On “patchwork texts” or centos in general, and specifically a cento of Paul Willems’s work.
Patchwork, colourful, a garment. I’ve carried the image since childhood. To me this internal multicoloured display is the symbol of being different, of suffering for this difference, though for ultimately righteous reasons.
It took me a while to trace the origin of this association to the Biblical story of Joseph in a comic book that I read as a child.
I do mean comic book: it had panels, gutters, speech bubbles, and lovely colourful drawings—the whole mesmerising caboodle—only the subject wasn’t Batman or Wonder Woman. Instead, I read and envisioned the Israelites’ God living in an elaborate golden box, the Arc of the Covenant, which His faithful servants carried through the desert under an unforgiving sun. The brightness of that sun was only rivalled by the brightness of the Arc itself. God spoke in a stern, sharp-angled bubble unlike everyone else’s.
The story of Joseph lends itself to a dramatic telling, panel for panel, as his fortune rises and falls time and again, to rise in the final instance. He is special, endowed with dream-visions he knows how to interpret. Joseph’s adventures, however, start with his father’s gift:
Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.
(KJV, Genesis 37:3)
Alternative versions call it a “coat with long sleeves”, but that is of little relevance to me now, retroactively.
(This isn’t where I was going with this post, but since the association is inevitable and particularly relevant in June: Happy Pride Month!)
My personal mythology has transformed the symbolic coat at every opportunity. Colourful goes hand in hand with unique with beautiful frankenstein with remarkable with dangerously balanced on a pinhead (like Kafka’s spinning tops that lose their lustre once they’re picked up), all of which circle back to dissimilar.
And if you’ve been reading this blog you’ll have noticed that self-dissimilar is ultimately what I strive for, e.g., Carson’s musk-ox Io, Cortazar’s vomited rabbits, Kafka’s silent sirens, Kesey’s cuckoo’s nest; or Hamsun’s Hunger, Zambra’s multiple choice test, Panizza’s porcinic deity…
Continue reading “Cento: Reading as Rapture, as Vertigo”