Thursday, 19 May 2011

Reading Update (sweetbitter)

Not only did 'L Word' make me fall in love with Shane and Carmen and make me quesion my sexual orientaton, it also introduced me to some new writers.  In one episode Jenny mentions that Mary Gaitskill is her favourite writer, and so I read her novel Veronica and, well no wonder it's Jenny's favourite writer! I love that book - 80s New York, faded stars and just the right amount of bleak.


In the first series of L Word, (if I remember this correctly) Marina, jealous of her former love Jenny's relationship with a blonde tries to seduce the blonde by lending her 'Eros the Bittersweet' by Anne Carson...


So I bought this one too.. and started it months ago, but finally finished it today.  It is a really fascinating (non-fiction) book, but also a little difficult (for me) to follow, while I was reading it I alternated between, 'wow, that is so interesting/beautful' and 'what??', and now I've read it all, I still couldn't really tell you what it was about (love and lots about Sappho - no wonder they loved it on L Word - possibly).  Here's how it starts...

It was Sappho who first called eros 'bittersweet'.  No one who has been in love disputes her.  What does the word mean?

Eros seemed to Sappho at once an experience of pleasure and pain.  Here is contradiction and perhaps paradox.  To perceive this eros can split the mind in two.  Why?  The components of the contradiction may seem, at first glance, obvious.  We take for granted, as did Sappho, the sweetness of erotic desire; its pleasurability smiles out at us.  But the bitterness is less obvious.  There might be several reasons why what is sweet should also be bitter.  There may be various relations between the two savors.  Poets have sorted the matter out in different ways.  Sappho's own formulation is a good place to begin tracing the possibilities.  The relevant fragment runs:

              Eros once again limb-loosener whirls me
              sweetbitter, impossible to fight off, creature stealing up

It is hard to translate.  'Sweetbitter' sounds wrong, and yet our standard English rendering 'bittersweet' inverts the actual terms of Sappho's compund glukupikron.

good huh? I love the word 'sweetbitter' ...

also, Anne Carson has written quite a few books and the others are meant to be good too.



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