Saturday, September 17, 2005

Jonathan Franzen

She stopped. The parties stopped. She stayed at home; she got a sinus infection. Men were circling the moon, and she sat and rested in a kitchen chair, wishing she could taste. It was the worst infection of her life. In the shower she licked the soap off her lips and found it sweet, like one of the more congenial poisons. Cooking was a chemistry lab. Heated beef turned gray, heated chicken white. Bread had low tensile strength. A liquid could be extracted from an orange, it was volume in a glass, it was 150 milliliters.

The infection continued out of February and into March, but spring was just a change in the light, a dampening of the cold, nothing more. She saw a doctor, who told her it was only viruses, she needed to sleep a lot and let it run its course. Eventually she could breathe freely, but she still couldn't taste. She started smoking again. The smoke was frosty and almost chewable, and the pain in her throat, divorced from flavor, had an electrical quality, like leakage of current. Was it possible that people tasted what they spoke? It was possible. Words dwelt in her skull like hammerheads, falling around on their rigid claws....Every morning she licked at the soap, always hoping, and then, in April, something gave and she realized in her closet that she was smelling No-Moth. It was exactly as she remembered it. But now with each taste she rediscovered there came a sense of private ownership. Tastes and smells no longer seemed like communal stocks of which each person partook according to need and predisposition. They seemed like property. She was reading Sartre, and he hit her like a ton of bricks. She felt wild. She had insides, and at the time they weren't lonely places.

--p. 95, The Twenty-Seventh City, by Jonathan Franzen

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