I just finished reading My Father’s House – A Memoir of Incest and of Healing, by Sylvia Fraser. It’s an amazing book. The story is compelling, but her writing is rich, powerful, and visceral, and elevates the memoir to a level beyond the details of her life alone. Below is just one example, and the book is crammed full of writing like this:
“I know it’s winter because when I look at my feet I don’t see them for snow. I know it is winter because my nose drips like an icicle, my hands are white snowballs that must be stuffed in pockets. I know it’s winter because sounds are muffled, words taste cold, steam hisses out of radiators and light slips off the page of Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” almost as soon as it arrives. I know it’s winter because my mother writes letters that announce: “Yesterday my wash was like boards on the line. I keep asking the new milkman to put the milk between the doors but he doesn’t seem to hear and this morning it was half out of the bottle again. Is your laundry getting done?” I know it’s winter because all the evidence a posteriori and a prior points that way, and I am nothing these days if not empirical and rational. It’s winter, but it doesn’t matter. My life takes place in enclosed spaces: halls, cells, corridors, cubicles. I scratch words on the pulpy lobes of my brain like a medieval monk creating palimpsets. I sweat dust.”
My favorite bits from that paragraph are “I know it’s winter because …, words taste cold, …” and “…light slips off the page … almost as soon as it arrives.” I filed this post under Inspiration, because this kind of writing makes me slow down and savor the words. I don’t know if it qualifies technically as inspiration because it doesn’t cause me to start writing myself, necessarily – but it reminds me why I love literature and why I continue in my personal battle with words.