Topical Guide 34
Food: as Significant Element of a Remembered Incident and Its Literary Reproduction
[T]he house was full of the smell of the coconut candies that Grandmother often made. They were spheres the size of marbles, made of a butter-and-powdered-sugar concoction that was more buttery than sweet, and they were covered with strands of grated coconut. That smell lingered in the house long after Grandmother died. . . .
We were eating the clams that Grandfather had gotten, fried.
Little Follies, “Do Clams Bite?”
In the light of what Proust wrote with so mild a stimulus [as a madeleine], it is the world’s loss that he did not have a heartier appetite. On a dozen Gardiner’s Island oysters, a bowl of clam chowder, a peck of steamers, some bay scallops, three sautéed soft-shelled crabs, a few ears of fresh-picked corn, a thin swordfish steak of generous area, a pair of lobsters, and a Long Island duck, he might have written a masterpiece.
Dreams: Erotic, Heterosexual, Adolescent, Male
My father got up to get another beer.
He usually drank a beer called Bendernagle’s Old Bavarian, a beer widely advertised on billboards that depicted a smiling blond barmaid with breasts like prize-winning cantaloupes, wearing a Bavarian costume, leaning toward the potential Bendernagle customer, and pouring a can of Old Bavarian into an enormous crockery stein that, miraculously, she was filling to overflowing, foam sloshing over the lip and dripping onto an invisible floor. This woman played a prominent role in a series of dreams I had begun having. You will probably not be surprised to learn that in these dreams I was wearing my little woolen bathing suit, stuffed full of clams, and that I was quite uncomfortable.
Little Follies, “Do Clams Bite?”
You slip between the sheets, you turn out the light, you close your eyes. Now is the time when dream-women, too quickly undressed, crowd in around you, . . .
The lover of life makes the whole world his family, just like the lover of the fair sex who builds up his family from all the beautiful women that he has ever found, or that are—or are not—to be found . . . .
Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life,” translated by Jonathan Mayne
Memory, Faulty: Causes of, Results of
My father made a sober face and rumpled my hair. “Don’t believe everything you hear up there,” he told me. “You know, Peter,” he said, “your great-grandmother is pretty old.”
“I know,” I said. . . .
“Well,” he said, speaking as slowly as Great-grandmother herself, picking each word carefully, “she doesn’t remember things quite the way they really happened. She, uh, changes things a little.”
“You mean she makes things up,” I said.
“Not on purpose. She just doesn’t remember the way they really happened, so she says what she thinks should have happened or what she wishes had happened—”
“Or hadn’t,” May mumbled.
“—instead of what she remembers. Understand?”
“Yeah,” I said. I didn’t believe a word he was saying.
May leaned toward me and whispered through a mist of Manhattan, “She’s not the only one—I do it myself,” and kissed my ear.
Little Follies, “Do clams Bite?”
What an abyss of uncertainty whenever the mind feels some part of it has strayed beyond its own borders; when it, the seeker, is at once the dark region through which it must go seeking, where all its equipment will avail it nothing. Seek? More than that: create. It is face to face with something which does not so far exist, to which it alone can give reality and substance, which it alone can bring into the light of day.
From the ruins and the dissolution of real reality something very different will emerge, not a copy but an answer: fictional reality.
Mario Vargas Llosa, The Perpetual Orgy: Flaubert and Madame Bovary
[more to come on Tuesday, June 29, 2021]
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