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“The word that leads the trembling hand to the forbidden key.”

January 30, 2012

Someone recently did me the great favor of reminding me about the novelist Jeanette Winterson. I read her Art & Lies this past week and it was extraordinary. There’s spleen and hyperbole to spare, but if you can enjoy that, there’s insight and poetry in equal portion. Winterson shows how the ascetic and the aesthetic, the spiritual and the sexual, the compassionate and the passionate are all held together and brought into balance by a love for language. But a short excerpt will more strongly recommend the book than any description I can offer:

“The word terrifies. The seducing word, the insinuating word, the word that leads the trembling hand to the forbidden key. The Word beyond the door, the word that waits to be unlocked, the word springing out of censure, the word that cracks the font. The Word that does not bring peace but a sword. The word whose solace is salt from the rock. The word that does not repent.
 
The word comes at my call but who calls whom? The shriek on the wind is ages old, the cry that comes before meaning, the cry that comes out of the wilderness without food or drink. The ragged prophet in burning clothes.
 
Day and night stretch before the word, hunger and cold mock it, but the Word itself is day and the Word itself is night. The word Hunger the word Cold. I cannot eat my words but I do. I eat the substance, bread, and I take it into me, word and substance, substance and word, daily communion, blessed.”
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One Comment
  1. It must be a very interesting novel. Funny how an excerpt can give us a view of the whole. Thanks for sharing your views.

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