Viewing entries by
Oli Hazzard

“Each a hand’s breath on”

“Each a hand’s breath on”

There’s a case to be made that the letter “z” functions as a signpost for deception in Hamlet. Think of the crucial “z” words—“buzz, buzz,” “blazes,” “squeezing,” “buzzers”— and by whom and when and why they’re spoken; think of the “z” names—Rosencrantz, Gonzago—and the different forms of artifice they evoke; then think, beyond the play, of the evasive zig-zagging of the pen itself as it makes the mark on the page. Most compelling, perhaps, is the fact that Ophelia never uses the letter “z.” By excusing her from using it, by refusing her its usage, there emerges the possibility that Shakespeare is suggesting something about Ophelia’s exceptional truthfulness in a corrupt state, about the limits of language and the limits of the world, about the relation between materiality and meaning in writing, and so on. If that sounds far-fetched, then it’s because it’s exactly the kind of far-fetched thought that I find myself having when reading let me tell you, one of my favorite novels. Indeed, far-fetched is what it feels like to think about this novel: it’s something I have to go back to in order to believe that it exists. It can’t be possible! And yet there it is. I get that familiar fear that in some other universe the text is slightly different, a fear let me tell you seems continuously preoccupied with: how did I end up being exactly myself? But the other versions are all contained in there. “But I could will it another way.” There is something awful, almost illicit, about the thought that every word or mark on the page can be examined in some new light to reveal hitherto unnoticed properties and resonances. The subtle modulations in meaning Griffiths achieves give a sense of limitless abundance and inexhaustibly fine detail, offering even the most mundane of Ophelia’s words a distinct and independent afterlife. Who knew she could speak French, or sing the Beatles, or remember a Nō play? The remarkable achievement of the work is to extend Ophelia’s world into impossible realms, while remaining something which feels organically of a piece with, and connected through deep feeling to, her original. She resembles herself.

 

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