Monday, November 29, 2010

the rare thing

In the heart of each member of the family was born, nostalgic, the desire to have that tiny and indomitable thing for itself, that thing spared having been eaten, that permanent source of charity...

And she kept on enjoying her own soft laugh, she who wasn't being devoured. Not to be devoured is the most perfect feeling. Not to be devoured is the secret goal of a whole life. While she was not being eaten, her bestial laughter was as delicate as joy is delicate. The explorer was baffled.

-- Clarice Lispector, "The Smallest Woman in the World" (via)
I read the most wonderful, detonating short story this morning, by the Brazilian writer, Clarice Lispector (1920-1977).

The story seemed to instantly fill mysterious interstices of things I've been reading and thinking about - making things feel somehow spherical and whole for me. I felt a sense of clarity upon reading it. It metaphorically delineates differences between acquisitive, devouring left brain, and vulnerable, joyful, profound right. Also, I thought of Emily Dickinson, why she today, increasingly so it seems to me, is such a muselike object of great fascination and comfort. She herself, like the "smallest woman in the world" managed, in her lifetime, in her own way, to not get devoured - to live her life on her own terms, to have a whole life, free, within the infinitely capacious bounds of her small room, seated at her tiny desk (seventeen and one-half inches square). Upon reading the story, too, I thought, in glancing fashion, of how "devoured" I had felt the whole time I had worked at that city agency (and in the end "spit out" as not being to their taste).

I am struggling a bit with this post, I've just been reading McGilchrist and his ideas about the sphere, the center and circumference of things, and I feel as though I'm winding a ball of yarn, unspooling cubit lengths from a looped, folded, figure-eighted skein, pulling from the mysterious, bifurcated centers, laying down each strand, first in one direction then another on the slowly enlarging sphere that I hold in one hand, give a slight turn to within my fingers while laying on, with my other, another; another subtle turn, another strand, and another, and another, around and around, diminishing one infinity while expanding another, winding the yarn around the round soft belly of the growing, revolving, perfect sphere of wool.

Why we love E.D. so much - she didn't get devoured, and as much as we wish to have "that tiny and indomitable thing" for ourselves, we can, we surely can, in thinking about her, reading her words - we can't, in her death - or rather, in her immortality - devour her, she's within our reach and yet forever outside our grasp - Emily (every goddess, every muse, from Marilyn to Clarice to Stella the Artist) forever for us "that permanent source of charity."

It was very nice to have a tree of her own to live in.

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