Posted by Smokey Stover on October 20, 2007
In Reply to: Re: There is deep pleasure to be had... posted by ESC on October 19, 2007
: : What could be the meaning of "There is deep pleasure to be had in cement and gravel, cemeteries and the overgrown gardens of people who don't care."
: : The context is a piece that is talking about how bad it can be to have everything perfect. it's said that there is no future in perfection and nowhere left to go. then in the next paragraph after that it says that there is pleasure in decay, ... there is pleasure in states of disrepair, disuse, the doomed ...
: There is pleasure in work to be done? A state of perfection would be static. Boring. That's my guess.
Fortunately we have the exact context at hand, from Lucy Ellman's novel, "Dot in the Universe."
"There was no other word for Dot and her life but: PERFECT.
"Ah, but near-perfection's better! The haphazard, the untried. There's no FUTURE in perfection, nowhere left to go. There's no LIFE in it. You stop loving, stop trying when everything is perfect.
"There is pleasure in decay, in the awkward and the fumbling, a good pianist muffing a Schubert sonata. There is pleasure in states of disrepair, disuse, the doomed, degenerate, unconnected, out-of-place, the miserable, malodorous, uncorrected and uncontained. There is a deep pleasure to be had in old cement and gravel, cemeteries and overgrown gardens of people who don't care. In lakes the colour of anti-freeze, in which bacteria bloom. In rotting refuse and its attendant gulls, old army bases, abandoned runways, brickwork as it crumbles. Buddleia thrusting itself between forgotten railway sleepers - the smell of it is GREAT."
Her biography can be found at bloomsbury.com, and reads, in part:
"Lucy Ellmann was born in Evanston, Illinois . . . in 1956. She was later completely unnecessarily transported to England and forced to grow up further there. She remains in exile from her native land. After being thrown out of various art schools, universities and cocktail parties, she started writing. Her first novel, Sweet Desserts, won the 1988 Guardian Fiction Prize. It was followed by Varying Degrees of Hopelessness, Man or Mango? A Lament and most recently Dot in the Universe.
"Dot in the Universe was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and has been shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Writing.
"After being a hermit for many years, Lucy Ellmann suddenly upped and married the American writer Todd McEwen. They currently live in Scotland but may move any minute."
You can read more about Lucy Ellman, and this book, at
Michiko Kakutani, in the New York Review of Books, calls "Dot in the Universe" "A blackly comedic fable..."
You can read more of Ms. Kakutani's review using the same URL.
The linked excerpt begins: "On the eve of her fortieth birthday, Dot began to fear death. Up until then, everything had been PERFECT...."
It is up to the reader to find Ms. Ellman's meaning. There is a reason literature is called an art, and a reason that people find good novels a path to meaning, but not always an easy path. It's easy to see Dot as a cranky version of Everywoman, suffocating in the notion of perfection, seeking relief and pleasure in the smaller things, the everyday sensuousness of the less-than-perfect--actually the FAR less than perfect.