Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Staring without seeing

little scratch by Rebecca Watson was a brilliant surprise, an unexpected one-sitting read. 

instead I think        about art galleries             (a decent diversion, no?)

I decide (without much decisiveness) I will no longer go to art galleries 
with other people                    it is too much                 having to 
give an allotted time to each painting, staring without seeing, (has this painting been given enough attention? will my companion suppose I have appreciated it now?), it's not that I don't like art, naturally, it's just, I can't like it all, and I don't have the reputation that allows me to be selective, to walk into a room and examine this one, and this one, cursory glance at the rest, shake head, and move on,

sometimes I think: art is incredible                     a popular opinion


sometime I think: what do I actually get out of it? how much more am I getting than when I see an attractive person on the tube and take the time notice each part of their outfit, clocking through, studying the fringing on their trousers, and the way they've drawn liner across their lids, before moving back to staring into nothing, what is the difference, really, truly, honestly, yes, other times this seems to me a ridiculous argument to make, one I do not agree with whatsoever, and would not condone — would frown on if someone were to make — but I cannot stand still,

Some descriptions of this book give away more of the story than others, and I don't know how to tell you about this book without spoiling the experience of the discovery of it, I can only hope you read my thoughts here and remember to look out for this title but forget all the details. It's not the kind of book I would ever feel in the mood for if someone told me what it was about. 

In short, it's a day in the life of a woman who wakes somewhat hungover and drags herself to work and you know something's not quite right, is it the night before?, is it something at work?, something simmering just beneath her foggy consciousness, and you finally work out that she's experienced a trauma, was it last night?, was it weeks ago?, and it's always there, she's trying to name it, trying to decide how much it is a part of her, how her identity stands in relationship to it, whether she should tell her boyfriend, do other women grapple with this trauma, and she stays hydrated and meets her boyfriend after work for a poetry reading and several drinks, they fuck, and he falls asleep leaving her alone with her thoughts.

It's only when I opened up the novel that I realized just how experimental it is in its format. This almost put me off, but within a couple pages I was hooked. (The bits I've quoted here are on the straightforward side.)

The text runs in two, sometimes more, "streams" down the page, the way thoughts run in parallel, or in counterpoint. It does a remarkable job of capturing the feeling of thinking many things at once, and allowing those things to come into conversation with each other, and inviting you into that dialogue too. It's incredibly immersive, even intimate.

It manages to be funny and weird and sexy and conflicted.

There's the scratch, she keeps scratching, or trying not to scratch, the backs of her legs, behind her knees. There are recurring references to eggs and potatoes.

But I didn't roll my eyes once.

                    looking at my phone notes

(filled with the sort where a thought flies into your head that suddenly you know you must record, regardless of anything, in that moment, regardless of who's there or what is balanced in your hands, it is IMPERATIVE that you record this fragment)

    (not the phone note sort where you say


    and put the title in you phone

    perhaps with the author's surname

    and come across it three months later

    try to recall its roots


    a few more months later



    no not that sort)

One reads                    firwqks sex sme thing a provess and end


at the time, it was                 a (!) revelation (!)

(when even was it?)

See also  
Audio excerpt (which I would've thought impossible to pull off, but it's quite good)  
"Moments Are Part of a Pattern": An Interview with Rebecca Watson (which references I May Destroy You, with which there is some thematic overlap)  
Review at Alt Citizen: "like VR for books"  

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