Quotes from Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid

Jamaica Kincaid’s novel, Lucy, like everything else this brilliant writer has produced is a feast of poetic prose that one finds it hard to choose which parts to share as quotes and which ones to leave behind. In other words, it is a book I recommend without any reservation. Because I just have a blog-post and posting the entire book would be an infringement on the writer’s rights, I will post a few excerpts that still make my heart go like, yeeeees, this is so well told, I totally feel, see, smell, taste, hear, etc what is happening. Lucy is the story of an au pair from Antigua and her life in her employer’s (Mariah) home. It is a beautiful coming of age story. No spoilers, just quotes.

Lucy is aware of colonial imprints

As I opened my eyes, the word “Australia” stood between our faces, and I remembered then that Australia was settled as a prison for bad people, people so bad that they couldn’t be put in a prison in their own country. – Page 9

Of how people in Lucy’s America walk

When people walked on the streets they did it quickly, as if they were doing something behind someone’s back, as if they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves, as if being out in the cold too long would cause them to dissolve. – Page 10

The Love songs

It was a song that was very popular at the time – three girls, not older than I was, singing in harmony and in a very insincere and artificial way about love and so on. It was very beautiful all the same, and it was beautiful because it was so insincere and artificial.- page 11

The privileged and their pity 

Mariah reached out to me and, rubbing her hand against my cheek, said, “What a history you have.” I thought there was a little bit of envy in her voice, and so I said, “You are welcome to it if you like.” – Page 19

Love and hate are sisters

How do you get to be a person who is made miserable because the weather changed its mind, because the weather doesn’t live up to your expectations? How do you get to be that way?

While the weather sorted itself out in various degrees of coldness, I walked around with letters from my family and friends scorching my breasts. I had placed these letters inside my brassiere, and carried them around with me wherever I went. It was not from feelings of love and longing that I did this; quite the contrary. It was from a feeling of hatred. There was nothing so strange about this, for isn’t it so that love and hate exists side by side? Each letter was a letter from someone I had loved at one time without reservation. – Page 20

Of those poems on Daffodils by the way 

Mariah said, ‘These are daffodils. I’m sorry about the poem, but I’m hoping you’ll find them lovely all the same.’

There was such joy in her voice as she said this, such a music, how could I explain to her the feeling I had about daffodils – that it wasn’t exactly daffodils, but that they would do as well as anything else? Where should I start? Over here or over there? Anywhere would be good enough, but my heart and my thoughts were racing so that every time I tried to talk I stammered and by accident bit my own tongue. – Page 29

Appropriation much? 

Mariah says, ‘I have Indian blood in me,’ and underneath everything I could swear she says it as if she were announcing her possession of a trophy. How do you get tp be the sort of victor who can claim to be the vanquished also? – Page 41

Before you call that place beautiful 

I wished once again that I came from a place where no one wanted to go, a place that was filled with slag and unexpectedly erupting volcanoes, or where a visitor was turned into a pebble on setting foot there; somehow it made e feel ashamed to come from a place where the only thing to be said about it was ‘I had fund when I was there.’ – Page 65

No need to hide the anger

I was having a thought not unlike this when unexpectedly, Mariah came up to me. The look on my face must have shocked her, for she said, ‘You are a very angry person, aren’t you?’ and her voice was filled with alarm and pity. Perhaps I should have said something reassuring; perhaps I should have denied it. But I did not. I said, “Of course I am. What do you expect?’ – Page 96

Of the sex that sucks 

Bad sex. I wondered what exactly did she mean. From my mother I had gathered that the experience could leave you feeling indifferent, that during it you might make out the grocery list, pick a style of curtains, memorize a subtle but choice insult for people who imagined themselves above you. But I had never imagined the word ‘bad’ could be applied to it, and as soon as she said it I knew what she meant: it was like wanting a sugar apple and getting a spoiled one; and while you’re eating the spoiled one, the memory of a good tasting one will not go away.” – Page 113-4

The Patriarchal roots of the law

Everybody knew that men have no morals, that they do not know how to behave, that they do not know how to treat other people. It was why men like laws so much; it was why they had to invent such things-they need a guide. When they are not sure what to do, they consult this guide. If the guide gives them advice they don’t like, they change the guide. – Page 142

The Power of Names 

Lucy, a girl’s name for Lucifer. That my mother would have found me devil-like did not surprise me, for I often thought of her as god-like, and are not the children of gods devils? I did not grow to like the name Lucy-I would have much preferred to be called Lucifer outright-but whenever I saw my name I always reached out to give it a strong embrace. – Page 153

If there is one writer, from whom I can’t seem to read enough, it is Kincaid. I feel bad that I have only been able to read four of her titles (A Small Place, My Brother, Lucy and Annie John) in one year. I should find time to share excerpts from these, and a fully blown review of at least one of them. I think I did well, considering that access to the books became possible in the last quarter of the year.

One of the many unsaid 2016 resolutions is to read every book she has written (except the Gardening ones, I am still a toddler in that department). I already have The Autobiography of My Mother and See Now Then on my shelf, so I think this is an achievable feat. Till then, stay safe.