Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A depiction of the moment


Because she could not read, Annie had a particular fondness for pictures of people reading, and sought them out. . . . Because she could not write, Annie had left the picture to speak for her. The young woman in the blue smock was facing to the left, standing at a window, though the window was not depicted. It was something that you knew was there, but could not see. The whole picture had a sense of things that were not there, things just out of reach, things that yet were central to its meaning. The light flooded her face, and the front of her body, as she stood-utterly absorbed-her head bent slightly forward as she read the letter that she held with both hands, her arms resting against her. She was gripping it tightly, her knuckles clenched. Her mouth was slightly open. It was a depiction of the moment at which a reader or viewer melted into the text, into the play or opera, into the painting, the moment at which breathing halted, time ceased to exist, and Alice found her own mouth drooping open, her breathing slowing, as if it were she who was reading the words in the letter, she was who the woman in blue. The young woman's head and shoulders were in profile against a large map that hung on the white wall like a tapestry behind her, the lines and markings of a place that had been exhaustively explored, its frontiers delineated, all details named, a place that had lost its mystery. The young woman herself was mystery entire; nothing was known about her, and it was what the viewer was that made him (or her, or her) see what was seen in that captured moment.

--Peter Rushforth, Pinkerton's Sister

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