Friday 26 March 2021


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little scratch by Rebecca Watson   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
His outfit was a clown outfit, he realised, he was standing there in a clown outfit, a vintage double-breasted tailored herringbone woollen clown outfit but a clown outfit all the same, he realised, basically a joke outfit, tailored but not for him, the jacket too tight and too short for one thing, or two things, the trousers too narrow above the knees for another, at least to his way of thinking, the kind of outfit that he would laugh at upon anyone else but had, it seemed, somehow tricked himself into wearing, presumably it was a trick, suddenly, it seemed, he now found himself wearing a clown outfit, he found himself wearing it suddenly although he had in fact been wearing it for months without realising that he was wearing what basically amounted to a clown outfit, or suppressing that realisation for some reason, all the better, perhaps, to trick himself into wearing it. But why? Why had he for months been wearing what amounted to nothing short of a parody of his own dress sense, even perhaps a parodic attack on what might otherwise have passed for his own dress sense, if he could be said to have such a thing, a self-ridiculing impulse directed perhaps at his own vanity, everybody’s got their own vanity, he thought a simple test not requiring too much imagination can prove this, though he was not certain that in this instance he was in fact testing for or reproving his own vanity, he could perhaps have been trying instead to cure his own shyness, if shyness is the correct term for his discomfort in being caught in the attention of others, shyness is not perhaps the word, in any case a therapy, so to call it, gone in this instance a step too far into parody, or could it be that he had found in his brown double-breasted clown outfit the perfect refuge from being caught in the attention of others, nobody sees beyond the surface of a clown outfit after all, a clown outfit is an impenetrable defence, he thought, I am no-one or anyone in my clown outfit, let them find ridiculous that which I also find ridiculous, he thought, they cannot see me, they cannot ridicule me, they cannot catch me in their attention, their ridicule stops at the ridiculousness of my clown outfit, which I also find ridiculous, I know that whatever they think of me is wrong. The book I have been reading, he thought, is also concerned with the surface that divides a person from the world of other persons, the surface that both attracts and stops the gaze of other persons, the surface that both protects and makes vulnerable the person it both covers and defines. The little scratch in little scratch is the scratching the narrator performs upon her own skin, the scratching she attempts to resist but cannot always resist, “and now I’m scratching because I’m annoyed that I’m scratching,” she says, the scratching that ritualises her frustration with her own bodily existence for a reason that becomes apparent in the course of the book but which the narrator attempts to prevent surfacing in her thoughts, she needs to get through her day at work after all, she wants to enjoy her evening with her boyfriend if she can, very much, she wants to undo the effect of the historic violation that has been performed upon her, she wants to be once again gatekeeper to her own skin. The spoiler came more quickly than I had thought it would, he thought, I had tried to hold back the spoiler, he thought, could I have written this paragraph without the spoiler at all, he wondered, it is too late now, whatever the spoiler spoils or has spoiled, I’ll carry on. From the moment she wakes up the narrator is both hyperaware of her body and dissociated from it, well, more dissociated than aware, I’d say, he thought, can she scratch her skin and find herself in there, perhaps she wonders, who is there? she wonders, “me, completely separate from my body, but still in it,” from the moment she wakes up, the narrator is stuck in her head, her thoughts move down the page in all their parallel paths, confluences, bifurcations, trifurcations, and diversions, the book attempts a record of ALL HER THOUGHTS during the course of one day, even the most mundane thoughts, but also those thoughts not mundane at all. The effect is remarkably effective, he thought, though he could have chosen better words to express this thought, the effect is that of being stuck in yourself, of being stuck in time moving either too slowly or too fast, of being aware to the point of desperation of all your thoughts as you have them, how does the narrator and how did the author stay sane, he wondered, if they do stay sane, and likewise the reader, the effect is claustrophobic. Just like his thoughts, he thought, her thoughts, though mostly mundane, occasionally allow that mundanity to think itself a little less mundane. Whe she sees some young men at the railway station on her way to work, she imagines “them seeing me, me seeing my own face, body, legs etc, assessing the me which I cannot see but see them seeing, forgetting to assess them because I am too busy assessing what they’re assessing, which I can’t actually assess because there is no full length mirror balanced against nothing in the middle of the platform for me to use to assess my assessment of their assessment to see if it is accurate, although, come to think of it, if I don’t have time to assess them, because I’m assessing me who they’re assessing, then who’s to say they’re not doing the same—assessing what I’m assessing, or, indeed, what they assume I’m assessing, so we’re all just assessing what we assume they’re assessing, i.e. ourselves, which we cannot see,” which, he thought, reveals the mundane as a sort of matrix for gauging the nature of one’s relationships with those with whom one shares that matrix, intimately or less intimately or not intimately at all, if awareness can ever be anything but intimate. The matrix is a linguistic matrix, he thought, the book is a linguistic matrix upon which the narrator’s awareness is arranged, I do not think linguistic matrix is the right term though, he thought. How could experience be any clearer than this, he wondered, but he does not have much time to wonder because “morning! morning! simultaneous, a little awkward, the call and response conjoined so now we don’t know who is the caller and who is the responder, and, in the place where the second morning! would actually fall, silence!” The narrator is desperate to suppress a thought with thought, she thinks to the brink of the thought and turns away so many times, but the thought she does not want to think draws her towards it, “I cannot get through the day, if everything brings up something else,” she thinks, the thought she does not want to think is underneath her other thoughts, pulling at them always, sabotaging her at inopportune moments, pulling her even from her own body. Such is the harm. 

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