Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Right In The Middle Is Where The Truth Lies

Phyl borrowed The History of Love from Claire and liked it enough to recommend it to me, and I'm more than halfway through it and I really think it's a wonderfully written novel. As the Sunday Telegraph puts it, it is "wonderfully affecting... brilliant, touching and remarkably poised." One of the surprise better reads I've had of this genre and style of writing.

I can't help but continue quoting liberally.

Just as there was a first instant when someone rubbed two sticks together to make a spark, there was a first time joy was felt, and a first time for sadness. For a while, new feelings were being invented all the time. Desire was born early, as was regret. When stubbornness was felt for the first time, it started a chain reaction, creating the feeling of resentment on the one hand, and alienation and loneliness on the other. It might have been a certain counterclockwise movement of the hips that marked the birth of ecstasy, a bolt of lightning that caused the first feeling of awe. Contrary to logic, the feeling of surprise wasn’t born immediately. It only came after people had enough time to get used to things as they were. And when enough time had passed, and someone felt the first feeling of surprise, someone, somewhere else, felt the first pang of nostalgia.

It’s also true that sometimes people felt things and, because there was no word for them, they went unmentioned. The oldest emotion in the world may be that of being moved; but to describe it — just to name it — must have been like trying to catch something invisible.

(Then again, the oldest feeling in the world might simply have been confusion.)

Having begun to feel, people’s desire to feel grew. They wanted to feel more, feel deeper, despite how much it sometimes hurt. People became addicted to feeling. They struggled to uncover new emotions. It’s possible that this is how art was born. New kinds of joy were forged, along with new kinds of sadness. The eternal disappointment of life as it is; the relief of unexpected reprieve; the fear of dying.

Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist. There are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination. From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written, or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom, or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world. And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges, and absorbs the impact.

The next afternoon, Rosa turned up for a second meeting just as she'd promised. When she glanced at her watch and realized how late it had got they planned a third meeting, and after that it went without saying that there'd be a fourth. The fifth time they met, under the spell of Rosa's youthful spontaneity - halfway through a heated discussion about who was a greater poet, Neruda or Dario - Litvinoff surprised himself by proposing they go hear a concert together. When Rosa jumped to agree, it dawned on him that, miracle of miracles, this lovely girl might actually be developing feelings for him. It was as if someone had struck a gong in his chest. His whole body reverberated with the news.

So many words get lost. They leave the mouth and lose their courage, wandering aimlessly until they are swept into the gutter like dead leaves. On rainy days you can hear their chorus rushing past: Iwasabeautifulgirl-Pleasedon’tgoItoobelievemybodyismadeofglassI’veneverlovedanyoneI-thinkofmyselfasfunnyForgiveme…

There was a time when it wasn’t uncommon to use a piece of string to guide words that otherwise might falter on the way to their destinations. Shy people carried a bundle of string in their pockets, but people considered loudmouths had no less need for it, since those used to being overheard by everyone were often at a loss for how to make themselves heard by someone. The physical distance between two people using a string was often small; sometimes the smaller the distance, the greater the need for string.

The practice of attaching cups to the ends of string came much later. Some say it is related to the irrepressible urge to press shells to our ears, to hear the still-surviving echo of the world’s first expression. Others say it was started by a man who held the end of a string that was unraveled across the ocean by a girl who left for America.

"Let’s stand under a tree," she said.
"Because it’s nicer."
"Maybe you should sit on a chair, and I’ll stand above you, like they always do with husbands and wives."
"That’s stupid."
"Because we’re not married."
"Should we hold hands?"
"We can’t."
"Why not?"
"Because people will know."
"Know what?"
"About us."
"So what if they know?"
"It’s better when it’s a secret."

"So no one can take it from us."

Audio Candy:
I Am Ghost - The Ship Of Pills And Needed Things

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