the short story project

Biography of a Dress

Omri Herzog On:

Biography of a Dress by Jamaica Kincaid

Why do I love this story (and, in fact, whatever Jamaica Kincaid has written so far and whatever she is yet to write)? I don’t know, I really don’t. There is a secret to her writing, like love; she has a story that doesn’t belong to my world, has nothing to do with it and never will. That is why it’s a wonderful gift, because the thing that turns something into a truly wonderful gift is the fact that it can never be yours. And that is both a very sad and very pleasing fact.
She writes that there are two characters, a two-year-old or a forty-three-year-old, it doesn’t matter: one experiences the world while the other looks on from afar. She writes that, among the two, only the one who is looking on is interesting; we can believe only her and only her voice is true, even though she is lying. A person who writes this way knows what writing is. A person who writes this way knows what a wound is, what a wounded life is. That is, she knows how a beautiful yellow dress carefully embroidered by a mother for a birthday is stitched together so delicately that the slightest touch could destroy everything, burst the abscess, squeeze the poison out of the yellow beauty. And how toxic this story is, how cruel, ruthless toward the mother and the two year old child, toward the grownup writer and the reader (read; see how each of them becomes tainted by pain, anger, the wrong color). I don’t know how one could live that way, experience a world of undone stitches like that. But so much interest and trust and truth are embedded in watching those who experience, like that.