I am right now in the midst of Living with the Himalayan Masters. But I finished Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body and Jean-Dominique Bauby's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly last week and have some quotes that resonated with me. Bauby's memoir which was turned into the movie by Julian Schnabel had such delicacy, vividness and evocation. It's a quick read and very much worth the time and attention. I had read Winterson before (part of the myth series from Knopf) but never really delved into the rich poetic prose that I discovered in Written on the Body. Both such rich reads, enjoy the snippets.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly...
Meticulous people never go wrong: they scrupulously note down each letter and never seek to unravel the mystery of a sentence before it is complete. Nor would they dream of completing a single word for you. Unwilling to chance the smallest error, they will never take it upon themselves to provide the “room” that follows “mush,” the “ic” that follows “atom,” or the “nable” without which neither “intermi” nor “abomi” can exist. Such scrupulousness makes for laborious progress, but at least you avoid the misunderstandings which impulsive visitors bog down when they neglect to verify their intuitions. Yet I understood the poetry of such mind games one day when, attempting to ask for my glasses (lunettes), I was asked what I wanted to do with the moon (lune).
I have known gentler awakenings. When I came to that late-January morning, the hospital ophthalmologist was leaning over me and sewing my right eyelid shut with a needle and thread, just as if he were darning a sock.
Written on the Body...
You didn’t answer. Why do human beings need answers? Partly I suppose because without one, almost any one, the question itself soon sounds silly.
‘Hello Louise. I was passing so I thought I might pop in.’
Pop in. What a ridiculous phrase. What am I, a cuckoo clock?
All these jewels were escorted by amply cut grey suits and dashing spotted ties. The ties twitched when Louise walked by and the suits bulled themselves in a little. The jewels glinted their own warning at Louise’s bare throat.
I cut a slice of fruit bread. If in doubt eat. I can understand why for some people the best social worker is the fridge.
I am drowning in inevitability.
What of that other characteristic prevalent in human living things, the longing to be loved? No, it doesn’t come under the heading Reproduction. I have no desire to reproduce but I still seek out love. Reproduction. Over-polished Queen Anne style dining-room suite reduced to clear. Genuine wood. IS that what I want? The model family, two plus two in an easy home assembly kit. I don’t want a model, I want the full-scale original. I don’t want to reproduce, I want to make something entirely new.
The bolts of the collar bone undo me.
Shuttered like a fan no-one suspects your shoulder blades of wings. While you lay on your belly I kneaded the hard edges of your flight.
In the very early morning the hours have a different quality, they stretch and promise.
I’ve though a lot about death recently, the finality of it, the argument ending in mid-air. One of us hadn’t finished, why did the other one go?
What do the dead do at night? DO they come forth grinning at the wind whistling through their ribs.