Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Prime Passage: The Vivisector by Patrick White (1970)

About the artist-protagonist Hurtle Duffield:

"Suddenly he had begun to live the life for which he had been preparing, or for which he might even have been prepared. At the end of the years of watching, of blundering around inside an inept body, of thinking, or rather, endlessly changing coloured slides in the magic-lantern of the mind, the body had become an instrument, the crude, blurred slides were focusing into what might be called a vision. Most of the day he now spent steadily painting, mostly destroying, but sometimes amazed by a detail which mightn’t have been his, yet didn’t seem to be anybody else’s. There were one or two canvases he had dared keep, in which dreams and facts had locked in an architecture which did not appear alterable. When his fingers weren’t behaving as the instruments of his power, they returned to being the trembling reeds he had grown up with. If he had not been dependent on Nance Lightfoot for ‘any little luxuries’ he might have taken to drink or smoke, and trembled more violently than he did. His nightly journeys through the deserted store, through the smells of virgin drapery, floor-wax, ammonia, and his own sweat, exhausted and prepared him for the next ordeal. ¶ Because next morning remained an ordeal: he was so flabby, frightened that his only convincing self might not take over from him at the easel." (p.204)