Sunday, November 4, 2012
the animals that see
That news is all extraneous to Patrick White's book and no use to you in understanding the novel and no use to me in understanding it either, though it might in some way help me to think about something else, not a thing about novels but a thing about brains, and yet this thing is a thing that I have thought before and am perhaps only retreading, or re-emphasising to myself, driving the groove deeper, and creating an idea-shaped sore or perhaps moat, or else let me go up not down and call the moat a wall or barrier, between myself and other of the world's citizens who think in different ways, or, to give you one example, a man the other day told me that crop circles were not caused by aliens, as the History Channel mistakenly believes, but by fallen angels, a statement that assumed the shape of a gulf between himself and me in my mind, though apparently no gulf whatsoever in his for he told me confidentially that the History Channel people are materialists, hence their reliance on the alien theory and their rejection of the angelic, saying this in a tone of voice that let me know that he believed I now shared with him this fallen-angel-crop-circle picture of the world. Then he asked me if I would like to go to the circus. "Do other people have experiences like this or is it just me?" I asked M., who confirmed that other people in the world did indeed have similar experiences, and that he was personally acquainted with a Taylor Swift impersonator who had been invited out by a hunchback.
The number of events that might occur in this world at any moment is very large and on some future fantasy day I might have to abandon the word "unexpected" because I will have learnt not to be surprised by anything, reaching this state of mind via a system of mathematics combined with an infinite knowledge of objects and actions; in an instant I have multiplied everything and in that way I am never astonished because this thing that has been presented to me is always the answer to one of my million million instant and automatic calculations.
Mrs Jolley in White's book is not like Mrs Flack in that she is poor where Mrs Flack owns her own brick house, but Mrs Jolley is also physically vicious where Mrs Flack is I think solely verbal, and when Mrs Jolley sees a picture of a goat in the mosaic on her unwordly employer's bathroom floor she decides to kick it apart, making a symbolic assault on the anti-philistine sensibilities that White's educated contemporaries attributed to the pagan era (with its mosaics and Mediterranean goats: see: shaggy Pan), denying also truth, clarity, honesty (because the sensitive employer Mrs Hare says, "Goats are perhaps the animals that see truth most clearly"), and additionally killing a scapegoat (the book has character-scapegoats, all this ties in); she is wrecking art and attacking the aesthetic longing that made the sensitive Mrs Hare's father bring Italian craftsmen to Australia so that they could install a goat in his floor, and, then, because the goat is black, she is being a symbolic bigot, the hue black associating itself with the main black thing in the book, the character sometimes nicknamed "the blackfellow," the Aboriginal painter Alf Dubbo.
She is attacking the mansion as well, because it is antithetical to the sharp new houses she prefers, she hates this house on a gut level, and on the most basic level of the story she is behaving like a villain, cruel woman, damaging an object that someone else loves and preferring plumbing to romance. Any Patrick White character who likes domestic convenience is going to be a philistine. It is like a law of nature in his books. It is like weather.