There was a faint, barely perceptible movement of the water as the fresh flow from one end urged its way toward the drain at the other. With little ripples that were hardly the shadows of waves, the laden mattress moved irregularly down the pool. A small gust of wind that scarcely corrugated the surface was enough to disturb its accidental course with its accidental burden. The touch of a cluster of leaves revolved it slowly, tracing, like the leg of transit, a thin red circle in the water.
It’s from The Great Gatsby, of course, the moment when Gatsby’s body is discovered. I’ve just re-read the novel for the first time in too many years, and what I realised was how often I would read a paragraph and then stop, overwhelmed by how gorgeous the writing is. The way Jordan and Daisy’s clothes billow in the breeze from the window as Nick enters, the memory of a snow-bound mid-West, Fitzgerald has a way of making the ordinary feel magical. It is the tiny detail that just catches the breath: the way that swirling autumnal leaves echo the blood we imagine flowing from Gatsby’s wound. Between readings of the novel I have a vague memory that it is a great book, but it is only when I read it again and re-encounter the glory of the language that I remember why it is so great. It is a book to immerse yourself in, to read aloud slowly. The words touch our senses gently, trigger faint, fleeting sensations of colour and taste and sound and feel that are so subtle you forget the detail the moment you close the novel. But as you turn the pages once more, it is all so immediate and fresh and vivid again. Remind me to re-read this book more often.
According to Freud, one of the key characteristics of the Uncanny is the doppelganger. In which case, Eleanor Catton’s marvellous debut novel, The Rehearsal, is one of the most uncanny books I have read, because it is crammed with doubles. So much so, indeed, that in many instances we do not see the original, only the doppelganger; and some of the doubles are themselves doubled. Continue reading
j/j: Do you feel that there is benefit in working with apparitions and/or ghosts in your pages? If so, how do they benefit? If no, please fill me in on the narrative of what the “dead dream” in your new and exciting book: A Child is Being Killed.
CZ: Ghosts to me are secular and I believe in them. They’re psychological shadows, dead events and people who literally stay. The stayed energy of things past, a person who died or left whose energy is still imprinted in your nervous system, a trauma or tragedy you haven’t been able to “integrate” into what you conceive of as your current living reality/story, so it comes up repetitively in memories, dreams, art, conversations. Ghosts are presenting themselves to be understood and witnessed. I find it useful in that sense to work with ghosts in narrative. To see where they might fit, to make room and try to bring them out of shadows, so we don’t have to feel the torture and confusion of their semi-existence. Perhaps all a ghost needs is to be gently touched or held, or given a lamp of its own. Continue reading
One may say that the human ability to understand may be in a certain sense unlimited. But the existing scientific concepts cover always only a very limited part of reality, and the other part that has not yet been understood is infinite. Whenever we proceed from the known to the unknown we may hope to understand, but we may have to learn at the same time a new meaning of the word understanding.
-Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy
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