If there is a book we usually recommend to readers’ lists, it would be Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE. It is, for us, the one novel we never tire of. Up to this day, when we re-read it, even if we know what situations the chapters bring us to, we always finish with the same kind of wonder and awe at the end of it all. Because, there is always something new we had not encountered in our previous readings, there seems to be an endless parallel universe we had not explored before. It is, up to this writing, still the most beautiful novel we have read. It has never become old.
But, as readers, we do encounter some, which elevates our senses to heights near enough to One Hundred Years of Solitude, that reminds us of the world we choose to encounter when we pick up that one book and start on a journey through it’s pages. Here, at this writing, we must mention Jeanette Winterson’s GUT SYMMETRIES.
We almost lost this one a few years back when we decided to close our home in Davao and give away most of the library we had. This was among a pile on a borrowed, rickety card table my mother used for her bridge games, before she passed away. We were sort of hosting our young friends from the university looking through those piles on the floor. We even recommended it to one of them. But, fortunately, it was left behind.
It must have been asking for us to pick it up and finish reading it. Yes we had not finished reading the book. You see, we have this habit of buying books by authors we had encountered before, which we thought was really well written, and so absorbed our attention when we were reading it that, if it were not for having to turn it’s pages, we believed we were part of the overseeing eye in the book. And, Jeanette Winterson is one author we have read that, from the first one (Written on the Body) to the next one (The Passion) to the nonfiction work Art & Lies, has not disappointed.
But, because we also read more than a few books at the same time, we tend to put on hold the ones we think will occupy our attention more than most, like savoring the best for last? And, because we don’t seem to want there to be a last, we tend to hold it off too long.
And so, getting back to the book, reminds us of how words can truly transport our minds to some yet undiscovered plane. At our age, this sensation of transcending has become a rare experience. Hence the re-readings. There are authors who never become predictable, and their works tend to never repeat themselves, like old themes and phrases we sometimes find we do ourselves. The level of brilliance in the way her words come together to form not only an image, but also teases out our sensory perceptions of those images. Especially in this novel where she uses physics, and its attendant mysteries to the simple mind like ours. We even find ourself having a glimmer of some understanding of the science of abstracted possibilities. We were never good in math. But, because this novel’s language seems to have translated the mathematics of the science, we come to think that we were brought to, at least, a certain level of relating the narrative of the characters in the book; to the theoretical basics of what she interprets as the physics of relationships and where the universe leads the people of her pages – to meet them.
And, as language is the one thing we do have a familiar understanding of, it somehow makes us feel the math as we have never before. Words are mediums of our thought processes. It continues to afford us companionship and solace, so that we never really feel alone – or lonely. Not that we are by ourself a lot, in fact we find the pockets of time when the men in our life is at work, the most productive. That, most times, when they populate the little space we do have to ourselves, we tend to jealously guard their rare occurrences.
If these are not enough thoughts to remember the book’s impact on us, in the middle of a trip to the edge of the southern belt of America, let us mention here, how far we’ve been bringing with us this lasting impression of Jeanette Winterson’s Gut Symmetries. At this writing, we are in the land of the chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and biscuits and gravy. Here, the ubiquitous hamburger is king. And, even in the midst of these overwhelming affront of the “real” America, we are still reminded of the fine finish of the way the author spins her magic in every word of each sentence.
The grand unified theory in the book’s philosophy is yet to be discovered. Unusually, we have not actually finished reading it all. But we know, from our gut, that we will find that final symmetry. (Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Margot Marfori is an author and visual artist from Davao City. She is currently based in Henderson, Nevada.)