Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"Language," she said, "is the one thing I really understand..."

I love A.S. Byatt for many things, chief among which being a slim book of stories she published about twenty years ago, named The Matisse Stories. One jewel after another, those three stories. I was reminded of her genius as I was looking the other day through one of them, named The Chinese Lobster
On a margin of that book of stories I had jotted down a comment Byatt once made about language. "Language," she said, "is the one thing I really understand more than I care about sex or cooking or families or anything.... My best relationships are with other writers. In many ways, I know George Eliot better than I know my husband."

And I thought: This is so true for us all!  We all go back to certain writers to find solace, and to be among people that show us that the world makes sense, after all. 

My best relationships, as Byatt would say, are with these people...
And so, here are, nine people who keep us honest.  They told the truth the way they saw it.  That's why it feels good to take a look at them from time to time and make fun of them.  To tell them how funny they are, how incovenienced, how bizarrely familiar, how necessary they are to us. 
For example, poor Kawabata in the middle ... he got all shinny because of the blitz and looks like a saint. 

Hesse, as you can see, in his upper right corner, is all severe and dispeptic. 

A look at Marquez, and you think, gee, look how happy this guy is (and no wonder why, he and Sir Vidia are the only one still alive among the nine!). 

Or Beckett! Remember the interviewer who made the mistake of asking Beckett about his difficult, hard chidhood?  I like to imagine Beckett looking puzzled at the interviewer, with that long bird face of his, and exclaiming, as he did: "What difficult childhood?  I had a very happy childhood!" 

And so it goes.