Friday, January 05, 2018

A great many things were dead

This morning it was -34°C with the windchill. Harsh, blowing snow. Tomorrow will be no better.

It's winter.

I'll be spending the weekend indoors reading, I think. What could be more appropriate than Winter, by Ali Smith.

It starts like this:
God was dead: to begin with.

And romance was dead. Chivalry was dead. Poetry, the novel, painting, they were all dead, and art was dead. Theatre and cinema were both dead. Literature was dead. The book was dead. Modernism, postmodernism, realism and surrealism were all dead. Jazz was dead, pop music, disco, rap, classical music, dead. Culture was dead. Decency, society, family values were dead. The past was dead. History was dead. The welfare state was dead. Politics was dead. Democracy was dead. Communism, fascism, neoliberalism, capitalism, all dead, and marxism, dead, feminism, also dead. Political correctness, dead. Racism was dead. Religion was dead. Thought was dead. Hope was dead. Truth and fiction were both dead. The media was dead. The internet was dead. Twitter, instagram, facebook, google, dead.

Love was dead.

Death was dead.

A great many things were dead. Some, though, weren't, or weren't dead yet.

Life wasn't yet dead. Revolution wasn't dead. Racial equality wasn't dead. Hatred wasn't dead.

But the computer? Dead. TV? Dead. Radio? Dead. Mobiles were dead. Batteries were dead. Marriages were dead, sex lives were dead, conversation was dead. Leaves were dead. Flowers were dead, dead in their water.

Imagine being haunted by the ghosts of all these dead things. Imagine being haunted by the ghost of a flower. No, imagine being haunted (if there were such a thing as being haunted, rather than just neurosis or psychosis) by the ghost (if there were such a thing as ghosts, rather than just imagination) of a flower.

Ghosts themselves weren't dead, not exactly. Instead the following questions came up:
      are ghosts dead
      are ghosts dead or alive
      are ghosts deadly

but in any case forget ghosts, put them out of your mind because this isn't a ghost story, though it's the dead of winter when it happens, a bright sunny post-millennial global-warming Christmas (Christmas, too, dead) and it's about real things really happening in the real world involving real people in real time on the real earth (uh huh, earth, also dead).
I'm not entirely sure what to make of this opening.

Of all the things listed as dead, I'd argue that twitter, instagram, and mobiles (at least in their smart incarnations) are not, though they are losing relevance quickly. And racism, not dead. (The rest I won't take issue with.) I assumed a current-day setting, but perhaps this list intends to nudge the timeframe slightly ahead.

Or dead is meant allegorically. Dead inside.

Dead of winter.

1 comment:

Teresa said...

That is an interesting opening. I wonder if it is more of a metaphorical death. Autumn was set in the present, so I assumed the other books in the quartet would be, too.