The Sweet Smell of Yearning

Loss,yearning,seduction,allure; occasionally someone captures the essence of these so exquisitely that I can read only a little, before becoming overwhelmed in the quicksands of desire. Michael Bywater does it for me. He’s been my literary journeyman for a while and often on a bleak winter afternoon I gaze out on the world and imagine what it would be like to have such a man in my life. Anyone who manages successfully to tuck alchemy, love, the Nicene Creed and the Higgs’s Boson into one sentence is my sort of guy. Grasping the complexity of modern life in a manly way, like Brian Eno, Bywater charts the power of the pause and monitors the meaning of cyberspace, a place where I now dwell, not known but potentially knowable.

Would we ever make it as a partnership? A part of me knows that in the flesh he couldn’t fulfil the promise of his writing. A malcontent and obsessive, edgy and always wanting more, he might be good only for reading me poetry in bed. No, we wordsmiths are at our best when running away from the experience of what we are hellbent on capturing in words. We are the eternally unavailable, locked in cages of our own desire, fashioning keys out of spun letters and evanescent yearning. But the feeling, oh the feeling.

Last night I watched the Preston Sturges film The Lady Eve with Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck. It’s a 1941 screwball comedy with a seduction scene so pungent and erotic it had my toes curling. Returning from a year in the Amazon the rich, shy and beautiful Fonda, along with his prize snake, having  hitched a ride on a cruise ship, falls prey to the biggest mamba of them all, Stanwyck. In the scene where she cleverly manipulates him past  dozens of panting dames into her cabin, nothing happens, except the camera’s capture of the essence of desire. In the scene pictured above Fonda, mesmerised by her perfume and dizzy with desire, is oh so slowly(and this is the erotic charge) hooked and spun and pulled in, all the time  his beautiful features running the gamut from bliss to pain and back again. Watch it- it’s a masterclass in the fine art of camera as seducer.

I know this is a scene that Bywater would appreciate for he, like me, is vulnerable to the pull of the ephemeral but it occurs to me that two obsessives do not Nirvana make,. Without a camera to register meaning  it could be downright dangerous. Best meet him in the pages of his book Lost Worlds (ISBN 1-86297-798-3) where we can pool our losses in the space between his words and my imagination.

For I’ve learned that nostalgia, like sentimentality, is but tinsel to the silver of real. I’ve grown up with the silver screen measuring my life in moments lost between the lines, caught between a chord and its resolution.Only now I know where the line is drawn.  Best keep Bywater on the page. In real life , between the tears and the tantrums, we’d fight like ferrets.


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