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Reflections of a working writer and reader



The Inadequacy of our Symbolism

The last night I spent in London, I took some girl or other to the movies and, through her mediation, I paid you a little tribute of spermatozoa, Tristessa.

A late show, a crowded cinema. The drunks all stubbornly remained unmoved and jeered, laughed and catcalled throughout your film though sibilantly hushed by pairs of sentimental queers who, hand in hand, had come to pay homage to the one woman in the world who most perfectly expressed a particular pain they felt as deeply as, more deeply than, any woman, a pain whose nature I could not then define although it was the very essence of your magic. The film stock was old and scratched, as if the desolating passage of time were made visible in the rain upon the screen, audible in the worn stuttering of the sound track, yet those erosions of temporality only enhanced your luminous presence since they made it all the more forlorn, the more precarious your specious triumph over time. For you were just as beautiful as you had been twenty years before, would always be so beautiful as long as celluloid remained in complicity with the phenomenon of persistence of vision; but that triumph would die of duration in the end, and the surfaces that preserved your appearance were already wearing away.

The opening lines of Angela Carter’s 1977 novel, The Passion of New Eve.

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