“The flies, which ought to be in transports of joy, sound merely cross. Nothing seems to be good enough for them. For miles around they have forsaken the meager droppings of the herbivores and flown like arrows to this gory festival. Why are they not singing? Perhaps their lives from cradle to grave, so to speak, are one long ecstasy, which I mistake. Perhaps the lives of animals too are one long ecstasy interrupted only at the moment when they know with full knowledge that the knife has found their secret... Perhaps if I talked less and gave myself more to sensation I would know more of ecstasy. Perhaps, on the other hand, if I stopped talking I would fall into panic, losing my hold on the world I know best. It strikes me that I am faced with a choice that flies do not have to make.”
_In the Heart of the Country_
First, the line "Perhaps the lives of the animals too are one long ecstasy interrupted only at the moment when they know with full knowledge that the knife has found their secret" is an example of the way language hits me viscerally. Granted, the passage itself is a bit visceral, but that an animal would have a secret (joy, living now) when they do nothing but live openly, makes my brain do odd things.
Second, the simplicity of "It strikes me that I am faced with a choice that flies do not have to make" may seem over the top with simplemindedness, but in this the characterization is fabulous. The character is not simple, quite the opposite, but she is so in tune with natural rhythms that it makes complete sense that her first impulse would be to equate herself with the fly, and only the second to separate.
Ever since reading _Disgrace_ way back when in some undergraduate course, I have allowed myself the pleasure of picking up a Coetzee book as they come to me. As in, I do not go looking for them, but when they find me the excitement is palatable. I never walk away empty-handed. He teaches. More so in the older writing than new fare like _Elizabeth Costello_ (which was fine in it's own right, but not transcendent - think beach fare for thinking people who need a bit of a break from thinking. I suppose some would challenge me on this, but I’m comparing the book to other Coetzee books, not to literature in general).
While I could consume each book in turn, then I would have nothing to look forward to. I parse out those I find great in this way. Proust, Hemingway, Woolf, Stein, Plath (I’ve not read _Arial_ yet). I suppose I could think of writers more contemporary (for example I haven't yet dived into Matthea Harvey's new book either and I got it months ago), maybe Charles Simic, though nothing of his delighted me so much as _The World Doesn't End_, so he may be falling off the list.
I found _In the Heart of the Country_ in the free book bin in the library basement. The copy is 25 years old and has not held up well. The first thirty pages keep falling out.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Posted by ejcolen at 7:30 AM No comments:
Labels: coetzee, ecstasy, flies, found books, in the heart of the country, patience
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