Saturday, June 28, 2008

"So what should I say?"

Lighthousekeeping has been my least favorite of Jeanette Winterson's novels. The story seems forced at times, the beauty of the words doesn't blend as seamlessly into the story as in her other works. Still, it contains some of my favorite lines, one of my favorite pages from all her works:

"Why didn't Babel Dark marry Molly?
He doubted her. You must never doubt the one you love.
But they might not be telling you the truth.
Never mind that. You tell them the truth.
What do you mean?
You can't be another person's honesty, child, but you can be your own.
So what should I say?
When I love someone?
You should say it."

In another of her stories, asking 'what can kill love?', Winterson claims: "only this: neglect." Shall we say then, that doubt is a kind of neglect?

I love you. You are my beloved and your name is like water and I am thirsty. Your person is salve and I am sore. Your conversation is unguent and i am burned. Yes. this can be love.

What is neglect? To stop seeing you, to take you for granted, to let you grow dusty; to place you on my shelf of trophies and never take you down; to stop exploring your riches and to believe I can move on to my "real life" having learned you by rote.
What is doubt? To insert my fears between us; to insert myself between us, relating no longer to you but to my own projection of you; to mourn your loss before I've even won you; to tether you to a conception of 'truth' and 'honesty' which I - hypocritically - have not even begun to grow in my self.
If I doubt you, I cannot trust you; if I do not trust you, I have already turned away. Holding you at arm's length, I practice my neglect and call it 'sensible relationship'.

Can there be love without complete, unreserved, unconditional trust? I cannot imagine it. Harder still, can we say that that trust must be earned? You love someone else; you have left me; you are making a different life; we scarcely speak ... if I love you, can I doubt you?

Oh, J.W. - you've changed Kierkegaard to Pew, a blind lighthousekeeper...

I wonder whether I will admire this book now when I reread it.


maitresse said...

just bought this book today, as I'm a big fan of Winterson's and haven't read it, and am interested to see the way she riffs on the Woolfian trope of the Lighthouse...

philosophotarian said...

i'd enjoy learning your take on it when you finish