Madison Smartt Bell - August 1, 1957
We all have rats and snakes inside of us. Both are lurking below the surface and both stick their noses or forked tongues out from time to time...and we must decide if we will allow them to cohabitate or permit one to rise above the other.
Allowing one type of sin to trump another isn’t really a tough decision. You just choose to live in a deeper, stronger state of “sin’.
As I’ve detailed quite frequently here, I’ve wrestled with my lack of self-discipline. Sure, I’ll recognize my inability to wrestle it under control as a sort of sin. I should have more control. I think that in some cases with me, there is the need to purchase a snake and allow him to clean up the rats but at the same time I don’t think that I would have the fortitude to allow the snake to have free run to devour the rats. Perhaps the best tactic would be to introduce the snake for short periods of time and allow him to clean up... hoping that the rats don’t have the chance to multiply to a level that will overwhelm the snake and his cleaning efforts.
I’ve asked M before if she thought that I was a bit “off” the norm. I have some strange mannerisms and behaviors and when I step back to look at myself and my behavior, I really feel a bit of awkwardness about the way I act.
Why do I say what I say, why do I do what I do...make the goofy sounds and facial expressions, talk with my hands, become passionate and vocal about something that doesn’t warrant that sort of behavior?
M does a wonderful job at reassuring me that everything I do is what makes “me”...”me”. She is of course right but I have that constant tugging feeling inside of me questioning everything about me...that tugging must be the snake and the rat.
Bell does a wonderful job of showing that that sin exists within each of us, and that sin is what makes us human, coupled with Updike’s constant exploration to expose and address sensitive points of what makes us human makes this a welcome addition to the anthology.