With each reading of Written on the Body, I grow angrier and angrier with the narrator. This adds to my anger/frustration - Winterson has deprived me of pronouns with which to easily name my heartbreak.
The narrator of the book, a nameless, ambiguously gendered someone, leaves her/his beloved, Louise, in a misguided attempt to save her life. Why did s/he not trust Louise? This is what codes the narrator as masculine (though not necessarily male) to me: it seems, to me, that the feminine response would be to absorb Louise's suffering, to refuse the 'heroic' act and do the work of brow-mopping and hair-and-hand-holding. It seems so very masculine to believe that withholding love is an expression of it.
It is this same act that codes the narrator as feminine (though not necessarily female): like the mothers before Solomon, the narrator would give up her precious beloved to someone else's care, someone inferior, someone whose 'love' is oriented away from love, if only that means the beloved might live. The narrator adopts a maternal stance in his/her misreading of the situation (it is *not* guaranteed that Elgin can actually save Louise; this is where the narrator is heartbreakingly myopic).
Of course, there is no King Solomon in this novel and Louise is no infant, the narrator no mother and Elgin - we never learn whether Elgin was telling the truth.
And so here is the humbling bit - for the narrator and for every reader who identifies with the narrator - that for Louise (and any and all of our beloveds), it might not be worth it to be saved if the salvation does not include the beloved. Can we ever believe that we might be valued so highly by the one we love? Is it selfish when we want to so believe, to be so loved?
We are not to love the beloved more than god - that is blasphemy. We are not to love the beloved more than ourselves - that is antiquated and un-feminist. We are not to love the beloved more than our career, our children, our friends, our lives. What, then, is so beloved about the beloved?
We are supposed to love properly, efficiently, moderately - no blistering-hot, full-to-the-neck baths for us, but tepid 7-minute, water-saver showers. Turn off the water when you soap and when you shave.
No bucolic bliss any longer: it is wartime and to ration our passion is a virtue. we must be economical. The heart is too precious for everyday consumption, we must enjoy our diet of corn flakes, graham flour and winter savory.
No blistering inferno, gone the dazzling sun, we've left the chemist's lab; we dare not even glance at the crucible wherein our hearts could fuse (and alchemy is so out of style) sunglasses are our most popular accessory - can I get spf3000 for my heart?
this was supposed to have been a musing about similarities between The Stone Gods and Wall-E, the new Pixar film....