be the same story?"

"Poor baby, passed from hand to hand like a pouch of tobacco, a fresh-faced narcotic promising hope, change, at lease for now. My family are addicted to sentimentality. If that sounds cruel it is only the cruelty of too close observation for too long. Unable to express their feelings in the normal course of days and hours they need every legitimate excuse to do so. They cannot say 'I love you' so they say 'Isn't she lovely?' 'Well done.' They can seem like bon viveurs, always a party in the offing, my mother planning a new recipe for canapes even in the act of stuffing my relatives with the ones she has just made."

"I think I was happy, in the maddening determined way that children have of being happy, and it was that happiness that worked as a magnet on both of my parents."

"My grandmother loved me because she recognised the same stubbornness that she had gened in her son. The difficulty and the dream were not separate. To pan the living clay that you are is to stand in the freezing waters and break yourself on a riddle of your own making. No one can force you to do it. No one can force you away."

"Defect of vision. Do I mean affect of vision? At the beginning of the twentieth century when Picasso, Matisse, and Cezanne were turning their faces towards a new manner of light, there was a theory spawned by science and tadpoled by certain art critics that frog-marched the picture towards the view that this new art was an optical confusion. nothing but a defect of vision. The painters were astigmatic; an abnormality of the retina that unfocuses ray s of light. That was why they could not paint realistically. They could not see that a cat is a cat is a cat.

Recently I heard the same argument advanced against El Creco. his elongations and few shortenings had nothing to do with genius, they were an eye problem.

Perhaps art is an eye problem; world apparent, world perceived.

Signs, shadows, wonders.

What you see is not what you think you see."

"Walk with me. Walk the 6,000,000,000,000 miles of travelled light, single year's journey of illumination, ship miles under the glowing keel. In the long frost the sky brightens and the rim of the earth is pierced by sharp stars. After the leaf-fall the star fall, the winter shedding of too much light. Walk the seen and unseen. What can be rendered visible and what cannot."

"Stell turned towards me and crumpled my heart in her hand.
'Do you fall in love often?'

Yes often. With a view, with a book, with a dog, a cat, with numbers, with friends, with complete strangers, with nothing at all. There are children who grow up as I did, with the love clamped down in them, who cannot afterwards love at all. There are others who make fools of themselves, loving widely, indiscreetly, forgetting it is themselves they are trying to love back to a better place."

"My mother drinks. My grandmother reads the Bible, my sisters numb themselves in excess family life. To each his own epidural. It does ease the pain but the pain persists, the dull ache, low down as though my back had been broken and not properly healed."

"Grandmother and I sat face to face over the sepulchral plastic of the breakfast bar. Common and rare, to sit face to face like this. Common that people do, rare that they understand each other. Each speaks a private language and assumes it to be the lingua franca. sometimes words dock and there is a cheer at port and cargo to unload and such relief that the voyage was worth it. 'You understand me then?'

I wanted her to understand me. I wanted to find a word, even one, that would have the same meaning for each of us. A word not bound and sealed in dictionaries of our own. 'Though I speak with tongues of men and angles but have not love...'

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