- gin and tonic
- scotch and soda
- black coffee
- a whole cold chicken in aspic, céleri rémoulade
- lamb chops
- a loaf of bread
- first course: purple octopuses, second course: fried fish platter, third course: a small reddish fish
- spaghetti, salad, bread
- hot biscuits with butter, roast chicken, boiled artichokes
- caffe latte
- sweet rolls
- caffe latte
- sweet roll
- gin and tonic
- a ham sandwich on long crusty bread
- hot milk
- gin and Pernod
- costolette di vitello
- caffe latte
- warm rolls
- cinnamon flavoured coffee
- vitello alla parmigiana
- seven-layer rum cake
It’s uphill work making you laugh, Maria. Anyway, Larry Kulik’s a great admirer of yours. You know what he said to Carter? He said, ‘What I like about your wife, Carter, is she’s not a cunt.’
Maria said nothing.
‘That’s very funny, Maria, Kulik saying that to Carter, you lost your sense of humour?’
You must laugh at your own degradation , otherwise you’re a bitch. When did humour become a tool of making us complicit in our own destruction? When did acceptance of you psychic death, the acceptance of the departure of respect, become key factors in how agreeable you are?
It would be less cruel to be torn down viciously in anger and sadness. But that’s not enough. You have to laugh along with those who seek to destroy you, those who hate you. You must enjoy your destruction. You must praise and coddle those with the power to destroy you, those people who take such pleasure in destroying you, because they are weak and fragile and need the reassurance that their violence is actually fun.
From the first page and a half food inserts itself into The Bell Jar: “peanut-smelling mouth,” “tail end of a sweet dream,” “noseless balloon stinking of vinegar.” Taste dominates the senses.
By the third page we get to a foreshadowing of hope: “last week I cut the plastic starfish off the sunglasses case for the baby to play with.” The novel ends with Esther out of the hospital, and begins with suggestions of a life and future beyond the novel, one which presumably encompasses a family.
Food is a form of life. You need it to survive, and while death is like sleep (she tries to kill herself with sleeping pills), life is about wakeful sensations.
In the novel we have:
- an Old Fashioned (filled with bits of fruit), straight vodka, wine, and beer
- avocados filled with crabmeat and mayonnaise, rare roast beef, cold chicken, black caviar — with reference to bitter black coffee, apple pie à la mode, economy joints, economy meatloaf, anchovy paste, peanut butter on bread, avocados filled with melted grape jelly and French dressing, salad eaten with one’s fingers instead of a fork, a fingerbowl drunk like soup — marzipan fruit, meringue and brandy ice cream
- a broth for recovery (“Pads of butter floated on the surface and a faint chickeny aroma fumed up to my nostrils”), and mentions of hot dogs
- scrambled eggs, with cheese and garlic salt
- hamburgers, fancy cakes, unknown foods, and wine tasting like pine-wood
- “I just drank one daiquiri after another.”
- a raw egg mixed into a teacup full of raw hamburger, alphabet soup
- Rice Krispies, peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches, vanilla ice cream, and Hood’s milk
- peanuts for feeding pigeons, Deer Island Prison’s offering of “plenty to eat” during the winter, candy, then money for candy since she has none, hot dogs buried in the sand when no one’s looking (she’s stopped eating and sleeping)
- “I raised my voice. ‘I can’t eat.’ It occurred to me I’d been eating ravenously ever since I came.”
- hospital food in large, lidded tureens for thick white china plates: green string beans; cold, gelatinous, solidified macaroni and cheese; baked beans (“Now I know perfectly well you didn’t serve two kinds of beans together at a meal. Beans and carrots, or beans and peas, maybe, but never beans and beans.”); matchsticks to be pretended to be made out of candy; hot milk; spam and broiled tomatoes; the breakfast tray (coffee, cream, boiled egg, orange marmalade) — its function as threat and then reward; apple cider
- out of the hospital: first: bitter coffee, beer; then: escargot at a French restaurant (“I picked up the empty snail shell and drank the herb-green juice. I had no idea if this was proper, but after months of wholesome, dull asylum diet, I was greedy for butter.”), Nuits St. Georges (“‘You do like wine,’ Irwin observed.”)
The trajectory of food goes from voracious and gourmande, to plain, raw, inedible and imaginary, back to a hunger satiated with bad food, and ending with the gourmet again. It’s predicted in the hope of future which is suggested at the end of the novel.
But because I’ve been reading Louise Glück too, I can’t help but think of Persephone’s mouth stained red with the juice of pomegranate in her death, something much more sensorally potent than Demeter’s wheat.
I have finished the complete plays of Sarah Kane and I don’t know what to think. I know nothing of theatre, though.
The first I read, and my favourite, was 4.48 Psychosis, because it was so raw and real. There was nothing about it that I disliked.
But then I moved on to Blasted, Crave, Phaedra’s Love, and Cleansed, in that order. Really I think the problem is that I will never enjoy things like rape, or racial slurs from a white person. Rape is in every play. Again, I know nothing of theatre: is the point to shock? Is the point to have no comment on it? Personally: it’s just not a thing I will ever accept in art and there are very few instance of rape in art that I will be able to stomach (namely, that which comes from people dealing with their own sexual trauma in a very “This art is a clear representation of me dealing with sexual assault” way). And then the slurs, especially in Blasted, are so hard for me to take in. Again, it has a purpose, it demonstrates how awful the character is, whatever. But I can so imagine being in an audience, watching white people on stage spouting racial hatred for shock or because ‘well, we’re all good white people and we know that it’s wrong, you can trust us,’ while we praise the white writer, and me feeling smaller and smaller (you know that feeling of being in public surrounded by white people listening to ‘well meaning’ racism which has some intellectual purpose and you just feel like you’re being pelted with sharp hail while everyone else has umbrellas).
The thing is that this would be enough for me to totally abandon Sarah Kane. Maybe keep 4.48 Psychosis, and reject everything else. But then she does such good violence and absurdity! This alone is enough to make it worthwhile. But I don’t know how to reconcile that which is painful — I do not need pain, regardless of its purpose — and that which is creative, funny, experimental.
Ian cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt
Ian strangling himself with his bare hands.
And then trying to clean it up with newspaper
Ian laughing hysterically.
Ian having a nightmare.
Ian crying huge bloody tears.
He is hugging the Soldier‘s body for comfort.
Ian lying very still, weak with hunger.
Ian tears the cross out of the ground, rips up the floor and lifts the baby’s body out.
He eats the baby.
He puts the remains back in the baby’s blanket and puts the bundle back in the hole.
A beat, then he climbs in after it and lies down, head poking out of the floor.
He dies with relief.
Reading Clarice Lispector’s stories feels very urgent and necessary as well as revelatory. I have read, so far, the first two sections of the collection.
The First Stories I preferred. It’s very angry and nearly hysterical. But the repeated theme which seems to come up is the unwarranted cruelty of men who perceive themselves as superiour to women. Women, by and large, are smart and stronger than men. They are capable of so much more, can figure out so much more; even stories where the women begin as somewhat dull, dumb,and submissive, they end up with more strength. But men resent this strength, whether the strength constitutes intelligence, creativity, innovation, health, happiness, perceptiveness, and so on. And so men lash out with cruelty and attempt to tear down women. Happily, this section ends with reprimands, superiority, and mockery from women.
Family Ties felt more subdued and gloomy. There’s nervousness but not the anxious energy of First Stories. It often feels like a passive acceptance of bad things (which is powerful, but not as fun). My favourite was the last story, The Buffalo, since that reaches a sort of madness reminiscent of The Passion According to G.H., and it is entirely without any calm.
I prefer the hysterical laughter in the face of stupid, cruel men, self-styled philosopher, which appears in First Stories, overall.
“I can’t sleep. I can’t read.” I tried to speak in a cool, calm way, but the zombie rose up in my throat and choked me off. I turned my hands palm up.— The Bell Jar/Sylvia Plath
I can’t make decisionsI can’t eatI can’t sleep
I can’t think
— 4.48 Psychosis / Sarah Kane
“You’re sitting down, squished between the bench and the bar, a book open on your knees; you haven’t read in a long time.”
I can’t function and Virginia Woolf reassures me that for many, this means that prose is too much to swallow. Food has become a constant theme of my reading, for some reason. I am fascinated and compelled to document it. So to continue with the food metaphor: literature is food. Even if you can’t stomach prose, you need some sort of sustenance. Poetry won’t upset your stomach, maybe.
Horsetail and sesame salad. Smoked carp.
Butterball-flower rolls Conger eels boled in salt water
Perch on rice wrapped in bamboo leaves
Clear soup wih grated plums, star-shaped wheat gluten
chives, leaf buds
Sea bream with skin, to suggest pine bark
Large prawns boiled in salt with raw mushrooms
and peppers pickled in miso
Wakame seaweed from Naruto cooked
with new bamboo shoots and leaf buds
White miso with mushrooms and sesame bean curd
Thin slices of squid dipped in parsley
and citron vinegar
Sea trout in a broth of red clams,
sweet peppers and citron vinegar
Thrush broiled in soy, lobster, scallops,
pickled turnips, liquorice-plant shoots
Duck and bamboo shoots boiled with arrowroot paste
Two baby carps with sea bass
broiled in salt in a citron vinegar
Chestnut dumplings with fern shoots
and pickled plums