Wednesday, July 7, 2010

From Anthropology of Water

Almost done with Anne Carson's Plainwater.  I don't love it the way I was immediately taken with Autobiography of Red - I find it harder to digest and I've had to read it slowly and reread several times in order for certain things to sink in.  However, as always, Carson manages to take my breath away with certain turns of phrases, sentiments, analogies.  For the most part, I found that I'm most loving her last essay "Anthropology of Water" and so the quotes I'm about to post are all from there (and mostly from the section titled "Just for the Thrill").

Love is a story that tells itself... I found the kinship between a man and a woman can be a steep, whole, excellent and full of languages.  Yet it may have no speech.
- [pg. 190]

The man who named my narrow bed was a quiet person, but he had good questions.  "I suppose you do love me, in your way," I said to him one night close to dawn when we lay on the narrow bed.  "And how else should I love you -- in your way?" he asked.  I am still thinking about that.
- [pg. 191]

Well language lives in alteration, here I am.  Take two-measure words and press them together like lips of a wound.  Emperor, concubine, fire, paper.  Love too much, love at all.
- [pg. 194]

Enlightenment is not a place, no use rushing to get there.
- [pg. 202]

He looked at the tree and the saw and the ax.  It was something perfectly quiet.  "I didn't think you could do that," he said.  Perfectly quiet.  His hands hanging down.  The tiny ticking kitchen.  The snow-dark morning.  It was draining from him into me.  I had killed him.
- [pgs. 205-206]

The emperor is instructing me in the ten radicals that are the basis of the largest number of words in classical Chinese.  These more important radicals, arranged in the order of their use, are.  Water.  Grass.  Wood.  Heart.  Man.  Hand.  Silk.  Wood.  Advance or Go.  Mouth.  I am wondering why, if he wanted to make love, he paused for tea at all.  The ten most prominent radicals appear in 1,090 words.  Observe the interests suggested by them.  The mere fact that the heart is the basis of one hundred words in a vocabulary of three thousand, he continues, indicates a high degree of moral interest.
- [ pg. 207]

The brush starts out rich and black but gradually dries, until the bristles are moving separately and leaving areas of white exposed to view like sudden bones.
- [pg. 218]

Love comes hungering along the canyon.  It will give you pleasure if you believe it.
- [pg. 221]

I lived blank for many years.  And I learned two things.  Enlightenment is useless and nothing replaces the sting of love, for good or ill.
- [pg. 221]

Well enlightenment is uselss but I find interesting the distinction anthropologists make between an emic and an etic point of view.  Emic has to do with the perspective of a member of the society itself and etic is the point of view of an outsider seeing the society in his own terms.  Lovers - correct me if I'm wrong - insist on bringing the two perspectives together, a sort of double exposure.  To draw into the very inside of my heart the limit that was supposed to mark it on the outside, your strangeness.  But keep it strange.  Those three things.
- [pg. 223]

Life is points on a journey, it seems generally agreed.  Between the apriorities howl strong winds.  Yet the traveler, once in a long while, comes to a place he is sure, without a doubt in his mind, never having seen it before, is the one he was seeking.  He enters.  At first everything inside is so saturated with strangeness it is hard to breathe - but look now: already it is drying from the edges like rainwater in the March wind and he will in fact never after be able to recover that blankness in which he saw it first, the surgery of first look.  That moment of pure anthropology.
- [pg. 224]

Statistics show that woman dream of their fathers 40 percent more frequently than men.  Why not, yes oh why not.  Also that during all sleep states a notably higher degree of hemispheric coherence is demonstrated by female brains than by male.  Why not take all of me.  Neurologists remain uncertain what to do with this data, obtained by accident during experiments with insomniacs.  Take my arms I won't use them, why not oh why not yes why not, take all of me.
- [ pg. 227-228]

Men know almost nothing about desire, they think it has to do with sexual activity or can be discharged that way.  But sex is a substitute, like money or language.  Sometimes I just want to stop seeing.
- [ pg. 228]

It was order that obsessed him and when he began to lose his mind he suffered from this.  He would spend all day making lists, lists dropped form his clothing everywhere he moved.  Late one evening I picked up a book he had been reading.  On the top of the page in pencil, TURN OUT THE LIGHT.  He was always a forceful writer.  The letters had embossed themselves through three pages underneath.
- [pg. 230]

Time has a gender; I suppose you know this.  For example, the first afternoons of a love affair are some of teh longest time in a woman's life.  If there is a telephone in the room, it is better not to look at it.  But even so, you will have a growing sense of the hours of his afternoon running parallel to your own like a videotape on another channel, and feel them slowly rising up, building up, piling up, one by one until seems at last they are all balanced there at the top of the light well and ready to drop - straight down wide open to the night.
- [ pgs. 231-232]

Well every person has a wall to go to, every person has heart valves to cure in the cold night air.  But you know none of us is pure.  You know the anger that language shelters, that love obeys.  Those three things.  Why obey.
- [pg. 233]

It is easier to tell a story of how people wound one another than of what binds them together.  Be careful of this storyteller's tendency to replace precise separate lines with fast daubs of ink.  I know hot to fool your mind so that your eye accepts what it did not see.  A curtain of wash is not a desert.  Where ink bleeds into paper is not an act of love, and yet it is.  See.
- [pg. 234]

15 pages left to read.  Back when I'm done.

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