Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Bit of Obssession

Beyond the future of the project, Roland was worried about his own future. He would have been in a panic if he had allowed himself to think, but the dreamy days, the pearly light alternating with the hot blue, and something else, made it possible to leave thinking in abeyance. Things did not look good. He had simply walked out on Blackadder. He had done the same to Val, who was, he considered, unforgiving and dependent in equal proportion—he would have to go back to be berated, and then how could he leave, where would he go, how should he live?

Things had changed between them nevertheless. They were children of a time and culture that mistrusted love, ‘in love,’ romantic love, romance in toto, and which nevertheless in revenge proliferated sexual language, linguistic sexuality, analysis, dissection, deconstruction, exposure. They were theoretically knowing: they knew about phallocracy and penisneid, punctuation, puncturing and penetration, about polymorphous and polysemous perversity, orality, good and bad breasts, clitoral tumescence, vesicle persecution, the fluids, the solids, the metaphors for these, the systems of desire and damage, infantile greed and oppression and transgression, the iconography of the cervix and the imagery of the expanding and contracting Body, desired, attacked, consumed, feared.
They took to silence. They touched each other without comment and without progression. A hand on a hand, a clothed arm, resting on an arm. An ankle overlapping an ankle, as they sat on a beach, and not removed.
One night they fell asleep, side by side, on Maud’s bed, where they had been sharing a glass of Calvados. He slept curled against her back, a dark comma against her pale elegant phrase.
They did not speak of this, but silently negotiated another such night. It was important to both of them that the touching should not proceed to any kind of fierceness or deliberate embrace. They felt that in some way this stately peacefulness of unacknowledged contact gave back their sense of their separate lives inside their separate skins. Speech, the kind of speech they knew, would have undone it. On days when the sea-mist closed them in a sudden milk-white cocoon with no perspectives they lay lazily together all day behind heavy white lace curtains on the white bed, not stirring, not speaking.
Neither was quite sure how much, or what, all this meant to the other.
Neither dared ask.

Roland has learned to see himself, theoretically, as a crossing-place for a number of systems, all loosely connected. He had been trained to see his idea of his ‘self’ as an illusion, to be replaced by a discontinuous machinery and electrical message-network of various desires, ideological beliefs and responses, language-forms and hormones and pheromones. Mostly he liked this. He had no desire for any strenuous Romantic self-assertion. Nor did he desire to know who Maud essentially was. But he wondered, much of the time, what their mute pleasure in each other might lead to, anything or nothing, would it just go, as it had just come, or would it change, could it change?

Byatt, A. S. Possession. New York: Vintage, 1990. 458-459. [American Edition]


Sam said...

Hey, I was in the bookstore recently and wanted to pick up a Byatt book. Is Possession a good start? What would you suggest?

Laminated Fragments said...

Yes definitely. Or if you would prefer something shorter, you could start with her collections of short stories. I would go with either the Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye of Elementals.