Social Media
Twitter LinkedIn Facebook
Search the Drain

Posts Tagged ‘object’

Let me just say that, as my 37th year?speeds?toward the platform and is?due to arrive in a paltry?seven days, I’m not crazy about this novel’s claim about?the 35th year:

You begin to think, ‘Well, I more or less understand how things work. Do I really want to disassemble tens of thousands of semi accurate beliefs on the off chance that I might be able to bring one small receptor field into better focus?’ (111)

With a projected 50 years left, give or take a decade, that’s a long time to sit on my ass and?give up the quest. Let the disassembly continue… Full Speed Ahead!

That said, let’s move on to pages 48-153 of the novel.


One would generally assume that children would have a stronger imagination than adults, the ability to?create their own reality and imaginary friends, but that isn’t what is being said in this novel. As I mentioned in?a previous post, “something between childhood and becoming an adult shifts the understanding of language, makes it less literal, less real.” I found this idea interesting when Powers described a?book that permanently?influenced him?while he was still young?(19).?This same type of reference appears later, when Lentz and Hartrick?dupe Powers about Imp C’s ability:

A babe in the woods would have seen through this… I myself would never have bitten, had I still been a child. Yet I’d believed. I’d wanted to. (123)

Powers can no longer see the real, but why? Perhaps, as our narrator describes,?it is his adult desire to want to believe.

In childhood, facts are collected?much like?William and Peter Hartrick’s?alphabet and international flags.?Conceptual meaning hasn’t yet been assigned, as Hutcheon would point out.??Unlike the boys,?Powers?associates everything with narrative rather than fact. When speaking about their mother, Diane,?Powers says “I didn’t know the first thing about her” (136) but?”I recognized?this?woman…?from a book I read once as a novice adult” (137).?This referential knowing is not real. It stems from a concept learned elsewhere?during Powers’?early adulthood rather than from what actually stands in front of him?in the moment.

Richard?PowersPowers recognizes the impact of narrative on his thoughts and the ways in which those thoughts then shape his reality. “Here was the home I would never have. Shaped by a book, I’d made sure I wouldn’t. I’d forced my heart’s reading matter to come true” (138). To deny himself access to Diane or?a home based on a particular?book leads me to believe that, had he read another?book (or no book), things might have turned out?differently. Like ideology, the story has the power to order Powers’?thoughts, but also to confine him within that story.


Powers' LensConfinement within the story becomes problematic for all the main characters in this novel. Diane, Lentz, C.?and even Powers?become splintered identities in terms of subject/object. As said above, Diane is a stereotype in Powers’ internal narrative. First?she is?scientist, then mother, then “she became a different woman” (136) after she put her children to bed and?sat in her living room. None of these images allow access to the real Diane, for Powers or the reader. Lentz too is seen solely as mad scientist until Powers?recognizes him as husband and father thanks to the calendar on the door. Still, he doesn’t know who Lenz truly is or why he’s such a sad,?angry man. These characters are nothing more than objects seen through the one limited?lens of the narrator.

Powers and C. are special cases in the subject/object dichotomy. Powers, when proofing his latest book, says:

My eleventh-hour triage demoralized me even more than the first writing. I felt a despair I had not felt while still the teller… What lost me, while listening to my own news account, was learning that I didn’t have the first idea who I was. Or of how I had gone so emptied.?(117)

Is Powers really so emptied and lost?within his own identity? The word?”emptied” implies that Powers was?once full.?When?he writes about himself as?the subject, he?is unaware that this identity crises exists because it doesn’t yet. It is when he no longer writes but reads, making the switch from subject to object, that he feels some sort of self identity loss. It is the mechanism?of narrative?that induces the loss, unable to capture the whole of who Powers is, even in his own attempt to portray himself.

Perhaps Powers?has stopped?disassembling his?”tens of thousands of semi accurate beliefs” at 35,?having learned?little since his relationship’s end with C.?Prior to this autobiographical fiction,?Powers becomes the subject of C’s story and she becomes the object, driving?the wedge?of death into their relationship. Powers knows?this to be true?when C. says, “It’s your story… It makes me feel worthless” (108). He begins to question:

What did the finished thing mean? That book was no more than a structured pastiche … One that by accident ate her alive… She would never again listen to a word I wrote without suspicion. (108-109)

Self-reflexive?PowersEven after living the consequence of setting the divisive dichotomy of subject/object in motion with C., Powers inflicts that same divide within himself and feels the power and pain from both sides.

Of course,?objectification is okay when you’re Powers, the author of this novel,?portraying the narrator as the author and narrator of his own novel. Only by making this move does narrative no longer mean objectification alone. Narrative, in this manner,?becomes self-reflexivity, or has… self-reflexive Powers. (Insert “bad joke” groan here.)

PS: If C was with Powers in U., E., and B., who do you think A. is in her 22nd year?? Son of [a] B!! I can?t seem to work it out yet? but I sure do sound like a mathematician when I try.

In class we began to analyze what the narrator had learned, if anything, by the end of Winterson’s novel, Written on the Body. I believe that several important massages were accepted by both the narrator and myself, as a participating reader.

In deep mourning for Louise’s lost love, the narrator says, “?I couldn’t find her. I couldn’t even get near finding her. It’s as if Louise never existed, like a character in a book. Did I invent her??? (189).

The question feels plausible since the narrator questions reality throughout. In this moment, Louise appears to be a haunting memory, if only of a fantasy, but Gail Right offers proof that Louise and her remaining souvenirs were not invented.

“?No, but you tried to [invent her],? Gail said. ?She wasn’t yours for the making??(189).

Does the narrator ever fully understand his or her objectification of Louise? I think yes. The last passage of the book speaks to this conclusion:

The walls are exploding. The windows have turned into telescopes. Moon and stars are magnified in this room. The sun hangs over the mantelpiece. I stretch out my hand and reach the corners of the world. The world is bundled up in the room. Beyond the door where the river is, where the roads are, we shall be. We can take the world with us when we go and sling the sun under your arm. Hurry now, its getting late. I don?t know if this is a happy ending but here we are let loose in open fields. (190)

If, as the narrator says, ?it?s the clich?s that cause the trouble? (189),?or the language that?confines us, then the?confines or walls are exploding in a moment of clarity. Windows have turned to telescopes searching beyond the language, magnifying the world outside. This is the place where Louise and the narrator can finally exist together. The entire universe is theirs for the taking.

But is this a happy ending? It all depends on whether or not Louise’s final appearance is real. If so, one might think yes. Both the narrator and Louise have finally escaped the boundaries of subject, object, power and submission, using the term ?we? to capture the equality of the lovers let loose in open fields. Still there is a sense of urgency in ?Hurry now.? It?s as if the ability to escape the shackles of language is fleeting. One cannot avoid defining thought with language for long.

Then again, can we trust Gail? She’s never met Louise. What if Louise is not real? The last paragraph begins with ?This is where the story starts, in this threadbare room,? I returned to?the?novel’s beginning?for further insight.?From that perspective, the escape truly is brief. In the room where the story starts, we find the narrator avoiding heartbreak again by falling back into the same cycle of clich?s with Gail that were experienced with Jacqueline:

Still waiting for Mr Right? Miss [Gail] Right? And maybe all the little Rights? ? I am desperately looking the other way so that love won?t see me. I want the diluted version, the sloppy language, the insignificant gestures. The saggy armchair of clich?s. It?s all right, millions of bottoms have sat here before me. The springs are well worn, the fabric smelly and familiar. I don?t have to be frightened, look, my grandma did it ? my parents did it, now I will do it won?t I, arms outstretched, not to hold you, just to keep my balance, sleepwalking to that armchair. How happy we will be. And they all lived happily ever after. (2)

If this?is where the novel ends, stuck back in?the cycle with only a breif peek into the fantasy of Louise,?it becomes painfully obvious that the narrator nor the reader can remain free from the boundaries of language, the boundaries that keep us separate from love and from our beloved.

This book raises so?many questions. How can one operate outside language, even with its flaws? How would the story be told? The minute we try, the trap snaps shut once more. Even if Louise were allowed her own quotes, wouldn’t they be?filtered through the narrator’s reactions? Perhaps we must tell every story from two or more perspectives, but how does that effect our own as author or narrator? If Louise and the narrator exist outside of language, how do they communicate? Have they become one and the same – just knowing? Has anything really changed? Louise, if real,?still doesn’t speak upon arrival except through her body, through touch. Perhaps that’s the key to truth, experience without words.

Again I’m left wondering, what do we do with this? Even when we strive to reach beyond the comfortable clich?d armchair for something more, when we can?glimpse?the possibilities of the Universe and want to run freely in the open fields of equal love, we aren’t quite sure?how to step through to the other side linguistically.

Much like this…


Jeanette Winterson, in her?novel Written on the Body, recycles?the narrator’s conversation?with two different partners.

Renoir?s?BatherWith Inge, the anarcha-feminist who hates to blow up beautiful things:

She said, ‘Don’t you know that Renoir claimed he painted with his penis?’
‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘He did. When he died they found nothing between his balls but an old brush.’
‘You’re making it up.’
Am I? (22)

And?again with Catherine, the writer, who feels?that writers don’t?make?great companions:

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Do you know why Henry Miller said “I write with my prick”?’
‘Because he did. When he died they found nothing between his legs but a ball point pen.’
‘You’re making that up,’ she said.
Am I? (60)


Why does Winterson do this? I think there are several things going on here.

  • The repetition moves beyond reinforcing the narrator’s?serial monogamy. It seems to say that the?interactions within?each?relationship are as?worn out?as the dating pattern itself.

  • To repeat the?reference to male genitalia?in regard to both art and literature speaks to the inequality of masculine and feminine influence in the canonical world. Women are often the subjects of art, but not?equally and?respectfully acknowledged as creators of that same art. (According to this article, “of the approximately 25,000 artists working between 1880-1930, probably forty percent were women, but fewer than five percent were shown in museums.”)

  • In addition to Winterson’s reference to clich?s, quotes and?previously designed literary styles, she?incorporates this device to?demonstrate?that people are not original from day to day within their own consciousness, let alone in the scheme of humanity – whether from person to person or age to age.

  • The question of reality comes up here too. The conversation, in single quotes, shows each partner questioning the veracity of the narrator’s story. ‘You’re making that up.’ The reply from the narrator is never spoken aloud. The words Am I? are asked as if to say, “Its been said before. Does that make it true? What is real anyway?”

Do you have?any more connections to throw into the mix?

Great Web Hosting

Fat Cow is powered by 100% renewable energy. Join the Fat Cow herd for just $66/year!

Paying the Bills