Monday, December 12, 2005

oh what ails thee, knight at arms?

Do you have a favourite poem or a favourite song or a favourite book? I don't. At least, I'm unwilling to admit to them being my favourites unless I am allowed to group them in a collection of other poems/songs/books. For example, I would never admit to loving 'The Silmarillion' if I wasn't also allowed to mention 'Oranges Are The Only Fruit'. Never breathe a line or prayer of Janis Joplin if there was no space to fill in Leonard Cohen.

(To combine both since, as Kausha informed me, this song is about Janis and Leonard Cohen getting it on, here is an mp3 that I received just today via a friend: Rufus Wainwright covering Cohen's Chelsea Hotel No. 2).

I can't pick one and leave out the others. Like many people reading this, I'm spoilt for choice and have never been faced with the necessities of 'Yes' or 'No' - I'm a perpetual 'Can't Say'-er. Shallow, perhaps. Definitely un-Victorian. I just can't say I like Yeats more than Christopher Logue. I don't have to.

Another reason that really does have a lot to do with my education is that I'm too critical. This is a horrible thing to realise about oneself, that one can't love 'Pride and Prejudice' or 'Amelie' without reservations since, after all, what sort of love is that? I think it's why so many people I know, mostly women who read mostly the sort of books that I do, are far more willing to talk about things like pretty boys than people they love. Of course, pretty boys are indubitably fun, but it's rather a Japanese(?) way of disparaging or belittling what we think about. We can do it in each other's company because we know that we're not talking about pretty boys because we're silly, or not only because we're silly. We're also afraid, we also know that the more important something is, the more people will expect perfection of it.

But I think the most pressing reason I don't choose one among the many is because it gives away more than I want to admit. As with 'Catcher in the Rye', I read 'The Fountainhead' at an age when, instead of worshipping it unequivocally, I could enjoy it and throw it down with a healthy dose of what-the-fucketh. But I do remember someone in the book telling someone else that the sort of face we found beautiful said a lot about us. Now I think picking one favourite poem wouldn't say enough about me in one sense. In another sense it would say more than I might want someone to know. And being the 'Can't Say'-er that I am, I can't allow this to happen. I would freely admit to nothing but fangirlishness for the Beatles, or Shakespeare, or Homer or Bach, since I'm one of only millions of people who think that these people are somewhere about the pinnacle of human expression (which they are); there's neither shame nor suspicion to run with the pack in such cases. It's amazing how much attention it's possible to expect even when giving other people nothing to judge you upon.

current musix: beethoven - pathetique, movement one.


  1. I know what you mean about it being so tough to decide on a favourite book or song. can't seem to decide on one ever.

  2. Oh dear! I agree totally! Favorite book, favorite song, favorite city, favorite movie, favorite food...just goes on and on. I wonder, do ppl really expect ONE answer to each of them! If i say my favorite city is Delhi, i immediately start feeling guilty about Bangalore, which is also a favorite city...and Pondicherry, and Bombay and... Phew!
    And women talking about pretty boys...mea culpa, i guess :p

  3. *nods enthusiastically*