Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fifteenth Sunday Salon 8.20


I like books that make me think; and Tamar Yellin's book, THE GENIZAH AT THE HOUSE OF SHEPHER certainly does that.

The narrator reflects on her face, noting which aspects resemble her mother's ('The line of my jaw was hers. I had to acknowledge that. I disliked the line of my jaw which was too heavy'), and her father's ('I had his colouring and his eyes. I was not dark. My hair was light gold, like his, my eyes blue; I had dry pale lips which split open in winter'). But although she prefers to see her father in her face, she doesn't want to believe that she resembles either of them.

I think we all want this for ourselves. I am told by everyone that I strongly resemble my mother and I don't much like to be told this. It is not because of how my mother looks, but because I just want to look like myself, which I think I do.

The narrator also points out that 'It was my opinion that I looked English' (unlike her parents who were not). Her uncle replies '"Of course you looked English. You've lived your whole life in England." Uncle Cobby said with authority, "you would look like us."' I think this is true as well; the way we look is fashioned by where, and also when we live. It is not just the superficial things like hairstyle and make-up, but there are subtler differences too: the repetition of speaking the local language probably hones the structure of our throats; gestures like a shrug may cause us to hold our shoulders in a certain way; or an oft-expressed and fashionable cynicism might cause frown lines of a sneer. Then there is the effect of poverty or pollution or a hard life carrying children or coals - or a wealthy life spent in the sun or massaged daily in what perhaps are rejuvenating oils; all these would have an effect. Slowly we become a part of where and when we live and how we live; our surroundings become ingrained so deeply they eventually become part of us.
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2 Comments:

Blogger Table Talk said...

If I was with my mother people always said how like her I was. If I was with my father then it was always how much I resembled him. I can't see either of them in me physically apart from my colouring, but both of them are very clearly there in the way I express myself. It is frightening the number of times I get halfway through an utterance only to stop because I can hear my mother speaking.

Sun Feb 10, 10:43:00 am  
Anonymous Clare. said...

That's interesting what you say TableTalk. Impressions are often different from reality, I find. I often had the impression that my younger son resembled my younger (late) brother - it is something I can't shake off, even though when I look at photographs I can't find much of a resemblance there at all. It must be something else perhaps, as you say, the way he expresses himself, or his character.

Sun Feb 10, 01:26:00 pm  

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