Byatt on Byatt [Excerpt from an interview by Sam Leith, The Guardian.]
“The minds of stone lovers had colonised stones as lichens cling to them with golden or grey-green florid stains. The human world of stones is caught in organic metaphors like flies in amber. Words came from flesh and hair and plants. Reniform, mammilated, botryoidal, dendrite, haematite. Carnelian is from carnal, from flesh. Serpentine and lizardite are stone reptiles; phyllite is leafy-green. The earth itself is made in part of bones, shells and diatoms. Ines was returning to it in a form quite different from her mother’s fiery ash and bonemeal. She preferred the parts of her body that were now volcanic glasses, not bony chalk. Chabazite, from the Greek for hailstones, obsidian, which, like analcime and garnet, has the perfect icositetrahedral shape.”
This is from my story “A Stone Woman”, a fairy tale about a woman who is turned into stone – or into many kinds of stone. The stone is a metaphor for grief and for ageing and stiffening. We are always being told language is inadequate to describe things. I think it is endlessly inventive if we pay it attention. I love all the buried metaphors in the stone-names. Thinking and writing are making connections. I once gave a reading in a university where a student said self-righteously “You used a word I didn’t know in that reading. Don’t you think that was elitist of you?” I replied that if I were her I should have rushed to the dictionary in glee and delight.