I'm parting with a lot of my books right now, because I have too many -- too many to bring over the ocean next autumn, & too many to leave behind in boxes in my parents' already cluttered basement. I'm starting to mail off (finally!) packages to friends living away, & poring over some copies for the last time in a little while. Many of them I know I will buy again, when I have a more stable bookshelf, and more space... But it's still a wee bit wistful to let them go.
My copy of Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit will always fall open to its penultimate pages, because I bent it over enough times to copy out a paragraph that was very pithy for me at the time I first read it (July 2004, 21 yrs old, oh my):
"The unknownness of my needs frightens me. I do not know how huge they are, or how high they are, I only know that they are not being met. If you want to find out about the circumference of an oil drop, you can use lycopodium powder, and I will sprinkle it on my needs and find out how large they are. Then when I meet someone I can write up my experiment and show them what they have to take on. Except they might mutate, or even disappear. One thing I am certain of, I do not want to be betrayed".
I'm now in a very different sort of mindspace than when I first read her, (& of course so much as happened!) but what still resonates the most strongly for me is the way she evokes desire and the intrinsic fear it carries. It has always struck me as deeply comforting, the way she writes of it; how she celebrates the fear of it, the faith in it, the freedom in it. This is at the very heart of every story she tells.
More from the same page in Oranges:
"There are many forms of love and affection, some people can spend their whole lives together without knowing each other's names. Naming is a difficult and time-consuming process; it concerns essences, and it means power. But on the wild nights, who can call you home? Only the one that knows your name."