still life with woodpecker

When reading a book I have often made note of passages that stand out to me. I have a document somewhere riddled with them. On the off-chance they might actually be interesting to others I think I shall post one here from time to time.

The segment below is from a work of fiction by tom robbins. The book was recommended during the mythmas break as I was searching for some entertainment. It certainly met that standard. The book uses a narrative involving a deposed princess and an “outlaw” (serial bomber) to explore love and sexuality. The sentiments of any book are difficult to summarize in a single sentence but perhaps this one is reasonably captured by a question posed in the narrative: “What does it take to make love stay?”

This excerpt appealed to me because of the way it re-frames the hyper-sexualization that is main-stream. I am regularly frustrated by the degree of judgement regularly tethered to sexuality and, even more so, by the discord between the degrees of judgement applied to men and women. I felt like this was an interesting fresh look.

There is love making that is bad for a person, just as there is eating that is bad. That boysenberry cream pie from the Thrift-E Mart may appear inviting, may, in fact, cause all nine hundred taste buds to carol from the tongue, but in the end, the sugars, the additives, the empty calories clog arteries, disrupt cells, generate fat, and rot teeth. Even potentially nourishing foods can be improperly prepared. There are wrong combinations and improper preparations in sex as well. Yes, one must prepare for a fuck – the way an enlightened priest prepares to celebrate mass, the way a great matador prepares for the ring: with intensification, with purification, with a conscious summoning of sacred power. And even that won’t work if the ingredients are poorly matched: oysters are delectable, so are strawberries, but mashed together… (?!) Every nutritious sexual recipe calls for at least a pinch of love, and the fucks that rate four-star rankings from both gourmets and health-food nuts use cupfuls. Not that sex should be regarded as therapeutic or to be taken for medicinal purposes – only a dullard would hang such a millstone around the nibbled neck of a lay – but to approach sex carelessly, shallowly, with detachment and without warmth is to dine night after night in erotic greasy spoons. In time, one’s palate will become insensitive, one will suffer (without knowing it) emotional malnutrition, the skin of the soul will fester with scurvy, the teeth of the heart will decay. Neither duration nor proclamation of commitment is necessarily the measure – there are ephemeral explosions between strangers that make more erotic sense than many lengthy marriages, there are one-night stands in Jersey City more glorious than six-month affairs in Paris – but finally there is a commitment, however brief; a purity, however threatened; a vulnerability, however concealed; a generosity of spirit, however marbled with need; an honest caring, however singed by lust, that must be present if couplings are to be salubrious.

I was reading the book on my very crowded bus ride to school this morning. Just as we arrived at UBC a girl standing nearby handed me a note. I read it and blushed as I looked up at her grinning. She just smiled. I tucked the note in my book and she walked off the bus.

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One Response to still life with woodpecker

  1. Satisfied customer says:

    Love this book. Love this quote. Its flagged in my copy as well and definitely the quote I defer to most often when trying to explain the brilliance of this man to friends seeking book recommendations. It has been awhile though and I must admit that in reading it again I am surprised at how much it is about sex and not so much about food…perhaps my passion for food muddled things up and blurred the line distinguishing the two.

    Your story also speaks volumes to the values and merits of using public transportation. What a lovely encounter!

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