Saturday, October 21, 2017

The simple moistness of the thing

Reading The Passion According to G.H. (Clarice Lispector) is an exhausting, but thoroughly rewarding, experience. I'm not sure I can maintain this slow pace. I build momentum, and start to zip along, then remind myself to stop and think. Then I reread, and absorb. What am I absorbing, though? Cockroach guts?

I've tried to summarize this book, or the experience of it, to a few people. It goes like this:

It's about a woman, an artist, who comes face to face with a cockroach. Eye to eye. Just that, really. A hundred pages in and maybe an hour has passed, maybe mere minutes, or less. She goes into the maid's room (who resigned the day previously), and the room is bright and dry and pristine white (except for the weird cave painting on the wall). But there in the wardrobe is a cockroach. And it petrifies G.H. And she tries to slam the door on it, but that only results in the white mucous spurting out. And then she confronts it.

And I'm on tenterhooks.

Will G.H. finally succeed in killing it? Will she forgive it, have mercy on it? Will she become it?

What the fuck is this about anyway? Is it about G.H. coming to terms with her classism or racism? Is there an element of lesbianism and/or homophobia vis-à-vis her relationship with the maid? Is it about getting in touch with her emotions? Her sexuality or sexual passion? Her primal being? (The language is startlingly erotic.)

Is it about fertility? What about fertility as creativity, as an artist? There is timelessness in being — the roach's being — but also in art. Is she pregnant?

And what about religious passion? Where's god in all this? (The language is startlingly religious, too.) Are we driving at some cosmic oneness? What transcendence is this?!
I don't want to feel directly in my very delicate mouth the salt in the eyes of the roach, because, my mother, I had been used to the sogginess of its layers and not the simple moistness of the thing.

Even the beauty of salt and the beauty of tears I would have to abandon. Even that, since what I saw predated humanity.
Is this about death? Does she die? (No, she can't die, she's relaying all this the next day.) Does the cockroach die?

What does this book give me? Every page has quotable aha phrases, but do they bring me anything new, anything I've not already internalizedin my life? Then why do I love this book so much?

Of all the books, this is the book I don't want to end. I started reading this book last February, I could easily devour it in an evening, but I deliberately prolong it, something tells me it's better this way, how long can I make it last?

The way it slows down time. The way it instills mindfulness, in a pre-bullshitty-coopted-by-yoga-culture way. [Maybe because I am witness to a slow parade of large black ants across my kitchen, one ant per day, each larger than the last. I kill them all, but I grow tired of my Sisyphean role. The book came before the ants, though.]

I'm halfway. I don't think I can hold myself back any longer. "Transcending is an exit." Everything becomes nameless.

This is gripping existential drama unfolding in slow motion! Feel the horror!

"Freedom is a secret."

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