Turning a manuscript into a book is easy getting the manuscript ready to become a book is hard.
Years later I saw a film – poignantly sad, and for me unbearably so – about a scientist who had invented a kind of total sense recorder, not just video but audio and smellio and touchio and the rest, which he set to play every afternoon in a given place a given time, for as long as the mechanism lasted. The scene he projected was that of a dozen or so young couples dancing on a terrace in the same holiday house, on the same island, where the recorder itself was kept. Then this young man comes across it while it is playing and at first is convinced he is watching a real occurrence: he sees this beautiful girl, in her slinky 1930s outfit, dancing and laughing and chattering with her friends, and he falls in love with her on the spot. Second day, same time around, he comes to the island at a slightly different time so he sees a slightly different excerpt, and still doesn’t twig and falls deeper in love. And so on and so forth for various days until he happens on a duplicate bit and realises something is wrong. But by then, of course, he is irretrievably hooked. So what does he do? He digs out the machine, fiddles with its insides until he has grasped its workings, and then sets it up in recording mode and records himself into the scene in a desperate last-ditch attempt to join the dancers. Which works, and there he stays: trapped there amongst them in a virtual dimension, forever young, forever re-enacting the same little loop of life, over and over.
Where is the pain when your pride is wounded? And why do we say that: wounded? There is no gash, no blood, not even a scratch. Which part of us hurts? The brain cells? The neurons? What, for goodness’ sake, what?
What’s that she’s fiddling with when she ought to be listening? I do believe it’s a pair of tweezers. She’s plucking the hairs off her arms. Off her arms, of all places. Not even legs or face, which is bad enough, but arms. Holy shit, what pathetic geisha behaviour – pain in order to please the male; has no one ever told her she has the right to be hairy if that’s the way she’s made?
Sickening, the way the youngest de Vibrey girl, to humour the whim of her kinky old father, is actually riding side-saddle today. Twisted round like a blooming corkscrew. Hymen be blowed, think of what it’s doing to her innards, poor wretch, think of the strain on her spine when she goes over the fences.
Shape? Does a fog have shape? Does the twilight? Does the onset of darkness?
Sabine used to maintain that preparation for a dance is comparable to what goes on in the back room of a butcher’s shop: the meat for consumption is sliced and dressed and put in nice little paper packages, ready for the kitchen.
Obscenity is a function of culture – a function in the mathematical sense, I mean, its value changing with that of the variables on which it depends.
Love is that as well, I was forgetting: it is taking a huge gamble, staking your all on a single improbable throw, jumping off a cliff and trusting an unknown person to catch you before you hit the ground.
Love is about giving, about caring for the other person’s welfare. Love is treating someone, in the Kantian sense, never as a means but as an end in themselves. Love is sacrifice, love is something you work at, something you build like a house or tend like a plant, brick by brick, drop by drop, day by day. Nonsense. Old wives’ tales, old husbands’ tales. That is affection they are talking about, that is companionship, that is charity, that is tickets for the Cancer Research Ball. You must ask the young if you want to know what love is. Only they are deep enough in it to describe. We older ones have clues and simulacra, we base our judgement, like pathologists do, on the dents and scars and sediments of hearts long kept in formaldehyde. It is the pulsing heart you want to probe: the pulsing, beating, leaping, dipping, fluttering heart of a seventeen-year-old.