#65 of 2010 • The Blindfold—the first novel (1992) of Siri Hustvedt. [I not-quite digress: Part of Hustvedt’s bio reads, “She lives in Brooklyn with her husband,” and I was this close to scribbling WHO HAPPENS TO BE PAUL AUSTER. But, well, Siri beat me to it; The Blindfold is, quite clearly, dedicated to her husband. “For Paul Auster,” we are told.]
What you’ve forgotten is that some things are unspeakable. That’s what you’ve left out. Words may cover it up a while, but then it comes howling back.
While I was reading this book, I had to raise my head several times to reflect on whether I was intelligent enough to be reading this book. Such a cerebral novel, yet never alienating. Always haunting, always disconcerting. Always drawing me in. In one section, our heroine Iris Vegan works for recluse Mr. Morning–describing objects, writing about them, whispering the text into a tape recorder. The objects are from a catalog a murdered woman’s possessions. “The project,” Iris tells us, “seemed odd to the point of madness.” And yet she keeps on. It’s an exercise of focus, of focusing the gaze to objects she has no relation to.
[Another digression: I have to remember studying French poet Francis Ponge, who, in his poetry, explored”the tension between the language and the world.” I wrote in a paper, “One of the more notable dimensions of Ponge’s works is the relationship between the observer (or his consciousness) and the objects under scrutiny. The intense concentration directed towards these objects not only lull the reader into assigning more of their concentration to them, but, seemingly, allows the inanimate object to move within the “life” created by Ponge’s ministrations. This correlation between attention and importance inevitably launches the reader into contemplation. Man attaches principles to an object, and object inevitably reflects principles back to man.” Exactly.]
But she looks for answers.
Another section deals with identity blurring. And more focus on objects, particularly a photograph. Iris has a love affair with a secretive man (Stephen), a relationship further complicated by the arrival of photographer George.
George was Stephen’s friend first, and I suppose that was part of the problem.
Hello, mixed signals love triangle. It’s in this section that that cerebral-ness acquires an eroticism.
I looked at his mouth and found it beautiful for the first time.
♦ Words that kept popping up in my note-taking: Identity, Distortions, Words, Objects, Lovers. The lover’s gaze distorting identity. Objects distorting identity, further jeopardizes tenuous relationships. Words that should not be said, said. What makes identity? Is it necessary to know everything about someone, and something? Definition. To make finite. Over and over.
Whether I was screaming profanity or cooing reassurance, the words I spoke seemed to come from a script as old as the hills, and I felt like a character in a farce.
I could go on and on and on about this novel.
♦ I wonder if Auster and Hustvedt brainstorm together?
Before I knew it, I had spoken like a fool. “You’ve never loved me,” I said.
Stephen’s face lost its tension, and I remember thinking how easy it is to speak in clichés, to steal a line from pulp fiction and let it fall. We can only hover around the inexpressible with our words anyway, and there is comfort in saying what we have heard before. Stephen had a ready answer. “I’ve always loved you,” he said. “I just don’t love you in the way you want.”
♦ Everyone should read this book, so I can talk to them about it; I suspect I’ll go a little crazy obsessing about it by my lonesome. Ah, obsession.