Monday, February 19, 2007

Great Moments in Fiction

I am reading Gregory Maguire's sequel to Wicked--Son of a Witch. I loved Wicked--it's heavy-handed, at times, but I think there's something to be said for books that allow (demand from) readers an identification with witches. So, here's a delicious bit from the new one:

A notion of character not so much discredited as simply forgotten, once held that people only came into themselves partway through their lives. They woke up, were they lucky enough to have consciousness, in the act of doing something they already knew how to do: feeding themselves with currants. Walking the dog. Knotting up a broken bootlace. Singing antiphonally in the choir. Suddenly: this is I, I am the girl singing this alto line off-key, I am the boy loping after the dog, and I can see myself doing it as, presumably, the dog cannot see itself. How peculiar! I lift my toes at the end of the dock, to dive into the lake because I am hot, and while isolated like a specimen in the glassy shade of summer, the notions of hot and lake and I converge into a consciousness of consciousness--in an instant, in between launch and landing, even before I cannonball into the lake, shattering both my reflection and my old notion of myself.
That was what was once believed. Now, it seems hardly to matter when and how we become ourselves--or even what we become. Theory chases theory about how we are composed. The only constant: the abjuration of personal responsibility.
We are the next thing the Time Dragon is dreaming, and nothing to be done about it.
We are droll and ornamental, and no more culpable than a sprig of lavender or a sprig of lightning, and nothing to be done about it.
We are an experiment in situation ethics set by the Unnamed God, which in keeping its identity secret also cloaks the scope of the experiment and our chances of success or failure at it--and nothing to be done about it.
We are loping sequences of chemical conversions, acting ourselves converted. We are twists of genes acting ourselves twisted; we are wicks of burning neuroses, acting ourselves wicked. And nothing to be done about it. And nothing to be done about it (127-128).

No comments: