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She wasn't doing a thing that I could see,

except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.

JD Salinger.


One reading
It’s not a line from a poem. It’s from a short story, J.D.Salinger’s  “A Girl I Knew.” The story is about a girl a young man knew. The girl later became a Nazi victim. The man returns to her apartment after the war, and realizes everything has changed.


A second reading

The whole Jerome David Salinger prompt is culpable for a lot of how you seem to see your subject. 
His own frailties and sensitivities come from era, location, circumstances.
Born one year after Mandela, right?
Catcher in the Rye comes out in 1951 – Jim Crow modified apartheid USA.


A third reading

Salinger writes, "Probably for every man there is at least one city that sooner or later turns into a girl. How well or how badly the man actually knew the girl doesn't necessarily affect the transformation. She was there, and she was the whole city, and that's that”

Salinger, a man in the world, describes the quintessential fictional woman with “an immediate gravity towards someone that goes beyond sexual/physical attraction”, a woman “wholly legitimate”.


And the third reading elicits the question, how does a woman, in turn, render a man “wholly legitimate”? How does a woman photographer translate masculinities with the breadth, and confines, of the still image? How does she intuit his universe, the universe he holds together?  How can she walk alongside him as he navigates his stride, his intelligent thrust, his sensuality, his masculine calm and power, his feminine gestures, his individuality, his life history, his constriction, his griefs, his tremblings, his tenderness, his gifted hands and heart.


Why is there, although legitimate in itself, so much writings on feminism, the rage of women, while writings on the sentient life of men, the feminine archetype of the male, the rage of men confined by ambushing stereotypes, the rage at heterosexuality deemed the only ‘normal’, so scarcely residual? 


Men carrying the heavy-laden, written, lived, tolerated, pathological, history of man. For Masculinities, stretched beyond tether, having got rid of Jung’s archetypal feminine, are faced with the invidious, impossible, task to fill the space themselves. And the violences are visible, and felt, of the inevitable stretch beyond breaking point.  


Margot Muir
10 October 2022.

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