Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On freckles in literature

Forgive me this indulgence as a freckled person, but I'm re-reading "Middlesex" now and I forgot how damn good the whole part with the Obscure Object is, partly (for me) because of this description of the first time Callie sees her, which is the best description I think I've read of a freckled person. It doesn't make me feel vain and it's not really flattering even, and considering the entire drama of Callie's relationship with the Obscure Object I really don't know if I should be so in love with this passage, but dammit if Eugenides isn't a really captivating writer for me sometime, perhaps especially as he describes people of my kind:

Part of my interest was scientific, zoological. I'd never seen a creature with so many freckles before. A Big Bang had occurred, originating at the bridge of her nose, and the force of this explosion had sent galaxies of freckles hurtling and drifting to every end of her curved, warm-blooded universe. There were clusters of freckles on her forearms and wrists, an entire Milky Way spreading across her forehead, even a few sputtering quasars flung into the wormholes of her ears.

Since we're in English class, let me quote a poem. Gerard Manley Hopkin's "Pied Beauty," which begins, "Glory be to God for dappled things." When I think back about my immediate reaction to that redheaded girl, it seems to spring from an appreciation of natural beauty. I mean the heart pleasure you get from looking at speckled leaves or the palimpsested bark of plane trees in Provence. There was something richly appealing in her color combination, the ginger snaps floating int he milk-white skin, the gold highlights int he strawberry hair. It was like autumn, looking at her. It was like driving up north to see the colors.

This is ultimate vanity, actually, but not the kind that stems from me thinking that the Obscure Object and I have something in common here. It's the kind where I sit around and feel vaguely envious of a fictional creature for having tons of freckles but not so many that they blend together the way mine do. Stopping now, and focusing on how I just really like this part and, in fact, have felt the entire last third of this book lift itself from "it's alright" to "it's captivating." I started re-reading this because my book club was reading it, and the first time I read it I was only mildly appreciative. I thought maybe on second read it would be different, and the first third of the book is indeed fantastic. It slows a bit in the middle, I think, but at least so far the end is defying my memory of the first time around. I'll report back later when I'm finished.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

sara says...

i think i told you this already, but that description definitely reminded me of you when i reread middlesex like sophomore year.