Susie: And then, when I was trying to move away from the raw irritability of comprehending Sara Suleri’s Meatless Days after reading Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I dreamed a dream that left me reeling.

SULERI (in exasperation of pain). What is it, after all, between food and the body? (37)

DILLARD. Out here on the rocks the people don’t mean to grapple, to crush and starve and betray, but with all the goodwill in the world, we do, there’s no other way. We want it; we take it out of each other’s hides; we chew the bitter skins the rest of our lives (243).

SULERI. For the sake of Ifat and Shahid and Tillat and all of us, I stole away a portion of that body. It was a piece of her foot I found, a small bone like a knuckle, which I quickly hid inside my mouth, under my tongue (43).

Flavor of my infancy, my mother, still be my food: I want my hunger as it always was, neither flesh nor fowl! (160)

RUSKIN. That spirit which is given only by the hand and eye of the workman, can never be recalled. Another spirit may be given by another time, and it is then a new building; but the spirit of the dead workman cannot be summoned up, and commanded to direct other hands, and other thoughts.

SULERI. I can feel her spirit shake its head to tell me, ‘Daughter unplot yourself; let be.’ But I could not help the manner in which my day was narrative, quite happy to let Mamma be that haunting word at which narrative falls apart. Like the secluded hours of afternoon, my mother would retract and disappear, leaving my story suspended until she reemerged. I think it was a burden to her to be so central to that tale” (156-7)

DILLARD. Is this beauty, these gratuitous roses, or a mere display of force? Or is beauty itself an intricately fashioned lure, the cruelest hoax of all? (270)

SULERI. It is a rib that floats in longing for some other cage, in the wishbone-cracking urge of its desire. I join its buoyancy and hide my head as though it were an infant’s cranium still unknit, complicit in an Adam’s way of claiming, in me, disembodiment (186).

DILLARD. Beauty is real. I would never deny it; the appalling thing is that I forget it (271).

SULERI. Today, I would not dare wait up for or care to will a startling change upon my night. I am content with writing’s way of claiming disappointment as its habit of arrival, a gesture far more modulated than the pitch of rapture.

Susie: Dillard is patting the puppy and Suleri is sipping her milk and the second I verbalize this awareness in my brain, I wake to a world of lucid voices in “balance between the way things came and the way they went.”

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Last modified 26 April 2011