Every once in a while, I pick up a book that vibrates. The frequency of this vibration is important because sometimes even an intensely vibratory book can be cancelled out by a reader who is vibrating at its exact frequency but in opposite step. Every valley of the book aligns with the reader’s peak and the result is a flatline. But! When the vibrations don’t quite line up, the result is electric. This is what compatibility is – an amplification of vibration, a fascination with idiosyncrasies. It’s the difference between
talking and flirting
which is like talking but with delicious consequence. You hang on every word and aim to impress with profound insight. You listen intently so that when it is your turn to speak you can ask that perfect question, surprising in its cuttingness, that shows that you understand deeply and can even help that person, I mean text, understand itself better.
I underline every colour metaphor in Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, because, Anne, I see what you did there! And not only do I see but I am enraptured by it. Are you impressed that you impress me so? That I am so perfectly attuned to your brilliance and can (like you did) recognize how limited Homer’s range was, how few things he did with the colour blue and how you expand blue into places it has never been! Turn blue into a rainbow.
Or Claire, in your book, Pond, which I read in a book club where no one else understood you, thought you were redundant and obsessive, I (and only I) saw the passion in your neuroticism. I can tell in your pervasive “you see?” that you were not talking to them, not at all, you were talking to me across time and space, that you so specific in its subject.
I am grabbed by you like a face with the perfect amount of ugly and the right type of ugly. Like a face with a crooked nose I love all the more because I am the one who loves it. Like a comment made among a group of friends but that is meant more specifically for one person there, a person you lock eyes with and silently ask, do you know this is all for you?
And of course, they don’t know, not completely. You (Anne, Claire) don’t know how well I understand you. And there’s a part of me that wonders if I truly understand you, or if I project too much and use you to understand myself, mistaking your work for my interpretation of it. But even this is sweet because it keeps me up at night too, imagining the sweetness of being right about it all, made all the more sweet by the fear that I’m wrong, like salt bringing out the taste of sugar.