Sunday, May 4, 2008

Atwood's Bodily Harm

I'm a Margaret Atwood fan - I highly recommend reading anything she's written. This was a difficult read because of my recent breast surgery; needless to say, I understood how Rennie felt.

Margaret Atwood
Bodily Harm

"This is the effect she aims for, neutrality; she needs it for her work. . . Invisibility."

"He [Keith] had that faint sick look in his eyes, as if he wanted to give her something, charity, for instance."

"She [Rennie] didn't want to talk about the operation but she couldn't think about anything else. Maybe it would turn out to be benign; on the other hand, maybe they would open her up and find that she was permeated, riddled, rotting away from the inside. There was a good chance she'd wake up minus a breast. She knew she ought to be thinking about how to die with dignity but she didn't want to die at all."

"The camera bag strap cuts into her [Rennie] shoulder and the flesh above her left breast; the scar is pulling again. When it feels like this she's afraid to look down, she's afraid she'll see blood, leakage, her stuffing coming out."

"I don't want to have the operation, she [Rennie] said. She believed two things at once: that there was nothing wrong with her and that she was doomed anyway, so why waste the time?"

"Rennie became a quick expert on surfaces. . . at first she'd looked in order to copy; later she'd looked in order not to copy. After that she just looked."

"Most of the people she knew thought Rennie was way ahead of it, but she saw herself as off to the side. She preferred it there; she'd noted, many times, the typical pose of performers, celebrities, in magazine shots, and publicity stills and especially on stage. Teeth bared in an ingratiating smile, arms flung wide to the sides, hands open to show that there were no concealed weapons, head thrown back, throat bared to the knife; an offering, an exposure. . . she found them embarrassing, their eagerness, their desperation, for that was what it was, even when they were successful. . . they would do anything. . . anything, in that frenzied grab for attention. She would much rather be the one who wrote things about people like this than be the one that got written about."

"This is a fact, it's happened to you, and right now you can't believe it. . . You've been used to thinking of yourself as a person, but all of a sudden you're just a statistic."

"Rennie had smirked because the man seemed to think that being followed to the ends of the earth by a flock of adoring geese was both desirable and romantic. . ."

"People get trapped in things that are beyond their control, she [Rennie] ought to know that by now."

"I didn't want to have a family or be anyone's mother, ever; I had none of those ambitions."

"She [Rennie] wonders whether she's already become one of those odd wanderers, the desperate ones, who cannot bear the thought of one more useless hospital ordeal, pain and deathly sickness, the cells bombarded, the skin gone antiseptic, the hair falling out."

"She [Rennie] wants something definite, the real truth, one way or the other. Then she will know what she should do next. It's the suspension, hanging in a void, this half-life she can't bear. She can't bear not knowing. She doesn't want to know."

"Rennie does what she does because she's good at it, or that's what she says at parties. Also because she doesn't know how to do anything else, which she doesn't say. Once she had ambitions, which she now thinks of as illusions. . ."

"What she wants is something legitimate to say."

"He [Jake] didn't like the churches much: churches didn't do a whole lot for him, they reminded him of Christians."

"Nothing had prepared her for her own outrage, the feeling that she'd been betrayed by a close friend. . . she'd trusted it [her body]. Why then had it turned against her?"

"Being in love was like running barefoot along a street covered with broken bottles. It was foolhardy, and if you got through it without damage it was only by sheer luck. It was like taking off your clothes at lunchtime in a bank. . . it made you visible, soft, penetrable; it made you ludicrous."

"". . . he [Daniel] loved Rennie, or so he said, which is no help at all. (Though what did it amount to? Not much. . . she isn't even sure what it meant, this love of his, or what he thought it meant, which may not be the same thing)."

"These bodies are only provisional."

"Experiences were like other collectibles, you kept adding them to your set. Then you traded them with your friends. Show and tell."

". . . she's [Rennie] annoyed with herself for acting so shocked. Squealing at mice, standing on a chair with your skirts hitched up, that's the category. Girl."

"Never throw anything away, because time is circular and sooner or later it all comes round again."

". . . it was important to keep your balance, it was important to behave normally. If you did that enough, Daniel said, sooner or later you would begin to feel normal."

"Rennie figures she'd better have another drink. If surrealism is taking over the world, she might as well enjoy it."

"Life is just another sexually transmitted social disease."

"What is a woman, Jake said once. A head with a cunt attached or a cunt with a head attached? Depends which end you start at. It was understood between them that this was a joke. The new lady stretched out before her [Rennie], a future, a space, a blank, into which Jake would now throw himself. . . the way he had thrown himself into her. . . she wondered what it was like to be able to throw yourself into another person, another body, a darkness like that. Women could not do it. Instead they had darkness thrown into them."

"She [Rennie] feels guilty and useless, guilty because useless."

"As far as I'm [Lora] concerned the world would be a lot better off if you took the politicians, any kind at all, and put them in the loony bin where they belong."

"Sometimes crazy people can do things other people can't. Maybe because they believe it."

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