Tuesday, January 13, 2009


"Then one day Olivia's newspapers and magazines lay on her doorstep, untouched. The Corvette sat sullen under a tan canvas cover dotted with fallen jacaranda flowers like mementos of loss. Just the sight of the landlocked Corvette made me wish I had some Percodan left. I settled for some leftover codeine cough syrup Marvel had in her medicine chest. The sticky cloying taste lingered as I sat on my ripcord bedspread and combed my hair with Olivia's comb. I was in awe of her perfection. A woman who would throw out a handmade tortoiseshell comb just because it was missing a tooth. I wondered if she really made love to men for money, what that was like. Prostitute. Whore. What did they really mean anyway? Only words. My mother would hate that, but it was true. Words trailing their streamers of judgment. A wife got money from her husband and nobody said anything. And if Olivia's boyfriends gave her money? So what?

I combed my hair and made a French twist, imagining myself as Olivia. I stalked the small room, walking the way she walked, hips first, like a runway model. What difference did it make if she was a whore. It sounded like ventriloquism to even say it. I hated labels anyway. People didn't fit in slots - prostitute, housewife, saint - like sorting the mail. We were so mutable, fluid with fear and desire, ideals and angles, changeable as water. I ran her stocking up my leg, smelled the Ma Griffe.

I imagined she'd gone to Paris, that she was sitting at a cafe, having a cloudy Pernod and water, scarf tied to her purse like the women in her French Vogue. I imagined she was with the BMW man, the quiet one with gold cuff links who liked jazz. I'd imagined them often, dancing in the old-fashioned way in her living room, hardly moving their feet, his cheek resting on the top of her close-waved hair. That's how I saw her in Paris. Staying up till late in a jazz club only black Parisians knew, in a cellar on the Rive Gauche, dancing. I could see the champagne and the way their eyes closed, and they weren't thinking of anything but more of the same."

Extract from 'White Oleander' by Janet Fitch. (pp 122-3; Virago Publ. 1999.)


Anonymous said...

White Oleander is perhaps the most seducing read I have experienced in a long time. Thanks to a friend I had a doze f its story, its language, and, most of all its exceptionally believable characters. Janet Fitch writes this one with breathtaking beauty I don't know where to look after this. It leaves me like a thirsty desert.

Azra said...

Hmm...brings back memories :) How do you find the book so far?

KimyaShafinaaz said...

Slms u two..

I usually get through a book pretty quickly, but I am managing to savour this read bit by quenching bit, day to day for almost a week now... and I am nothing short of enthralled by her mastery...

When I grow up, I want to be able to reach into my being, and my extension of spirit with the greater life force around me, and be able to write like that! No, not write like Fitch, necessarily, but write to the endth of who I can be :P

Thirst is a quenching... What say you? ;)

Zahera said...

wow! im hooked.. gimme moorrreee :-D