Have your eyes ever shockingly deceived you? I mean, literally — that is, by a word that you perceived and comprehended in a certain way? Well, this is just what happened to me a few hours ago.
I woke at just past 3 a.m. This early-morning waking happened the other day as well. This time I prepared myself a sleep-inducing tisane: a tea of passionfruit leaves and since they taste rather meh, I tossed in a teabag of lavender flowers as well for their comforting scent. And because I passed by the beckoning chocolate-caramel tart, I cut myself a merest slice of that too. Hmmm… yes. A thin wedge of dark chocolate comfort to lull me to beddy-byes.
And I took up my bedside reading – which over the past few days has been a reading list on Brainpickings.org. Specifically this one, and by some mysterious path I was led to this graphic representation of a literary orgasm, apparently motivated by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (which I have yet to read, btw). Fascinating, I thought — an orgasm brought on by words. And yet, not inconceivable, if you remember the comedic eroticism of John Cleese’s Russian monologue sending Jamie Lee Curtis (aka Lady Haden-Guest) into paroxysms of arousal in A Fish Called Wanda. Yes, I am able to perceive those floral fireworks as someone else’s orgasm. Why not? And the way that Stefanie Posavec obsessively took each element of the text for graphic representation had me breathless in admiration.
I once took a stimulating course in semiotics given by Yishai Tobin, one of the most intellectually inspiring lecturers I’ve ever known, and I had conceived the idea for a paper on how different artists communicated through their craft – poetry, sculpture, painting, music, etc. After pondering at length on how best to tackle it, I came off only with the vaguest notion of how to weave into unity these discrete aesthetic endeavours — all based on the external expression of internal sensory and emotional and intellectual stimuli. I gave it up as an unsolvable academic exercise, at least by me. And along comes this brilliant artist, several decades on, giving a tangible resolution to what I had been incapable of conceiving. I had not thought it was feasible to express the pleasure and joy of reading a text (other than in similar textual form), and here it is in the graphic form of an orgasm. Clever! Splendidly and outstandingly clever indeed.
Next I read Marilynne Robinson on beauty. I adored her lyrical prose in Gideon – one of the most musically moving books I have ever experienced, and that I often turn to — to read time and time again — as one does to re-encounter the sensual and emotional pleasures of listening to a well-loved piece of music or song. Reading Gideon is like having gentle waves of music lapping inside my head.
The next link led me to Ursula LeGuin and her enchanting take on cats. I had only ever read her science fiction – The Left Hand of Darkness and The Wizard of Earthsea – and this divergent style, this playful exposé on cats, captivated me, a confirmed cat observer and lover.
I went back to trying to decipher the legends on Stefanie Posavec’s poster. They were still illegible despite zooming in. This must have been a good hour after I’d first looked at it. And that’s when it hit me. It wasn’t literary orgasm – it was literary organism! How had my eyes tricked me? As literary orgasm, the graphics had made absolute and credible sense. Artistic license and all that. Perhaps there might have been a subliminal intent to it, after all? Just perhaps…?
And so bemused, I was overtaken by the soporific power of the passionfruit leaves coupled with the calming lavender scent, and I bid my laptop and my snacking — gustatory and literary and sensory — a deeply pleasurable good night.