There is so much to love
That they don’t tell you
In the films
There is so much to love
That they don’t tell you
In the films
I don’t often recognise references or allusions in novels. I think I gloss over a lot and miss much of what makes a book special. But, when reading ‘The Golden House’ by Salman Rushdie, something stood out. It was a line at the end of a piece of prose, poetry? The line read, ‘…is this what you meant? Or this? Is this what you meant at all?’. It was the rhythm that caught me. Made me stop. I turned to my phone as it was closer than the book and googled ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’. Now, looking back and knowing more, I see so many clearer links to the poem. For instance the reference to the narrator being ‘prufrocked’ and the almost direct quotation, ‘I have see her like a yellow dog rubbing her back against, rubbing her muzzle upon, shall I say, licking her tongue into the corners of his evening?’. Nonetheless, it was the rhythm that caught me.
Let me explain.
When I was in second year of university going through a rough spot. Rough? Maybe it was more weathered, or stormed? Anyway, I found it harder and harder to fall asleep. I tried all sorts of remedies but nothing worked. And as always when stuck in an unsure moment with no one to turn to ( or maybe someone but oh god not them) I averted my gaze and found myself looking at poetry. The one thing that seemed to make a slight difference was listening to T S Eliot reading his poem ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’ each night. The 7.52min recital mimicked lullaby. The ups and downs, peaks and troughs, cadence of his voice sent my body into as close to sleep as I could muster. It became a ritual. I’d lie and let Eliot sing to me. I’ve always believed poetry should be heard not read and this poem proves that precisely. It is a joy to listen to. Makes reading seem unsubstantial and pointless. Makes my eyes redundant and my ears gold again.
I listened to it again after my recent early evening revelations and my body went into an almost paralysis, a lucid state. I was hypnotised by a familiar voice who had tried many times before to knock me out. But this time, although my mind was preparing to shut down, I wasn’t. I was still revelling at my newfound knowledge. Insider knowledge. Like I said, I never make the links. I can never cut as deep as others into the many facets that make up and inspire a novel. I’d struck gold and it felt amazing. And so, as cliche would want it, I couldn’t sleep that night. My head full of things I wanted to share. And so I share it with you. Below is the discussed extract from the novel ‘The Golden House’ by Salman Rushdie which I recommend no one reads but everyone to have read.
“The first night and the second night, the first two nights of the new year, she demonstrates her wares, let’s him see the quality of what’s on offer, not only physically but emotionally. She…and here I rear back and half myself, ashamed, prufrocked into a sudden pudeur, for, after all, how should I presume? Shall I say, I have known them all, I have seen her like a yellow dog rubbing her back against, rubbing her muzzle upon, shall I say, licking her tongue into the corners of his evening? Do I dare, and do I dare? And who am I, after all? I am not the prince. An attendant lord, deferential, glad to be of use. Almost, at times, the Fool…But, setting aside poetry, I’m too deeply in to stop now. I am imagining her already. Perhaps kneeling beside him on the bed. Yes, kneeling, I think. Asking, is this what you meant? Or this? Is this what you meant at all?” (p.78)
I want to get home before you
And make dinner
Tidy and clean
And make my home feel like mine
I want you to walk in and kiss me
Not me to you
Because I haven’t spent a moment alone
Walking lonely in London
With so many other lonely people
And I thought about staying on the bus
Till the end of the line
Or getting off three stops early
So I can walk with myself
Hand in hand
And learn my body again
1 – I would kiss you with all my heart.
2 – You kiss with your lips darling.
1 – Oh. I thought you used your heart. It feels like I use my heart.
We get caught in the rain
On Northumberland Street
T-shirts and jeans
And I begin to worry
That you’ll be agitated
But you’re dancing
Salt and sweat
And I don’t think twice
About how I feel
Having you here
Months we spent savouring the subtle zest of sweat,
And the taste of patience sleeping in the gap between our lips.
Days we dedicated to burning each other’s limbs like kindling,
In fiery argument and fiery regret.
Hours we devoted to mapping each other’s faces,
Sketching past, present and future on cheek and chin.
Seconds we wasted blinking.
I fell to my feet metaphorically
As I poured my heart into her half empty half full glass
She drank it pensively
Balancing each drop on her manicured lips
And told me she wasn’t good enough, was she?
When I’d tried so hard to persuade her the opposite
And that was why I was leaving
For she never knew
Never tried to understand
How hard it is to watch her split and rip every centimetre of her body
Praying for some different skin
And then a stitch broke away from her lip
And her nose cracked, crackled
Eyebrows ruffled and spouted
And every individual lash fell out
A thin clean break from forehead to temples
Lets wrinkles form in the spaces
Cheekbones became cheeks
And jawline became jaw
As every inch of created self
Slipped away from her skin
And fell in a pile at my feet
Every detail so closely planned
Became ever so incomplete
And I told her she was beautiful
And she replied: not beautiful enough.
When he came over that time just to see me and not the others, who I think were at the cinema, I thought I had succeeded. So as my head began to fill as it always does when I see him, he told me he wasn’t sure how to feel. And when my head was 1/6 full I told him I wasn’t the best person to ask because I was lost and I wasn’t going to find myself here. And at 1/5 he told me that that didn’t matter and he wanted me to choose. Selfish. A quarter up I said I was elsewhere and to come back another time. 1/3 and he touched my hand to remind me that I was lying. Half way full I said I needed to lie down and so he lifted my eyes with his and he held my lungs in each hand as we walked to the floor together. And when my head was close to full he said I was everything he had never wanted. That’s why it hurt so much when he left, because my head was so full so I couldn’t tell him he was nothing I had ever needed and that’s why we were meant to be lying on that floor together. Because we made sense of each other’s confusion.