Ecstasy

LispectorHere’s a little rumination I had a while back. I noticed an interesting parallel between my readings in Clarice Lispector (specifically The Passion According to G. H.) and a show I watched on HBO where an older Asian gentleman informed me that the orgasm is a bad thing. In the West the orgasm is the pinnacle of ecstasy but in the East, the ecstasy does not end with the orgasm. In the West the man has his orgasm and like a blowout, he goes flat and is useless. Lispector writes:

“… what invokes me and calls me is neutrality. I have no words to express it, and I therefore speak of neutrality and have only then ecstasy that too is no longer what we have been calling ecstasy, for it isn’t culmination. But that culminationless ecstasy the neutrality of which I speak.”

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Ecstasy

“A woman’s sexual awakening is a tragedy when the woman is married to someone other than the man who awakens her. But until then, her marriage, now doomed, was a sleepwalker’s tragedy. This novel will shock and offend some readers. Unapologetically explicit in its language, extreme in some of the acts it catalogues, it makes no pretense of submission to middle-class decency, let alone to expectations of happy endings. All three people in this love triangle are flawed, damaged, human. Things fall apart, and the resolution is unclear. Why does she do it? Why should we read it? The answer is one word: Ecstasy. Micheline Aharonian Marcom has a genius for language that is not only beautiful in and of itself, but also engages the heart. Lusher than Marguerite Duras, more tender and erotic than Cormac McCarthy, but nearly as dark, this is a narrative masterpiece.”

I probably should add that this one is sufficiently graphic as to call it dirty, dirty, dirty. Once again (is this a trend?) the story works on multiple levels but in this instance the text repeatedly refers to its own artificiality. The woman is “in the book;” the action is “in the book;” life is “in the book.” I haven’t gotten my head around what this all means but it seems to go beyond the typical postmodern self-reference to the implication that the book is its own reality without needing an outside world to reference.

Late in the book we read,

“Is it true that she loves him like this, or is it the illusion of the story which renders the girl, the lover, the husband and children to entertain the listener, the reader, the eavesdropper. … This is the stepping out, ekstasis—these words these white spaces on the page that make the book make the world …”

Ecstasy? I’m going to have to think about this one. It is interesting that all the detailed sexual descriptions just seemed honest and open but it was this closed world of the novel that I found most fascinating.