Friday, May 11, 2007

not my own words, but close enough

So there's been kind of a lack of posting lately... Life proceeds apace, but nothing too noteworthy has happened, at least that I can think of right now.
I'm reading Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body right now. It's oddly beautiful, a little schizophrenic, and entirely intriguing. There's not a whole lot of plot (my favorite type of book!), but basically just this person (gender unstated) talking about this relationship with a married woman, continuously interrupted by mostly comedic digressions about past lovers or virtual reality or whatever. But it's all about love and desire and bodies and hearts, and there are many beautiful things said.
"Articulacy of fingers, the language of the deaf and dumb, signing on the body body longing. Who taught you to write in blood on my back? Who taught you to use your hands as branding irons? You have scored your name into my shoulders, referencing me with your mark. The pads of your fingers have become printing blocks, you tap your message on to my skin, tap meaning into my body. Your morse code interfers with my heart beat. I had a steady heart before I met you, I relied upon it, it had seen active service and grown strong. Now you alter its pace with your own rhythm, you play upon me, drumming me taut."
There is also a lot to be said perhaps about the usage of language. The semantics of what is said and what is not seem very important.
"...I mumbled something about yes as usual but things had changed. THINGS HAD CHANGED, what an arsehole comment, I had changed things. Things don't change, they're not like the seasons moving on a diurnal round. People change things. There are victims of change but not victims of things. Why do I collude with this mis-use of language?"
The back of the book points out that the narrator is gender ambiguous, but as I read I am noticing that many, many books probably have unintentionally gender ambiguous narrators, at least for a while. All you really have to do is take out any reference to a name, and it's pretty much done. However, I think I'm ending up reading the narrator as male because of a lack of female signifiers. In real life, in studies anyway, people assume someone is male until they can see or otherwise sense a certain number of traditionally female traits, like long hair or painted nails or breasts or whatever. I suppose it makes sense that the same things would happen in print. I guess that says something about the way our brains process details maybe.


anna pulley said...

it's beautiful, i agree, but did you get a little tired of the language after a while? about halfway through, i found myself saying (aloud sometimes) "yeah, we get it. you love her. great, but can we move on?" especially during those "body" chapters...

ammie said...

I actually do totally agree with you. Or maybe only partially... I appreciated the absolutely cloying obsessiveness of the "body" chapters, because I felt like it was kind of a nice literary version of what I sometimes feel like when I miss something. But at the same time, I was just kind of annoyed and bored by the end. It was one of those books where I loved the first half or so (there are a lot of these) but could really have done without most of the second.

ammie said...

Incidentally, I believe I was at the less-than-halfway point when I wrote this entry, which is why I didn't already say this :)