Saturday, January 19, 2008

Atwood's Lady Oracle

Margaret Atwood

Lady Oracle

"I planned my death carefully; unlike my life, which meandered along from one thing to another, despite my feeble attempts to control it."

"The grief was always real but it came out a burlesque of grief . . . decorous weeping was another of those arts I never mastered, like putting on false eyelashes."
". . . I used to cry under pillows so as not to be found out."
"It's no good thinking you're invisible if you aren't . . ."
"Tears ran down my cheeks; I was a sentimentalist without doubt, of the sloppiest kind."
"You'll have to run your own show now, I thought, have your own emotions. I'm through acting it out, the blood got too real."
"I suppose I was like a kid's chemistry set for him: secretly he liked mixing me up, he knew something exciting would happen."

". . . I knew all about escape, I was brought up on it."
"I should have trusted him more. I should have been honest from the beginning, expressed my feelings, told him everything. (But if he'd known what I was really like, would he still have loved me?"
"In my experience, honesty and expressing your feelings could lead to only one thing. Disaster."

". . .if you're going to be made to look ridiculous and there's no way out of it, you may as well pretend you meant to."

". . . gradually, I came to see it [ballet memory] as preposterous, especially when I thought about telling it to anyone else. Instead of denouncing my mother's injustice, they would probably laugh at me."

"Words were not a prelude to war but the war itself, a devious, subterranean war that was unending because there was no decisive acts, no knockdown blows that could be delivered, no point at which you could say I give in. She would cried first was lost."

"If she'd [Mother] ever decided what she really wanted to do and had gone out and done it, she wouldn't have seen me as a reproach to her, the embodiment of her own failure and depression, a huge edgeless cloud of inchoate matter which refused to be shaped into anything for which she could get a prize."

"Was he a bad man or a nice man? (My mother's two categories: nice men did things for you, bad men did things to you.)"

"Unfortunately, I couldn't sing. But it always appealed to me: to be able to stand up there in front of everyone and shriek as loud as you could, about hatred and love and rage and despair, scream at the top of your lungs and have it come out music. That would be something."
"That's just the way I am . . . If other people can't handle it, that's their problem. Remember that, dear. You can't always choose your life, but you can learn to accept it."
"I suppose I couldn't trust him with all the discarded misery."
"What he didn't know was that behind my compassionate smile was a set of tightly clenched teeth, and behind that a legion of voices, crying, What about me? What about my own pain? When is it my turn? But I'd learn to stifle these voices, to be calm and receptive."

"Being told in Sunday school that God was watching you every minute of every hour had been bad enough, but now I had to think about all these other people I didn't even know who were spying on me."
". . .in my gloomiest moments I would think, so what if you turn into a butterfly? Butterflies die too."
"When it came to disasters, my mother's prophecies were discouragingly accurate."
"I didn't usually look at my body, in a mirror or in any other way; I snuck glances at parts of it now and then, but the whole thing was too overwhelming."
"The world, which I'd seen for so long as a blur . . .came sharply into focus."
". . . it [Rome] was beginning to look like North America, like any big junk city."
"He was a man in a cage, like most men . . ."
"I was searching for a city I could move to, where I would not be free to be myself. I didn't want anything too different or startling, I just wanted to fit in without being known."
"The thought of going on with the same kind of life for ever and ever depressed me. I wanted to have more than one life . . ."
". . . anything I could have said would have been implausible. This was the reason I fabricated my life, time after time: the truth was not convincing."
"(Escape literature, he told me, should be an escape for the writer as well as the reader.)"
"I could touch-type, but it seemed to me I could make money faster by typing out something of my own, and other people's business letters are very boring."
"He thought my lack of guilt was a sign of barbarism . . . so he ended by being angry with me for my failure to cry, though I told him over and over that this wasn't the sort of thing I cried about."
"One could not, apparently, be a respected female savant and a scullery maid."
"Everything catches up sooner or later. You should stop feeling so sorry for yourself."
"For years I wanted to turn into what Arthur thought I was, or what he thought I should be. He was full of plans for me, ambitions, ways in which I could exercise my intelligence constructively . . . That was what was wrong with me, he told me, I didn't have any goals."
"It was only after I got married that my writing became for me anything more than an easy way of earning a living . . . as long as I could spend a certain amount of time each week as Louisa [writer], I was all right, I was patient and forbearing, warm, a sympathetic listener. But if I was cut off, if I couldn't work . . . I would become mean and irritable, drink too much and start to cry."
". . . Arthur couldn't understand why I would have nightmares. Surely nothing that terrible had ever happened to me, I was a normal girl with all kinds of advantages, I was beautiful and intelligent, why didn't I make something of myself?"
"I wanted to forget the past, but it refused to forget me; it waited for sleep, then cornered me."
"In my opinion, most women made one basic mistake: they expected their husbands to understand them . . . the other wives, too, wanted their husbands to live up to their own fantasy lives . . . They wanted their men to be strong, lustful, passionate, and exciting, with hard rapacious mouths but also tender and worshipful. They wanted men in mysterious cloaks who would rescue them from balconies, but they also wanted meaningful in-depth relationship and total openness. (The Scarlet Pimpernel, I would tell them silently, does not have time for meaningful in-depth relationships)."
". . . I had the edge on them: after all, when it came to fantasy lives I was a professional, whereas they were merely amateurs."
"What was the use of being Princess-for-a-day if you still felt like a toad?"
"The trouble with me, I thought, was that I had experience all right, but I couldn't seem to learn from it."

"Sometimes the wrong kind of help is worse than no help at all."

"I hated myself . . . I felt like a monster, a large, blundering monster, irredeemably shallow . . . I couldn't do what he wanted, it was all wrong."

"Paul's wish to rescue me was gallant but futile, as gallantry now seemed to me futile."

"I'd believed that the absence of wonderful things happening had been due to my own failure, my insufficient love . . .love was merely a tools, smiled were another tool, they were both just tools for accomplishing certain ends."

"Love was the pursuit of shadows . . ."

"The bathroom had always been my refuge, it was the only room in the house, all the houses, where I could lock the door."

"I longed for the simplicity of that world, where happiness was possible and wounds were only ritual ones. Why had I been closed out from that impossible white paradise where love was as final as death, and banished to this other place where everything changed and shifted?"

"I would rather dance as a ballerina, though faultily, than as a flawless clown."

"Every man I'd ever been involved with, I realized, had two selves . . ."

"Learn to live in the present, take life as it comes, that's what they told you in the improve-your-head manuals. But what if the present was a washout and the life to come was a bog? I was feeling marooned; the impulse to send out messages, in bottles or not, grew everyday."

"I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in a cage, as a fat whore, a captive Earth Mother for whom somebody else collected the admission tickets."

"From now on, I thought, I would dance for no one but myself."

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