by Djuna Barnes
“And there we were, my sister Moydia and I, Madame. Moydia was fifteen and I was seventeen and we were young all over. Moydia has a thin thin skin, so that I sit and look at her and wonder how she has opinions. She is all white except the cheekbones, then rosy red; her teeth are milk-teeth and she has a small figure, very pretty and droll. She wanted to become ‘tragique‘ and ‘triste‘ and ‘tremendous’ all at once, like the great period French-women, only fiercer and perhaps less pure, and yet to die and give up the heart like a virgin. It was a noble, an impossible ambition, n’est-ce pas, Madame? But that was the way it was with Moydia. We used to sit in the sun when we were in Norway and read Goethe and did not agree with him at all. ‘The man is pompeaux and too assure,’ she would say, shutting her teeth, ‘and very much too facile.’ But then, people say we do not know.
I love the words “we were young all over” in the second sentence.
top image: je suis malade by aglayan-agac
An enchanted writing quote from Susan Sontag:
We fret about words, we writers. Words mean. Words point. They are arrows. Arrows stuck in the rough hide of reality. And the more portentous, more general the word, the more they also resemble rooms or tunnels. They can expand, or cave in. They can com to be filled with a bad smell. They will often remind us of other rooms, where we’d rather dwell or where we think we are already living. They can be spaces we lose the art or the wisdom of inhabiting. And eventually those volumes of mental intention we no longer know how to inhabit, will be abandoned, boarded up, closed down.
Artwork: Fernando Ferero
To the list of literary terms we begin with: ghostword
ghostword – It is a literary term invented by a 19th century editor of medieval texts named, W. W. Skeat. That name’s an interest in itself! The term “ghostword” is used to describe words which have no real existence. Strange to say these words often come from copyists, editors, or printers who accidentally spell the word wrong, thus creating a “ghostword” with this error.
Ah, the inadvertent creation of ghosts…word-ghosts…now that’s a story idea…
Another term for this is phantom word, defined as a word created through an error of a scribe or lexicographer, or perhaps through some corruptive influence.
This list was not compiled by me, but from some of the teens, high school age and college age included, this list pretty much tops it out…almost all interviewed checked off at least half of these…so I found the list quite interesting. For myself when I was a teenager, swimming was repetitive dream and flying, which I’m surprised is not on the list. Being on a roller-coaster was another one, and mentioned by others as well. What other dreams are missing on this list? Tell me yours.
- Being attacked or pursued
- Trying repeatedly to do something
- School, teachers, and studying
- Sexual experience
- Arriving too late
- Being frozen with fright
- A loved person is dead
- Being locked up
- Finding money
- Being inappropriately dressed
- Being smothered
- Being nude in public
- Failing an examination
- Seeing one’s self as dead
- Killing someone (for the record, no one I interviewed has ever had this dream.)
illustration by: Alexey Kurbatov