Studies in Voix de Glace (Voice of Ice)
Bones Without A Body
To me, this story puts into words what so many artists, regardless of the ways in which they express their art, feel at some point in time or another in their life. It is a feeling that I am familiar with, this sort of driven need to plunge further, to rush forward after art, hoping to go somewhere, to pull free from the rot that makes us each a “happy cadaver” as Ifland puts it. In “Bones without a body”, we see the way the artist, the writer, the musician, the unsung hero of art falls apart bit by bit, “first one arm, then the other”, the way the critics decry his or her journey with cries of “You won’t get anywhere” and the “grinning face, which isn’t mine”, an image which brings to mind the kind of soldiering resolution that the artist must have in order to succeed against what feels like truly impossible odds.
And yet, in the end, the artist ultimately goes nowhere. His or her greatest fear is realized, the hateful critics are vindicated and time marches on– but isn’t this just a cycle. Obviously the book itself, even the body of work an artist creates, regardless of who sees it, stands as a testament to the fact that the artist has gone somewhere, that there is more to the “happy cadaver” and to the “walking away bodyless” than we see here, but yet this isn’t always the way the artist sees it. The artist seeks to be seen, heard– art can be such an affliction, a passion that eats away at us, an addiction of the soul that we can’t let go of, that we chase to console ourselves with meaning, with purpose. Maybe I’m reading too much into this piece, applying too much of my own artist’s quest to it, making meaning by applying my own life to it instead of seeing what is truly there. Maybe not, but then again, maybe this exchange of meaning, this transaction between reader and piece is exactly what the author is going for.
The Sweetness of Things and In the Old Days
For me, the most striking aspect of this piece is the way the truth of Ifland’s story unfolds by way of the author creating a scene that didn’t really exist. There is a certain sour note here, this creation of an idealized reality of “things wrapped in sweetness” and “flowery dresses” that isn’t real, that is crushed by lines like “No, I didn’t play with her toys. I touched them as one touches things wrapped in a layer of honey.” Ifland gives us this idea of a honeyed reality that turns sickly sweet as we read, taking the reader from reality as a confection to reality as a sticky thing with a deceptive sweetness, a sweetness behind which death seems to linger. In the end, the truth comes into more clarity as the author replaces church, honeyed toys and an idealized vision of the “old days” with something gritty and American like a “football game.” Notice how the going out on Sunday is echoed in the end by the returning from the football game. Looking deeper, I suddenly realize a deeper connection here, this idea of an idealized facade placed directly over (instead of substituting for) the grittier and incongruent aspects of reality. Football: blood and violence, juxtaposed with flowery dresses and sweet things from pastry shops. There is definitely an element here of opening up American life for the reader, showing this strange duality of hedonism and idealized tradition that exists in our culture. Does she like it? To me, I’d say that, at least in this story, she is merely observing. In retrospect, I’d say that, considering the author’s origins, perhaps this story’s focus is more of a reflection on this same duality in western culture in general. That’s the problem with a word like football. It both unifies the cultural backgrounds, possibilities, and separates them. It makes the story belong to the culture of the reader, and that is truly amazing.