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IN MEMORY OF THEIR FEELINGS Susan Sontag 1. DANCERS ON A PLANE I don't see them. There. The dancers are there, invisible-an analogue to racing thoughts. Framed by the utensils of eating. A meal to be eaten? An invisible meal. Two meals: one light, one dark. One sprightly, one stained with sexual dread. Dancers on a plate? No. They need more space than that. 2. EATING AND DANCING Recombinant arts. A domain of pleasure. A domain of courtesy. Rule-bound. Who sets the rules? Behavior with standards. An idea of order. First one thing, then another. Then one is full. Then it is finished-the belly sated, the limbs heavy. After a decent interval: then again. All over again. All over, again. They remind us we live in the body-house. Living "in" the body. But where else could we live? Dancing as the realm of freedom, that's less than half the story. Eating as the realm of necessity. Not necessarily. What about eating idyllically (as in Paris)? Everyone eats, everyone can dance. Not every one dances (alas). I watch dance, with pleasure. I don't watch eating. If I watch someone eating when hungry, I wish it were I eating. A meal watched by a hungry person is always savory. If I watch someone eating when full, I may turn away. You can dance for me. (You do the dancing in my place, I'll just watch.) You can't eat for me. Not much pleasure there.... E 1 You can dance to please: Salome. You can eat to please, too: as a child might eat to please its mother or a nurse. (As Suzanne Farrell is said to have said that she danced for God and for Mr. Balanchine.) But except to doting parents eating is a poor spectator sport. Mildly disgusting unless you're doing it as well. To eat is to put metal in one's mouth. Delicately. It's not supposed to hurt. The eater fills the hole. A dancer eats space. Space eats time. Sounds eat silence. 3. THE KNIFE It cuts. Don't be afraid. This is not a weapon. It's just a tool to help you eat. See. Passing it to you-you asked for it-I proffer it by the handle, keeping the blade pointed at myself. The blade is pointing at me. One should not move the point of the knife toward someone as in an attack. You can lay it down two ways. Blade in, blade out. Don't be timorous. It isn't sharp. It's just a plain, ordinary... knife. Straight. Two-sided. In the fairy tale, a mermaid who has fallen in love with a prince begs to be allowed to assume human form so she can leave the water and make her way to the court. Yes. She will have legs, she will walk. But with each step she takes it will feel as is she were walking on knives. You can dance with a knife. (Between the teeth? Between the shoulder blades?) Hard to imagine dancing with a fork. Or with a spoon. The knife seems like the master utensil, the one from which all others depend. (Swiss Army Knife.) You could spear food with your knife, eliminating the fork. (As everyone knows, you can eat the peas with your knife. You're just not supposed to.) As for the spoon-well, we could do without that, too. Just lift up the bowl dish cup, and drink it. Only the knife is really necessary. And it is the knife, more than any other eating utensil, whose use is most restricted. The evolution of table manners is mainly about what to do with knives. Use the knife more and more unobtrusively, elegantly. With your fingerends. Don't grasp it against your palm, like a stick. "There is a tendency that slowly permeates civilized society, from the top to the bottom, to restrict the use of the knife (within the framework of existing eating techniques) and wherever possible not to use the instrument at all" (Norbert Elias). For instance, to eliminate or at least limit the contact of the knife with round...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 1-8
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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