“Some worm or other lay squirming before being devoured by the hen that humans were going to eat” (Clarice Lispector)
Daddy’s typewriter was tapping out tac-tac..tac-tac-tac… The clock chimed brightly ting-ting… ting-ting… The silence dragged out zzzzzzz. The wardrobe was saying what? clothes — clothes — clothes. No, no. Between the clock, the typewriter and the silence there was an ear listening out, large, flesh-pink and dead. The three sounds were connected by the light of day and by the rustling of tiny leaves on the tree as they joyfully rubbed against each other.
Resting her head against the cold, shiny window-pane, she looked into the neighbour’s yard, at the great world of the chickens-that-did-not-know-they-were-about-to-die. And as if it were right under her nose, she could smell the warm, beaten earth, so fragrant and dry, where she knew perfectly well, she knew perfectly well that some worm or other lay squirming before being devoured by the hen that humans were going to eat.
There was a grand moment, motionless and quite hollow inside. She opened her eyes wide and waited. Nothing happened. Blank. But suddenly with a shudder they wound up the day and they began to function once again, the typewriter tapping, father’s cigarette giving off smoke, silence, tiny leaves, plucked chickens, brightness, things restored to life and as impatient as a kettle on the boil. All that was missing was the ting-ting of the clock which gave so much pleasure. She closed her eyes, pretended to hear it chime, and to the rhythm of that imaginary music, she went up on the tips of her toes. She executed three dance steps, so light and ethereal.
Then suddenly she looked at everything with displeasure, as if she had eaten far too much of that concoction. ‘Hey, hey, hey…’, she murmured wearily and then thought to herself: what will happen now now now? And in the fraction of time that followed, nothing ever happened if she went on waiting for something to happen if you get my meaning? She pushed away this awkward thought, distracting herself with a movement of her bare foot on the dusty wooden floor. She rubbed her foot, looking sideways at her father, awaiting his impatient and nervous smile. But nothing happened. Nothing. It’s difficult to suck in people like the vacuum cleaner does.
— Daddy, I’ve invented a poem.
The first five paragraphs of Clarice Lispector’s novel Near to the Wild Heart.
Remember how the desperate Molloy proceeds:
I took advantage of being at the seaside to lay in a store of sucking stones. They were pebbles but I call them stones I distrutibed them equally between my four pockets, and sucked them turn and turn about. This raised a problem which I first solved in the following way. I had say sixteen stones, four in each of my four pockets these being the two pockets of my trousers and the two pockets of my greatcoat. Taking a stone from the right pockct of my greatcoat, and putting it in mv mouth , I replaced it in the right pocket of my greatcoat bv a stone from the right pocket of my trousers, which I replaced by a stone from the left pocket of my trousers, which I replaced by a stone from the left pocket of my greatcoat, which I replaced by the stone which was in my mouth, as soon as I had fin-ished sucking it. Thus there were still four stones in each of my four pockets , but not quite the same stones…. But this solution did not satisfy me fully. For it did not escape me that, by an extraordinary hazard, the four stones circulating thus might always be the same four. In which case, far from sucking the sixteen stones turn and turn about, I was really only sucking four, always the same, turn and turn about.
Beckett is a very blue man, and this is a very blue passage.
From William H. Gass’s On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry (and of course, Samuel Beckett’s Molloy).
No greater mistake can be made than to imagine that what has been written latest is always the more correct; that what is written later on is an improvement on what was written previously; and that every change means progress. Men who think and have correct judgment, and people who treat their subject earnestly, are all exceptions only. Vermin is the rule everywhere in the world: it is always at hand and busily engaged in trying to improve in its own way upon the mature deliberations of the thinkers. So that if a man wishes to improve himself in any subject he must guard against immediately seizing the newest books written upon it, in the assumption that science is always advancing and that the older books have been made use of in the compiling of the new. They have, it is true, been used; but how? The writer often does not thoroughly understand the old books; he will, at the same time, not use their exact words, so that the result is he spoils and bungles what has been said in a much better and clearer way by the old writers; since they wrote from their own lively knowledge of the subject. He often leaves out the best things they have written, their most striking elucidations of the matter, their happiest remarks, because he does not recognise their value or feel how pregnant they are. It is only what is stupid and shallow that appeals to him. An old and excellent book is frequently shelved for new and bad ones; which, written for the sake of money, wear a pretentious air and are much eulogised by the authors’ friends. In science, a man who wishes to distinguish himself brings something new to market; this frequently consists in his denouncing some principle that has been previously held as correct, so that he may establish a wrong one of his own. Sometimes his attempt is successful for a short time, when a return is made to the old and correct doctrine. These innovators are serious about nothing else in the world than their own priceless person, and it is this that they wish to make its mark. They bring this quickly about by beginning a paradox; the sterility of their own heads suggests their taking the path of negation; and truths that have long been recognised are now denied—for instance, the vital power, the sympathetic nervous system,generatio equivoca, Bichat’s distinction between the working of the passions and the working of intelligence, or they return to crass atomism, etc., etc. Hence the course of science is often retrogressive.