Friday, 26 February 2010

Ghosts, to have or to be, and some weighty bricolage

To have, to hold, to posses, avoir, habere, avere…

Avoir du pois, a kind of weight so named to distinguish it from the Troy weight and so it starts…

Just read The Penelopiad in which Margaret Atwood’s revisionist mythology effectively deals with the dreadful Helen’s narcissism. When speaking to poor old Pen of the waiting game, Helen says:

You wouldn’t have any idea of how exhausting it is, having such vast numbers of men quarrelling over you, year after year. Divine beauty is such a burden. A least you’ve been spared that!’

(I like Penelope’s character; she’s pissed off with the neutrality of the Asphodel Fields, preferring to discourse with spirits in the darker grottoes.)

Then I pick up Elizabeth Grosz to read, ‘The narcissistic woman is described as vain, shallow, skilled in artifice, but above all, she is bound up with the desire to be loved. What threatens her most is the loss of love.' Bugger.

Where does that leave us all in our quest for love? Devoted to the masquerade apparently, seeking impossible, imaginary tests of love, tied inextricably to the ghosts of a pre-oedipal past.

Because the love we wish to return to is no longer available to us in the way we might wish – the safety and nurture of the womb - we reach a market economy of demand outstripping supply. Poor exhausted mother, never ceasing to produce; she produces in her offspring feelings that were planted with the sound of her voice and her body even before they were born.

The single most important sound in the world to each and every one of us comes from our mothers. Whether or not we like it, whether or not they abandon us, whether or not they praise or censure us, it was always there from the beginning and it is back to there we want to go. They are our strength and our weakness.

This is all getting a bit serious so bugger Lacan – (well it gets the penis closer to the phallus – cuts out the middle (wo)man) – let’s have some fun.

This is the wonderful Mme Deinsac, an 1835 steel engraving, current market value: 35 euro. Current emotional value: priceless.

I love this picture. I bought it on a day trip to France with some friends when I was feeling as pissed off as Mme Deinsac looks. We went into a bricolage where I saw this bookplate and laughed out loud – she so mirrored the way I was feeling she came home with me. Who or whatever pissed off Mme Deinsac did a pretty good job and I’m really sorry the world dealt her such a bad deal but her expression is so interesting, staring accusingly straight at you, Atwood’s Helen would be a poor competitor.

This brings us nicely to this podcast of Stephen Vizinczey (who studied under Lukacs) talking this morning about his 1965 novel, In Praise of Older Women - nicely resurrected by the BCC’s strategic marketing targeted at the affluent greys:

Well it could only be this, the song that sparked the thought, that set the mood, that was nicked from a friend...

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