When I was in high school, I used to frequent the used bookstores in my hometown and pick out books at random to take home. This process began with me, a guilt-ridden fourteen-year-old, warily sifting through romance novels, stacks upon stacks of them, with that delicious old book smell seeping from stained and cracked spines. I learned that if I let the books sit, resting half-open on my thighs for a moment, the pages would eventually lean open to reveal the dirtiest passages, the pages that were most marked and passed over, as though the books themselves were complicit and eager to share the secret desires of women locked in bedrooms. I learned words like "throbbing" and "tumescent" and, though giggling uncomfortably, would still take them home, the rose-pink dust jackets leaving my fingers gritty with dust.
World weary and intense teenager that I was, I progressed quickly from used copies of harlequin romances to Stephen King to Camus to Nietzsche, and I have only recently re-discovered the joys of a good smutty novel.
St. Catharines used to have some epic bookstores, and so did Toronto - many of which have closed. But one of the books I picked up as a 16-year-old was Anne Carson's Beauty of the Husband, which struck me in an intense way at the time but evoked a lot of things I didn't understand until years later. Anne Carson is good. Super good. Healing words. She has been a consistent influence. These quotes are from her book Eros the Bittersweet, a text that I have been revisiting lately.
begin to see by noticing the edges of things. How do they know an edge
is an edge? By passionately wanting it not to be. The experience of eros
as lack alerts a person to the boundaries of himself, of other people,
of things in general.
If we follow the trajectory of eros we
consistently find it tracing out this same route: it moves out from the
lover toward the beloved, then ricochets back to the lover himself and
the hole in him, unnoticed before. Who is the real subject of most love
poems? Not the beloved. It is that hole."
"When I desire you a
part of me is gone: my want of you partakes of me. The presence of want
awakens in him nostalgia for wholeness. His thought turn toward question
of personal identity: he must recover and reincorporate what is gone if
he is to be a complete person."
"Where does that hole come from? It comes from the lover's classificatory process. Desire for an object that he never knew he lacked
is defined, by a shift of distance, as desire for a necessary part of
himself. Not a new acquisition but something that was always, properly, his. Two lacks become one."
recognition calls into play various tactic of triangulation, various
ways of keeping the space of desire open and electric. To think about
one's own tactics is always a tricky business."