the last one tho
you sir are ####### amazing
- Margaret Atwood, from “The Shadow Voice” (via the-final-sentence)
Photographs of writers at work.
Note how many standing desks! See also a great book on the subject, The Writer’s Desk.
Filed under: work spaces
Well, a character in a novel saying that something is a metaphor is not the same thing as the author of the novel saying that it’s a metaphor. Gus’s intellectual grasp often exceeds his reach (he calls a monologue a soliloquy, and misuses quite a few of the bigger words in his vocabulary). But I do think the cigarette is a metaphor, albeit a different one for us than it is for him.
Gus’s idea is that the cigarette is a metaphor for illness, and he keeps it unlit and in his mouth as an expression of his power over illness. “You put the killing thing between your teeth but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” Gus’s thinking here is that HE has the power. This is why he tends to use the cigarette when he’s feeling nervous or powerless. (He’s also using the most famous commercially available carcinogen to make this statement, so obviously there’s a connection there in his mind: Humans can prevent cancer by not smoking; cancer is something we can have power over; your job is not to give cancer the power to kill you; etc.)
But of course Gus is wrong about all of this, or at least almost all of it. You may have SOME control over whether you die of cancer (you can choose not to smoke), but in most cases humans don’t have control over illness. “You don’t give it the power to do its killing” imagines more agency over illness than we actually have, because in the end much of the fault is in the stars, not in ourselves. So to us, the unlit cigarette is a metaphor for our false perception of control, and our urgent need to feel in control. It’s no coincidence, then, that when Gus’s life is spiraling out of control and he finds himself powerless before fate, he tries (and fails) to buy cigarettes.
Even the stone, gray and aging, the young,
tender mud by the creek where children wade
with their skirts hoisted to the knees purse their
lips, cooing. Their soft voices dillydallying,
like a vagrant song in the breeze
as if in wooing. All the lifeless things fitted
inside a hearse, Venus’ cerise lips rendered
anew; the blacken, beating, vibrant as scarlet,
the weakened wight, revived, a jolt of electricity
through bone, flesh and sinew.
- Carol Ann Duffy, Deportation (via poemusicoffee)