Tuesday, September 21, 2010

reading Lives of Girls and Women

So remember when I said I was "working on the Munro"? I JUST finished it this afternoon. It couldn't have come at a better time, as I've been somewhat down today, about relationships and appearance and a multitude of other things that nibble at my psyche. At the end, I felt recharged and a bit readier to face life. Here are some passages (taking a page from D's blog here) I especially felt:

"When not working on the Township's business he was engaged on two projects--a history of Wawanash County and a family tree, going back to 1670, in Ireland. Nobody in our family had done anything remarkable. (...)And to Uncle Craig it seemed necessary that the names of all these people, their connections with each other, the three large dates of birth and marriage and death, or the two of birth and death if that was all that had happened to them, be discovered (...) and written down here, in order, in his own large careful handwriting. He did not ask for anybody in the family to have done anything more interesting, or scandalous (...) It was not the individual names that were important, but the whole solid, intricate structure of lives supporting us from the past."

"Being forgiven creates a peculiar shame. I felt hot, and not just from the blanket. I felt held close, stifled, as if it were not air I had to move and talk through in this world but something thick as cotton. (...)I was caught in a vision which was, in a way, the very opposite of the mystic's incommunicable vision or order and light; a vision, also incommunicable, of confusion and obscenity--of helplessness, which was revealed as the most obscene thing there could be. But like the other kind of vision this could not be supported more than a moment or two, it collapsed of its own intensity and could never be reconstructed or even really believed in, once it was over."

"I myself was not so different from my mother, but concealed it, knowing what dangers there were."

"Seeing somebody have faith, close up, is no easier than seeing someone chop a finger off."

"My love did not of course melt away altogether as the season changed. My daydreams continued, but were derived from the past. They had nothing new to feed on. And the change of season did make a difference. It seemed to me that winter was the time for love, not spring. In winter the habitable world was so much contracted; out of that little shut-in space we lived in, fantastic hopes might bloom. But spring revealed the ordinary geography of the place (...) Spring revealed distances, exactly as they were.

"Disgust did not rule out enjoyment, in my thoughts; indeed they were inseparable."

"But I hope you will--use your brains. Use your brains. Don't be distracted. Once you make that mistake of being--distracted, over a man, your life will never be your own."

"Also I felt it was not so different from all the other advice handed out to women, to girls, advice that assumed being female made you damageable, that a certain amount of carefulness and solemn fuss and self-protection were called for, whereas men were supposed to be able to go out and take on all kinds of experiences and shuck off what they didn't want and come back proud. Without even thinking about it, I had decided to do the same.

"I didn't get really fat, just large enough, solid enough, that I loved to read books where the heroine's generous proportions were tenderly, erotically described, and was worried by books where desirable women were always slim."

"I knew it had been a mistake stopping the car, coming inside. My happiness was leaking away and, though I drank more and hoped it would come back, I only felt bloated, thick in the body, particularly in the fingers and toes."

"I took his judgment like a soldier, because I did not believe it. That is, I knew it was all true, but I still felt powerful enough, in areas that I thought he could not see, where his ways of judging could not reach.The gymnastics of his mind I did not admire, for people only admire abilities similar to, though greater than, their own. His ind to me was like a circus tent full of dim apparatus on which, when I was not there, he performed stunts which were spectacular and boring. I was careful not to let him see I thought this. He was truthful in telling me what he thought about me, apparently; I had no intention of being so with him. Why not? Because I felt in him what women feel in men, something so tender, swollen, tyrannical, absurd; I would never take the consequences of interfering with it: I had an indifference, a contempt almost, that I concealed from him."

"Then turning my back I pulled off everything I had on--he did not help or touch me, and I was glad--and lay down on the bed.
I felt absurd and dazzling."

"Nothing that could be said by us would bring us together; words were our enemies. What we knew about each other was only going to be confused by them. This was the knowledge that is spoken of as 'only sex' or 'physical attraction.' I was surprised, when I thought about it--am surprised still--at the light, even disparaging tone that is taken, as if this was something that could be found easily, every day."

"'You will have to do what you want,' she said bitterly.
But was that so easy to know? (...) I was free and I was not free."

"...and after some time I felt a mild, sensible gratitude for these printed words, these strange possibilities. Cities existed; (..) the future could be furnished without love or scholarships. Now at last without fantasies or self-deception, cut off from the mistakes and confusion of the past, grave and simple (...) I supposed I would get started on my real life."

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