Friday, March 14, 2008

On Being Blue

Flaubert directs our eyes to the room in which Emma Bovary commits her adulteries, and has the sense, so often absent in his admirers, to be content with that.

The warm room, with its discreet carpet, its grey ornaments, and its calm light, seemed made for the intimacies of passion. The curtain-rods, ending in arrows, their brass pegs, and the great balls of the fire-dogs shone suddenly when the sun came in. On the chimney between the candelabra there were two of those pink shells in which one hears the murmur of the sea if one holds them to the ear.

A muff, a glove, a stocking, the glass a lover's lips have touched, the print of a shoe in the snow: how is it that these simple objects can receive our love so well that they increase it? I answer: because they become concepts, lighter than angels, and all the more meaningful because they began as solids, while the body of the beloved, dimpled and lined by the sheeted bed, bucks, sweats, freezes, alters under us, escapes our authorities and powers, lacks every dimension, in that final moment, but the sexual, yet will not remain in the world it's been sent to, and is shortly complaining of an ache. The man with his fetish, like a baby with its blanket, has security--not the simple physical condition but the Idea itself. Those pink shells, the curtain-rods ending in arrows, the great balls of the fire-dogs: how absurd they would be in reality, how meaningless, how lacking in system, all higher connection. It's not the word made flesh we want in writing, in poetry and fiction, but the flesh made word.

On Being Blue, William Gass

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