Daughter: So what? People don’t want to read all of that. Don’t want to scroll all day long. Just get to the point.
My daughter’s been telling me this for ages. I won’t say how long because I feel embarrassed to admit how resistant I was to her critique. I thought every word on my website had its justification and I thought my website was better than many I had browsed. But she insisted: it was crap. She hated the colour of the background. ‘Keep it simple, mum!’ She found the texts too high-brow and long-winded. She hated my book covers. Somewhere in me a voice was saying, what do you care, she’s not your target audience anyway. Somewhere else another voice was saying: she may have a point. Step one, treat yourself to a professional cover designer. Step two, it’s a website, not a novel. To cut a long story short, my daughter won. And do you know what? I’m glad she did.
Chewing this over with my teenage daughter over breakfast one morning. I speak English, she answers in French:
Me: can ideas exist forever? Her:yes, of course they can. Me: why? Her: because. Me: that’s not an answer. Her: if an idea has been thought, it exists. Me: so you mean every idea that has ever been thought, exists? Her: yes, because someone will still know they exist. Me: what about ideas that have never been written down, ideas that have been forgotten? Let’s say I have an idea but don’t tell anyone about it or write it down, and then I forget it, does it still exist? Her: it still exists. Me:but how can my idea exist if I’ve forgotten it? Her: you’re so self-centered (she says nombriliste in French, nombril being my belly button…). An idea doesn’t need you to exist! An idea doesn’t need me to exist… all my ruminations on fiction and reality annihilated in an axiomatic instant. It takes me some time to recover. I stare at my daughter, who returns the gaze and notches it up one as if to say: wot you staring at? Me: so, ideas don’t… need… us… to exist… would you say God is an immortal idea? Her: yes. God is an immortal idea. And ideas don’t need you to continue to exist. She keeps staring at me staring at her staring at me. How comes she finds (so) easy what I find (so) hard?
Reader (talking about Mut@tus): The best stories always come from the heart and have a way of connecting with people who read them and think, “I’ve been there. I know what that feels like.”
Me: That’s precisely why I started writing this type of fiction. Somehow the topic of conversation always returned to our bodies, our bodies as battlefields, as a medium for negotiating and occupying social space. So often we reached a point in the conversation where we concluded: ‘we could never say that in public!’ And I thought: why not? We’d laugh, cry (if we had to), then get back to our day-to-day, slipping into a persona that didn’t quite fit, one which made us break out into a rash in places others couldn’t see. When I write, I scratch my itches in public. Without shame. Without a grudge. Without airs and graces. Only a deluded writer fails to recognize that experiences unique to her can be of little interest or benefit to anyone else. Style is another matter.
sucette.du67@… (reading): 26.01.04 (Re:Virtuality and Distance; 09.11.—) Falling from Heaven. Having –
GinImE@…: Let me do this…
sucette.du67@…: You just –
GinImE@…: Please… (takes the sheets from sucette.du67@… Hesitates. Tries to bring some control back to her face):
Having re-read your comments on virtuality and distance, and with the benefit of hindsight regarding the way our friendship has evolved… (Gulp… suppressed smile…) I would like to air… and share a few of my reflections with you. (Pause) If I ramble on a bit, forgive me, I am just thinking out loud: this is not an exam and I don’t have a deadline to meet. As one of my Professors quoted to me the other day ‘I’m sorry this letter is so long; I didn’t have the time to write a short one’. (Ladies chuckle. Sucette.du67@… gives Gini’s leg a squeeze)
I am familiar with the value we have conferred upon the natural sciences, thereby elevating the corresponding methodology to our (apparently) most reliable instrument of measurement even for the human sciences (e.g. quantitative analysis, positivism, etc). Piaget’s developmental theories, for example, and even Bowlby’s attachment theory, which he claims has antecedents in biology and ethology, all lean heavily on the natural sciences (to name two influential 20th century human scientists), as does, rather persistently, much psychological research today. If you look at it historically, psychology grew out of the natural sciences, and the social sciences out of psychology. It is no wonder, then, that early human science abounds with references to and analogies between human development and its interaction or adaptation, as an organism, to its environment. But, if we are going to stay with this picture, organisms do not remain constant; they grow, they adapt to new requirements. As such, you could say that modern human science, or social science, is the grandchild of the natural science paradigms reigning up to the late 19th century.
noluckwiththefu@…: Give it to im!
GinImE@…: When have grandchildren and grandparents ever seen eye to eye?
The weak link, as far as I am concerned, in your argumentation, is the misrecognition of the historical (i.e. social, cultural, political etc) factor in the shaping of human knowledge. Further, a – permit me to call it such – ‘positivist’ attitude oversimplifies the wonder of the human mind.
Whilst the human individual may well be regarded as an organism in conjunction with her environment,
which is still the message behind the newer human sciences, I am not convinced that this originally biological analogy sits as well as it should when transposed to the human mind. The interaction, or touching, as you say, of two individual human minds is always mediated by the individual cultural environments of the participants. In other words, the socio-political, and therefore historical dimension, is crucial to the interaction, giving it a dimension not immediately evident for a purely natural (as opposed to a socio-psychological) phenomenon, even if we concede that the environment for the human comprises the historical context as ‘natural habitat’.
kissmy@… behind her hand to noluckwiththefu@…: Don’t understand a word but it sounds good.
noluckwiththefu@…: Shut the fuck up!
GinImE@...: The human mind cannot be dissected, cannot be classified like a frog, an insect, or even the human body. All human knowledge is at the mercy of whatever theory is currently popular, or at the very least, our theories are limited by our current state of knowledge. Freud has largely been dethroned. Piaget has been ousted. Bowlby defamed; and although he uses the ethological mantel to give his view the seal of credibility, closer inspection, corroborated by the lack of empirical or biological foundations for his major issues (monotropism as the source of good infant mental health), exposes his ‘theory’ for what it is, namely folk knowledge with an extra portion of chauvinism which should certainly not have held currency for so long. And as I don’t believe in coincidence, I do not regard it as one that Bowlby’s views became so popular after the War during which women enjoyed considerable social and political freedom in the absence of their men, and which Bowlby’s theory ‘incidentally’ puts an end to. Vygotskian theory on the cultural contingency of human development, being one of the most recent insights that the discipline has to offer, is still quite popular, although here, too, critique is gathering. And it is interesting to note that Vygotskian theory sparked off a whole new school of thought in the West from the 70s onwards simply because his writings had not been translated before. Historically, however, he is Piaget’s peer, and appears to have been familiar with Piaget’s work. If his writings had been available at the same time, he probably would have been debunked as well by now… I’m oversimplifying drastically. If you’re interested, just google them.
I had strong reservations about the application of natural science paradigms to the human sciences whilst working my way towards my first postgraduate degree, but couldn’t be bothered to get into a methodological debate with the university as I was probably not betitled enough to be taken seriously as a co-thinker. You and I can meet on a more equal footing, and I don’t feel afraid to say what I think even if you then rip my argument to shreds.
Although I am glad…
although I… am glad… for every opportunity to learn something new, I also think that you understood my original statement — that our relationship was not purely virtual, but, at least for me, very real — in the vein in which it was meant.
It was an expression…
(Pause. Eyes closed)
…of the closeness I felt to you; of my – as I now understand – erroneous sense of our ‘touching’ in a very essential, ‘cellular’ way, beyond the words — the linguistic particles — being ‘hit’ between the two of us.
(Deep breath. Proud smile. babygirl@… comes to sit at Gini’s feet)
That you choose to point out to me my error, and in such depth, is very telling…
(Deep breath. The sheets tremolo)
It tells me that I view our relationship differently (although a day earlier you write: ‘our relationship goes far beyond any physical barrier, because is based on intellectual and emotive elements that have no boundaries. And is because you have an instinctive sensitiveness towards my waves also). It hints at your possible fear of getting your hands ‘dirty’:
(Sistahs nod, make consenting vocalisations)
we do not, cannot ‘touch’, is your philosophy (though you wish to experience my flesh upon yours, your flesh within mine… you want to ‘mould’ me with your hands… virtually, of course…).
(Snorts of solidarity. babygirl@…’s head on Gini’s lap)
You are nothing but a ‘ghost’, you insist, and I should not invest you with more life than that. You tell me you want to see the naked me, yet when I stand before you in all my nudity, in all my intensity, you take fright, tell me I fly too high; beg me, in a manner of speaking, to put my clothes back on.
What am I to make of such inconsistency? I refrain from calling you a hypocrite, as I refrain from calling you a coward. What am I to call you, Maurice? If ‘nature’ were as inconsistent as this, we would have long ceased to use it as a reliable yardstick, don’t you think?
Could it be that ‘nature’, ‘science’, like language, like feelings — like love — amounts to more than the sum of its visible individual constituents? Is more than what we may ever ostensibly ‘know’? If it were that ‘simple’, let me say (as an overambitious layperson), we would have the answers to most of our questions, I would imagine, though we evidently do not (or do you take issue with the greatest thinkers who admit, at the end of the day, that we ‘know’ nothing…?).
(Puts her hand on her chest, just so briefly. Anger flicks across her face)
You pick at my innocent statement in a process of Jesuitical casuistry, so I feel obliged to react. My language, and certainly, my feelings, are not to be viewed with the cool eye of science, but with the warm heart… of an artist.
(sucette.du67@… gets Gini to place her head on her shoulder. She runs her hand across Gini’s forehead, repeatedly, for the rest. Gini gives her a nod as if to say, it’s ok, I’ll manage)
To boil down my meaning – or language generally- to a mere swinging of particles is to do it a severe injustice. If this is the stance you adopt, then, in a very ‘real’ sense, you and I shall never ‘touch’.
Take your gloves off, Maurice, if you have the courage to do so. Dive in and get your hands dirty.
(Breathes out slowly, so so slowly, eyes closed)
Fall from heaven… Let go of what you know, but keep your faith; it is the only way to live.
PS: I have to smile; do you sculpt with gloves on, or do you only wear them for me? Do not get me wrong. I am not angry; I simply wonder… and wait…
PPS: Is not Science but Art by its other name; principled expositions of the hungry, the humbled mind genuflecting before its god?
Extenuated pause. babygirl@… opens the St Emilion. The plopping of the cork –
punctuates the harsh silence. Everyone gets a glass.
GinImE@...: OK. This last one’s called ‘Anniversary’.
I shouldn’t have, so it serves me right and I have no right to be disappointed not to find a message from you today. You’ll have other things to do, won’t you: presents to open, a dutiful wife to kiss and say thank you to. And others, no doubt. But not me.
I wish I had never met you.
(kissmy@…squeezes in behind Gini. Finds a place for her legs on either side, so that Gini may prop herself up in the bed of her girlfriend’s groin. Her right hand soothes Gini’s chest, just below her breasts)
That you had left me sleeping. But you, you pushed and pushed until I let you in.
Now you don’t want to stay, having fed your eyes to their fill.
Now I have to get over it, I suppose. Now… I should… n I will…
(Eyes closed. Head back. Exhale…)
I don’t even want to write to you anymore, yet I know of no other way to wash myself clean from your reach.
From your memory.
(noluckwiththefu@…’s hand rubs the pain away from Gini’s other thigh, but first, she bows, squeezes Gini’s shoulder. Gives it a kiss)
The recollection of you trails me like a wailing child. Or am I that child, wailing, arms outstretched and waiting for you to scoop me up…
and soothe me. I have no idea. No idea…
Certainty’s bounced off down the road like a bright rubber ball I tried to hold on to too tightly. I can only run after it with my eyes,
with my heart,
but my feet are not obeying and they won’t budge, no sir. They’re staying put.
(Pause. Change of tone. She sounds apologetic)
Maybe because they want to be here to greet you when you suddenly show up again. If ever you… Maybe they’re just plain scared of another wrong move, so refuse to move at all, like the hare frozen in the glare of headlights on a dark country lane. The only thing that never stops moving is my mind. Picking and sorting
and sifting and
reconstructing its way through the minutiae of our brief, our blinding, history; trying to get its fingers round the wrong movements; my wrong
my nimble African fingers picking out the bad grains in my bowl.
(The rest is read by heart as the sheets sprinkle to the floor)
So when I wake up, it is with the demeanour of one who has just finished hard labour, though the whole long day yawns in my face like a disinterested listener.
Again and again, I ask myself: have I had to pay too high a price for this ‘love’? Again and again, the reply laps at my feet and recedes with a sigh, with a
Erotic Diva Blakely Bennett had me on her site in the autumn:
What genre is your book? Do you write in other genres as well?
My books have been classified as women’s fiction, post-colonial fiction, British fiction. Adult fiction. Verses Nature won’t be easy to classify. I don’t mind as long as it ends up in the top ten (lol). Verses Nature has, as an overall theme, and in common with all of my fiction, the notion of self-interrogation and growth. It’s about carving out space for personal development. This can’t be done without also coming to terms with one’s sexuality – I know, I’ve tried! Sexuality, thus, plays a significant role in all my fiction. Doesn’t mean I write what generally goes as erotica, though. I don’t. I once tried to get a man to understand what I meant by the term intellectual erotica. When he still couldn’t get it, and I was at the end of my tether, I barked ‘high-brow rumpy-dumpy!’ He got it.
One of the main characters in Verses Nature is an old man called Tatar. Outspoken, verging on the vulgar. He’ll say:
Men shouldn’t assist at childbirth if you ask me. She’ll be screaming, farting, crapping, saying vile things to and about you and you, idiot, are sposed to just stand there saying Yes darling as you squeeze her hand or mop her friggin brow? Then there’s the pushing and gushing and out it plops as from a sewer. Puts a man off for life. You’ll never really want to be in there again, But we’re not allowed to say that about wifey, are we?
He’s full of tips: You should get Him not to wash for a while so he stinks of man, then you give him a royal blow job, he’ll spray like a whale, I swear.
Miss Virginia Mendes stumbles from the bourgeois bliss of her brittle marriage into the world of virtual romance, convinced that He must be out there, somewhere. Finding instead…
14.01.— Discovery 13:39:28+0100(CET)
I am a woman of my word.
When you send me one of your delicious lines, your sensual reveries, they touch something deep in the centre of me behind my navel. The heat spreads slowly. I think of sunrise. Of a sleepy beast, stirring. At the same time, my nipples, my clitoris, light up like a match. I burn, four hearts pulsating at different rhythms, at different points in my body: my nipples, my heart, my belly, my sex.
My heart is the fastest, fanned by my short, choppy breath. My nipples: throb sonorously, slowly, more than sexual, suffusing me with a gratification I recall from breastfeeding. A rhythmic, timeless tug. My sex tingles, beats like the excited heart of a child about to do something daring. I can’t wait. Desire lubricates me. I want to touch. To savour my own ripeness but I abstain. Pressing myself, hard, against the chair, I imagine it is your hand, your knee, your nose. I lift my skirt, open my legs, which part, making the sound of a kiss… In my mind, I knit your hair with my fingers as you drink me, as you bury into me with the different parts of your body as I squeeze my buttocks together, my rotating hips in barely perceptible movements.
My orgasm starts with my breasts. With a quick series of contractions, pushing down my body, like swallowing; the sensation ejaculating through me in little waterfalls. That my breasts may come alive like this is a revelation. They are not my favourite part of me. I learn, now, to acknowledge them; to take pleasure in the pleasure they give.
Sometimes my orgasm ends here, in my breasts, burnt out before descending further. On other occasions, it continues its galloping downwards so that when I erupt, I feel like a fruit that has been squashed in the palm of your hand, juice spitting everywhere. And then there are those times I feel as if the floor beneath me has suddenly disappeared; I fly, pulverised into millions of particles. Hours it will take, before I may bring them all back together again; before I may ‘collect’ myself.
My most familiar sexual part of me, my least understood. Strange, that, in the absence of touch, energy and fantasy suffice to make me come alive. Woken up from a long winter sleep — and I’m starving! When my sex comes alive, shows her head, the tantalising warmth she releases spills down my legs. It becomes impossible for me to sit still. The slightest movement magnifies my excitement. I feel how the folds of my flesh fill with liquid desire. I know that if I put my hands there, tease back the lips, my fingers may drown, may slide around on quivering pink flesh. They may dive and probe the ridges of my inner walls. Resurface, stroke the inside of my thighs and be drawn by the obsidian throb of my clitoris. If you touch her, breeze across her, surreptitiously, she will flick a shudder through me like a whip. Do not touch her for too long. Tease her and keep her waiting. Therein lies the secret. What we both prefer is a slow, merciless rise to ecstasy. So when you excite me with your words and my desire is stirred, I do not force her; I let her dance, for I know that patience is all I need to discover the secrets of joy…
Do not misunderstand me. I can be more than satisfied without reaching a climax. An orgasm is not the hallmark of a successful sexual experience. Not for me, at least. Misrecognition of this has caused much unhappiness. When forced to an orgasm, I feel more frustrated than before. Duty, so-called, having been done, I have nonetheless been left behind. I am not a sex beast. I do not need multiple orgasms or to copulate interminably. I do need a good fuck… and I know that you know what I am talking about…
A multiple orgasm is, then, not necessarily one vaginal orgasm after another, but also, and more essentially, the (sometimes simultaneous) eruption of my key zones, of which there remains one to discover, as you know…
In trust, Gini
noluckwiththefu@…: So is it fact or fiction?
noluckwiththefu@…: You get women’s hopes up with all that. You make them dissatisfied with their men. My man’s a good lover but I never had any of those other orgasms you’re talking about. You just made that bit up and that’s mean.
flow.tite.ange@…: Who said she made it up? I’ve had abdominal orgasms. I swear!
(Disbelieving snorts from the others)
kissmy@…: So who’s been giving you those inter-galactic orgasms, hey? Your husband?
sucette.du67@…: I think it was wrong to let her tell her husband. But I like the poetry.
GinImE@...: I’m listening…
sucette.du67@…: He doesn’t need to know all the details. You’re just putting yourself in an unnecessary dilemma. I know I wouldn’t want to know all the details about my man. He comes home with a smile on his face, that’s what counts.
kissmy@….: Even if some other pussy’s putting it there?
(sucette.du67@… sucks her teeth.)
babygirl@…: Shy is right. You’re passing the parcel, if you ask me.
GinImE@...: Go on…
noluckwiththefu@…: Well, you’re absolving yourself by telling your husband, but then you get him to bear the burden. It’s a bit chicken, don’t you think?
kissmy@….: Hell! Men’ve been having their cake and eating it too all along but listen sisters, this millennium’s for the ladies! My life has improved threefold ever since I woke up to this fact, ever since I stopped listening to all those nonsense songs about letting him be king, about just how perfect I would be if only he loved me right. I’m loving myself right — got rid of the complacent swine I had educated him to be ‘oh, don’t do that, honey, I’ll do it for you’. Sign of my love? Sign of my stupidity more like. Of my mis-education. I can have my cake and eat it too, n you know what, you guys are yummy. Yum yum, more of that please, but on my own terms from now on and you all better wrap up well cos the wind is changing.
babygirl@…: C’mon, stop dragging this down…
sucette.du67@…: No, let her have her say. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Why do we belittle ourselves and play coy when a guy says we’re pretty? We behave as though we’re hearing it for the first time, like we don’t deserve the compliment or something, instead of saying, Thank you, I know, which we do. Cos we are. They strut into the room without a shadow of a doubt so why shouldn’t we? Get over him, Gini. You’ve got eyes in the front of your head for a reason. Move on. (Talking more to herself now) you know when you just know it’s over, but all that time it takes you to say it; all that dead time in between knowing and doing? God, I’ve got so many dead years on my account. All gone to waste through cowardice and false loyalty… (wakes up) move on!
‘Of all the books I’ve read, this has divided me against myself more than any other.’
‘Don’t know what tablets you’re taking, but do, please, keep taking them. They seem to be working wonders. If you can get them on the NHS, please let me know.’
‘This is an abridgment of a novel which pushes the boundaries of women’s literary fiction to its limits – a D.H. Lawrence type moment (…) I can’t say enough good things about this novel. This is a haunting work which will stay in my head for a long time.’
GORDON : Joan, a poem from my next collection, Les Animots: A Human Bestiary, out in September 2015. Hope you like it…
Spider is very seldom
seen at the centre of her web.
She is happier lurking
at the edges. It gives
her victims a larger area on which
to land. It is only after
she has felt the vibrations
that Spider rushes in. Life is lived
at the edges; the dead
centre, left for the kill.
JOAN: Hi Gordon. I love this poem; the concentrics of it; spider not at the centre, though she must start at the centre (why is she always a she, and depicted as a killer? just a thought…); vibrations (I think, too, of water, rippling away from the stone thrown into it…); dead centre (bull’s eye), still-living prey ready for the kill… struggling, thus provoking vibrations, SOS… message received… here she comes
GORDON: Glad you liked it!
JOAN: more than liked it, Gordon. Would you allow me to cite it in the critical analysis part of my Ph.D.? I can (begin to) see how it relates to themes I’m exploring; themes on structure, layered reading, hypersemia, movement, even brushing Derrida and certainly relevant to my take on Faulkner (e.g. ‘Caddy uncaught me and we crawled through’: The Sound & The Fury), even the notion of prey.
And maybe it’s just me being pervy again, but I also pick up a whiff of something vaguely sexual there, not just the spider as she-predator, but also in the structure of the web itself (getting well and truly pervy now…); could be a nipple, could be THAT orifice, sticky, waiting, dead at the centre…?
But it’s also a great metaphor for the meanings that ripple off individual words (Bakhtin), whose centre, origin (in pops Derrida) can never satisfactorily be traced…; there is a hole at the heart of (the) language (trap). That your poem brings all of this together, structured semantically (as I see it) like the very web it describes, gives me goosepimples. We’re verging off into French, so I’ll say frissons. 🙂
GORDON: By all means use it, Joan. Funny you should mention Derrida as one of the quotes that I’ll be using as a sort of introduction to the new book is from him:
“The animal is a word, it is an appellation that men have instituted, a name they have given themselves the right, and the authority, to give to another creature.”
I’m very pleased by your response to the poem. The book, which will be illustrated by a Scottish artist, will consist of four “galleries” of creatures which, hopefully, will be both animal and human, or for the reader to find out for him- or herself.
JOAN: Derrida also explored the notion of hymen. And violence… Of the struggle at the borders, which I see as fitting in neatly with Bakhtin. In describing the animal as a word – as BUT a word is the echo I hear when I read the passage anew – I sense the injustice done onto the living thing by the authority of Man – by his ab/use of language. This BUT opens up realms where ideas may merrily breed and shapes may shift: Animots, anime les mots…(I think of Jacques Prévert…) man, striped of his husk, becomes which animal? Do we err on the spider’s web, eventually to be pulled toward a dead centre? Just thinking out loud. And deeply impressed by your poem, Gordon!
GORDON: I think a lot of your impressions regarding the poem are definitely there… the sexuality, the dead centre, language as a trap etc. One of the things I’m trying to do in the poems from Les Animots; A Human Bestiary, is to use a pared down sort of language to open up a lot of different interpretations.
Encouragement is good at any time, but your timing is impeccable with this poem, as I am meeting up with the illustrator tomorrow. I haven’t seen his sketches on the Spider poem, but we had talked about having the web encompassing the text with just a glimpse of the spider at the edge of the page.
JOAN: and if the spider were off the page??? If we see her, we know which direction she’s coming from. This makes her less dangerous, to me. If we don’t/can’t see her, we have no idea where the danger is lying in wait. And it makes the poem, and the web, spill over the border of the page – pages are rectangular, webs are not… – into a space that only the reader may enter. Not sure if you want to go that far. I’ll definitely buy a copy of the book, so I’ll find out 🙂
Me to Penny: panic, fascination, release, a whole jumble of feelings I cannot and shouldn’t disentangle. It was a purity, a rawness before the Word. And yet it is language. And I wondered which images you were calling to mind before you exorcised them. At the end, I saw a woman who was exhausted, yet purified, somehow. Penny to me: I had to psyche myself up for a few weeks.