||[Feb. 11th, 2013|11:55 pm]
the lie detector
The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq (2005)|
A collapsed pastry, that was what Nabokov’s style had always made me think of.
“But exactly,” she continued. “If a book that is so badly written, and what’s more, is handicapped by a gross mistake concerning the age of the heroine, manages despite everything to be a very good book, to such an extent that it constitutes a lasting myth, and enters everyday speech, then the author has stumbled upon something essential” (22).
“Do you like my place?”
“Yes. You’ve got taste.”
“Are you surprised I’ve got taste, since I work for a shitty magazine?”
I could tell it was going to be hard to hide my thoughts from her. This remark, curious, filled me with a certain joy; I suppose that is one of the signs of true love (24).
Obviously there’s something ridiculous about a thirty-year old woman buying a magazine called Lolita; but no more so than her buying a clinging top, or hot pants. His bet was that the feeling of ridiculousness, which had been so strong among women, and Frenchwomen in particular, was going to gradually disappear and be replaced by pure fascination with limitless youth (29).
When sexuality disappears, it’s the body of the other that appears, as a vaguely hostile presence; the sounds, movements, and smells; even the presence of this body that you can no longer touch, nor sanctify through touch, becomes gradually oppressive; all this, unfortunately, is well known. The disappearance of tenderness always closely follows that of eroticism. There is no refine relationship, no higher union of souls, nor anything that might resemble it, or even evoke it allusively. When physical love disappears, everything disappears; a dreary, depthless irritation fills the passing days. And, with regard to physical love, I hardly had any illusions. Youth, beauty, strength: the criteria for physical love are exactly the same as those of Nazism. In short, I was in the shit (50-1).
Speech destroys, separates, and when it is all that remains between a man and a woman, then you can consider the relationship over. When, however, it is accompanied, softened, and in some way sanctified by caresses, speech itself can take on a completely different meaning, one that is less dramatic but more profound, that of a detached intellectual counterpoint, free and uninvolved in immediate issues (61).
To tell the truth, intelligence is not very useful in sexual intercourse, and it serves really only one purpose: to know at which moment you should put your hand on a man’s cock in a public place. All men like this; it’s the monkey’s sense of domination, residual traces of that kind of thing, and it would be stupid not to realize it; the only issue is the choice of the time, and the place. Some men prefer that the indecent gesture be witnessed by a woman; others, probably those who are a little gay or very dominant, prefer it to be another man; others still find nothing pleases them as much as a couple giving them a complicit look (65).
I had, however, always needed to respect in order to love, never in my heart of hearts had I felt perfectly at ease in a sexual relationship based purely on erotic attraction and indifference to the other, I had always needed, to feel sexually happy, a minimum—for want of love—of sympathy, respect, and mutual understanding; no, I had not given up on mankind (153).
On the biggest of the fragments I read these phrases, in which I recognized the dialogue of Plato’s Symposium where Aristophanes expounds his theory of love:
When therefore a man, whether attracted to boys or to women, meets the one who is his other half, the feeling of tenderness trust, and love with which they are gripped is a miracle; they no longer want to be apart, even for an instant. And this way people spend all their lives together, without being able moreover to say what they expect from one another; for it does not appear to be uniquely the pleasure of the sense that makes them find so much charm in the company of the other. It is obvious that the soul of each desires something else, what it cannot say, but it guesses it, and lets you guess (331-2).
||[Nov. 24th, 2012|12:04 am]
the lie detector
Atomised by Michel Houellebecq (1999)|
“Don’t bother…” said Christiane when he reached for the condoms. When he entered her, he could tell she was happy. One of the most surprising things about physical love is the sense of intimacy it creates the moment there is any trace of mutual affection. Suddenly – even if you met the night before – you can confide things to your lover that you would not tell another living soul (175).
Thirty years later he could not come to any other conclusion: women were indisputably better than men. They were gentler, more affectionate, more loving and more compassionate, they were rarely violent, selfish, cruel or self-centred. Moreover, they were more rational, more intelligent and more hard-working.
What on earth were men for? (196)
If people were honest, they don’t give a toss about their kids, they don’t really love them. In fact, I’d say men aren’t capable of love; the emotion is completely alien to them. The only emotions they know are desire – in the form of pure animal lust – and male rivalry (200).
Bruno was right – paternal love was a lie, a fiction. A lie is useful if it transforms reality, he thought, but if it fails, then all that’s left is the lie, the bitterness and the knowledge that it was a lie (201).
“I remember a boy I knew in the première when I was sixteen. He was very confused, very tortured. His family were rich, very traditional; and actually he completely accepted their values. One day when we were talking he said to me, “The value of any religion depends on the quality of the moral system founded upon it.” I stood there, speechless with surprise and admiration. . . I’ve been thinking about it for forty years, and now I think he was wrong. It seems impossible to me to think of religion from a purely moral standpoint; but Kant was right when he said that the Saviour of mankind should be judged by the same universal ethics as the rest of us. But I’ve come to believe that religions are basically an attempt to explain the world; and no attempt to explain the world can survive if it clashes with our need for rational certainty (323).
“Personally,” said Michel, the idea coming to him only as he spoke, “I think that I needed that basic, pragmatic positivism that most researchers have. Facts exist and are linked together by laws; the notion of cause simply isn’t scientific. The world is precisely the sum of information we have about it”. (324)
Now it seemed unthinkable that a girl of seventeen should be so naïve; it was particularly unbelievable that a girl of seventeen should set so much store by love. If the surveys in magazines were to be believed, things had changed completely in the 25 years since Annabelle had been a teenager. Young girls today were more sensible, more sophisticated. Nowadays they worried more about their exam results and did their best to ensure they would have a decent career. For them, going out with boys was simply a game, a distraction based as much on narcissism as on sexual pleasure. Later, they would try to make a good marriage, basing their decision on a range of social and professional criteria as well as shared interests and tastes. Of course, in doing this, they cut themselves off from any possibility of happiness – a condition indissociable from traditional and transient emotions which are incompatible with the practice of reason – but in doing so they hopes to escape the moral and emotional suffering which had so tortured their forebears. This hope was, unfortunately, rapidly disappointed; the passing of the pains of love simply left the field clear for boredom, emptiness and an anguished wait for old age and death. The second part of Annabelle’s life had been, therefore, much more dismal than the first of which, in the end, she had no memory at all (338-9).
||[Mar. 3rd, 2012|12:59 am]
the lie detector
Being There by Jerzy Kosinski (1970)|
Nowadays, no one in close proximity to the President is allowed to have any sharp object on his person-so don't show them your mind, Chauncey, they may take it away from you! (40)
Television reflected only people's surfaces; it also kept peeling their images from their bodies until they were sucked into the caverns of their viewers' eyes, forever beyond retrieval, to disappear (54).
They would never know how real he was, since his thinking could not be televised (54).
"You have the great gift . . . of being natural, and that, my dear man, is a rare talent, and the true mark of a leader" (60).
"Mr. Gardiner's a modest man," EE blurted out. "He doesn't advertise his accomplishments! His knowledge is for himself!" (78)
||[Feb. 26th, 2012|02:16 am]
the lie detector
Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi (1998)|
Almost certainly I will not tell her my intentions this evening or tonight. I will put it off. Why? Because words are actions and they make things happen (3).
Hurting someone is an act of reluctant intimacy (4).
Surely the ultimate freedom is to choose, to dispense with freedom for the obligations that tie one to life - to get involved (11).
It is unhappiness and the wound that compels me. Then I can understand and be of use ... If you are drawn to unhappiness you'll never lack a friend (31).
But why do people who are good at families have to be smug and assume it is the only way to live, as if everybody else is inadequate? (32)
I want an absolute honesty that doesn't merely involve saying how awful one is. How do I like to write? With a soft pencil and a hard dick - not the other way round (47).
Patience is a virtue only in children and the imprisoned (51).
I wish you were someone else.
Is it too much to want a tender and complete intimacy?
Is it too much to want to sleep in someone's willing arms? (59)
There are few things more desolate than undressing in the dark beside a woman who won't wake up for you (90).
A discussion followed, around the table, on the ethics of such a dilemma. But I could only think that there are some fucks for which a person would have their partner and children drown in a freezing sea. My kingdom for a come. Women, I've noticed, are particularly tenacious in this respect. When they want someone there's no stopping them (91).
"But how many of our friends and acquaintances, having left their partners, would wish to go back to them? How many of them would say, were they able to relive that period, that they wouldn't have left?" (102)
I can't say I haven't learned more in this crucible than I've learned anywhere: the education of a heart, slightly cracked, if not broken in places. Whether I will survive the knowledge and put it to good use - whether any of us will - is another matter (116).
Suddenly I had the feeling that everything was as it should be and nothing could add to this happiness or contentment. This was all that there was, and all that could be. The best of everything had accumulated in this moment. It could only have been love (118).
||[Jan. 20th, 2011|11:47 pm]
the lie detector
Just Kids by Patti Smith|
I longed to enter the fraternity of the artist: the hunger, their manner of dress, their process and prayers. I'd brag that I was going to be an artist's mistress one day. Nothing seemed more romantic to my young mind. I imagined myself as Frida to Diego, both muse and maker. I dreamed of meeting an artist to love and support and work with side by side (12).
We had our work and one other. We didn't have the money to go to concerts or movies or to buy new records, but we played the ones we had over and over. We listened to my Madame Butterfly as sung by Eleanor Steber. A Love Supreme. Between the Buttons. Joan Baez and Blonde on Blonde. Robert introduced me to his favorites-- Vanilla Fudge, Tim Buckley, Tim Hardin--and his History of Motown provided the backdrop for our nights of communal joy (46).
One Indian summer day we dressed in our favorite things... We took the subway to West Fourth Street and spent the afternoon in Washington Square...
We were walking toward the fountain, the epicenter of activity, when an older couple stopped and openly observed us. Robert enjoyed being noticed, and he affectionately squeezed my hand.
"Oh, take their picture," said the woman to her bemused husband, "I think they're artists."
"Oh, go on," he shrugged. "They're just kids" (47).
The boy I met was shy and inarticulate. He liked to be led, to be taken by the hand and enter wholeheartedly another world. He was masculine and protective, even as he was feminine and submissive. Meticulous in his dress and demeanor, he was also capable of a frightening disorder within his work. His own worlds were solitary and dangerous, anticipating freedom, ecstasy, and release.
... Pensive, preoccupied, he'd look up and see me watching him and he'd smile. That smile broke through anything else he was feeling or experiencing--even later, when he was dying, in mortal pain (60-1).
I came home and there were cutouts of statues, the torsos and buttocks of the Greeks, the Slaves of Michelangelo, images of sailors, tattoos, and stars. To keep up with him, I read Robert passages from Miracle of the Rose, but he was always a step ahead. While I was reading Genet, it was as if he was becoming Genet (70).
"I don't think," he insisted. "I feel."
Robert was good to me, yet I could tell he was somewhere else. I was accustomed to him being quiet, but not silent brooding. Something was bothering him, something that was not about money. He never ceased to be affectionate to me, but he just seemed troubled.
He slept through the day and worked through the night. I would awake to find him staring at the bodies chiseled by Michelangelo tacked in a row on the wall. I would have preferred an argument to silence but it wasn't his way. I could no longer decipher his moods.
I noticed that at night there was no music. He withdrew from me and paced about, unfocused, not fully realizing his work. Half-finished montages of freaks, saints, and sailors littered the floor. It was unlike him to leave his work in that state. It was something that he had always admonished me for. I felt powerless to penetrate the stoic darkness surrounding him.
His agitation mounted as he became increasingly unsatisfied with his work. "The old imagery doesn't work for me," he would say. One Sunday afternoon he took a soldering iron to the groin of a Madonna. After he was done, he just shrugged it off. "It was a moment of insanity," he said (71).
Then, on impulse, I walked over to Jake's Art Supplies and bought some oils, brushes, and canvas. I decided I was going to paint.
I had watched Howie paint when I was with him. His process was physical and abstract in a way that Robert's was not, and I recalled my own young ambitions, seized with the desire to pick up a brush myself. Taking my camera to MoMA, I search for inspiration. I took a series of black-and-white portraits of de Kooning's Woman I, and had them developed. Taping them to a wall, I began her portrait. It amused me to do a portrait of a portrait (77).
Both of us had given ourselves to others. We vacillated and lost everyone, but we had found one another again. We wanted, it seemed, what we already had, a lover and a friend to create with, side by side. To be loyal, yet be free (81).
Someone at Max's asked me if I was androgynous. I asked what that meant. "You know, like Mick Jagger." I figured that must be cool. I thought the word meant both beautiful and ugly at the same time. Whatever it meant, with just a haircut, I miraculously turned androgynous overnight (140).
Some of us are born rebellious. Reading the story of Zelda Fitzgerald by Nancy Milford, I identified with her mutinous spirit. I remember passing shop windows with my mother and asking why people didn't just kick them in. She explained that there were unspoken rules of social behavior, and that's the way we coexist as people. I felt instantly confined by the notion that we are born into a world where everything was mapped out by those before us. I struggled to suppress destructive impulses and worked instead on creative ones. Still, the small rule-hating self within me did not die.
When I told Robert of my child-self's desire to shatter windows, he teased me about it.
"Patti! No. You're the bad seed," he said. But I wasn't.
Sam, on the other hand, identified with the little story. He had no problem imagining me in my little brown shoes itching to cause a ruckus. When I told him I sometimes had the impulse to put my foot through a window, he just said, "Kick it in, Patti Lee. I'll bail you out." With Sam I could be myself. He understood more than anyone how it felt to be trapped in one's skin (174-5).
Sam and I had a long discussion about our life together. By then he had revealed to me that he was married and had an infant son. Perhaps it was the carelessness of youth but I was not completely cognizant of how our irresponsible ways could affect others. I met his wife, Olan, a young and gifted actress. I never expected him to leave her, and we all fell into an unspoken rhythm of coexistence. He was often gone and let me stay in his room by myself with remnants of him: his Indian blanket, typewriter, and a bottle of Ron del Barrilito three-star rum.
Robert was appalled by the thought that Sam was married. He'll leave you eventually, he would say, but I already knew that. He figured Sam to be an erratic cowboy.
"You wouldn't like Jackson Pollock, either," I retorted. Robert just shrugged (179-80).
When we got to the part where we had to improvise an argument in a poetic language, I got cold feet. "I can't do this," I said. " I don't know what to say."
"Say anything," he said. "You can't make a mistake when you improvise."
"What if I mess it up? What if I screw up the rhythm?"
"You can't," he said. "It's like drumming. If you miss a beat, you create another."
In this simple exchange, Sam taught me the secret of improvisation, one that I have accessed my whole life (185).
Experiencing the play taught me things about myself as well. I couldn't imagine how Cavale's image of a "rock 'n' roll Jesus with a cowboy mouth" could apply to anything I was doing, but as we sang, sparred, and drew each other out, I found myself at home onstage. I was no actress; I drew no line between life and art. I was the same on- as offstage (186).
Tony and I had a heated exchange that ended with him incredulous with laughter. "You don't shoot up and you're not a lesbian. What do you actually do?" (217)
Robert liked Sam's money, and Sam liked that Robert liked his money. Were that all that motivated them, they could have easily found it elsewhere. Instead, each possessed something the other wanted and, in that way, complemented the other. Sam secretly wanted to be an artist, but he was not. Robert wanted to be rich and powerful, but he was not. By association, each tasted the other's attributes. They were a package, so to speak. They needed each other. The patron to be magnified by the creation. The artist to create (235).
And yet when I look at Robert's work, his subjects are not saying, Sorry, I have my cock hanging out. He's not sorry and doesn't want anybody else to be. He wanted his subjects to be pleased with his photographs, whether it was an S&M guy shoving nails in his dick or a glamorous socialite. He wanted all his subjects to feel confident about their exchange.
He didn't think the work was for everybody. When he first exhibited his most hard-core photographs, they were in a portfolio marked X, in a glass case, for people over eighteen. He didn't feel that it was important to shove those pictures in people's faces, except mine, if he was teasing me.
When I asked him what drove him to take such pictures, he said that someone had to do it, and it might as well be him. He had a privileged position for seeing acts of extreme consensual sex and his subjects trusted him. His mission was not to reveal, but to document an aspect of sexuality as art, as it had never been done before. What excited Robert the most as an artist was to produce something that no one else had done.
It didn't change the way he was with me. But I worried about him, as at times he seemed to be driving himself into a darker, more dangerous place. At its best, our friendship was a refuge from everything, where he could hide or coil like an exhausted baby snake (236).
Lenny showed me how to play an E, and as I struck the note, I spoke the line: "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine." I had written the line some years before as a declaration of existence, as a vow to take responsibility for my own actions. Christ was a man worthy to rebel against, for he was rebellion itself (247).
Robert was unabashedly proud of my success. What he wanted for himself, he wanted for us both. He exhaled a perfect stream of smoke, and spoke in a tone he only used with me--a bemused scolding--admiration without envy, our brother-sister language.
"Patti," he drawled, "you got famous before me" (258).
When Fred looked at the photograph, he said, "I don't know how he does it, but all his photographs of you look like him" (273).
Why can't I write something that would awake the dead? That pursuit is what burns most deeply. I got over the loss of his desk and chair, but never the desire to produce a string of words more precious than the emeralds of Cortes. Yet I have a lock of his hair, a handful of his ashes, a box of his letters, a goatskin tambourine. And in the folds of faded violet tissue a necklace, two violet plaques etched in Arabic, strung with black and silver threads, given to me by the boy who loved Michelangelo (279).
||[Dec. 22nd, 2010|10:08 pm]
the lie detector
Antwerp by Roberto Bolaño (2002)|
27. OCCASIONALLY IT SHOOK
A policeman can watch any way he wants, he's already overcome all the risks of the gaze. What I mean is, the drawer holds fear and photographs and men who can never be found, as well as papers.
28. AN EMPTY PLACE NEAR HERE
"He has a white mustache, or maybe it was gray" ... "I was thinking about my situation, I was alone again and I was trying to understand why" ... "There's a skinny man over by the body now, taking pictures" ... "I know there's an empty place near here, but I don't know where" ...
30. THE MEDIC
An obsessive boy. Actually, what I mean is, if you knew him you couldn't stop thinking about him.
31. A WHITE HANDKERCHIEF
I'm walking in the park, it's fall, looks like somebody got killed. Until yesterday I thought my life could be different, I was in love, etc.
33. THE REDHEAD
That winter she wore a red knee-length wool coat. My voice fades, splinters. She was just a sad girl, I think, lost now among the multitudes. She looked in the mirror and asked, "Did you do anything nice today?" The cop from Narcotics walks away down an avenue of larches. His eyes were cold, sometimes I saw him in my dreams sitting in the waiting room of a bus station. Loneliness is an aspect of natural human egotism. One day the person you love will say she doesn't love you and you won't understand. It happened to me. I would've liked her to tell me how to endure her absence. She didn't say anything. Only the inventors survive.
37. THREE YEARS
The author said: "I can't be pessimistic or optimistic, everything is determined by the beat of hope that manifests itself in what we call reality." I can't be a science fiction writer because my innocence is mostly gone and I'm not crazy yet...
42. CLEAR WATER ALONG THE WAY
What's yet to come. The wind in the trees. Everything is the projection of a forlorn kid. He's walking alone along a back road. His mouth moves. I saw a group of people opening their mouths, unable to speak. The rain filters through the pine needles. Someone is running in the woods. You can't see his face. Just his back. Pure violence. (In this scene the author appears with his hands on his hips watching something offscreen.) The wind and the rain through the trees, like a curtain of mad men. The wind blows like a ghost on a deserted beach: lifts his pajamas, pushes him across the sand until he disappears in the middle of an asthma attack or a long yawn. "Like a rocket sliced open" ... "The poetic way of saying that you no longer love back streets lit up by patrol cars" ... "The melodic voice of the sergeant speaking with a Galician accent" ... "Boys your age who'd settle for so little" ... "It's too bad" ... "There's a kind of dance that turns into lips" ... Wells of clear water along the way. You saw a man on the ground under the trees and you kept running. The first wild blackberries of the season. Like the screwed-up eyes of the excitement that rushed to meet you.
52. MONTY ALEXANDER
That's the way it is, he said, a slight sense of failure that keeps growing stronger and the body gets used to it. You can't escape the voice, just as you can't help crossing streets if you live in a city, with the added annoyance that sometimes the street is endlessly wide, the buildings looking like warehouses out of gangster movies, and some people choose the worse moments to think about their mothers. "Gangsters" equals "mothers."
||[Dec. 15th, 2010|10:07 pm]
the lie detector
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (2010)|
Most of her stories took the form of complaints, and yet nobody doubted that she adored the boy. She was like a woman bemoaning her gorgeous jerky boyfriend. As if she were proud of having her heart trampled by him: as if her openness to this trampling were the main thing, maybe the only thing, she cared to have the world know about (8).
But she was seventeen now and not actually dumb. She knew that you could love somebody more than anything and still not love the person all that much, if you were busy with other things (42).
"That's because you're probably a genuinely nice person," Patty said. "You love him for himself, not for how he makes you feel. That's the difference between you and me."
"But you seem like a genuinely nice person!" Walter said.
Patty knew, in her heart, that he was wrong in his impression of her. And the mistake she went on to make, the really big life mistake, was to go along with Walter's version of her in spite of knowing that it wasn't right. He seemed so certain of her goodness that eventually he wore her down (74-5).
"It's just that sometimes guys who have to screw a million women are trying to prove something. Disprove something. And it sounds to me like you care more about Walter's happiness than you do about mine" (171).
"You get all the benefits of me taking care of myself, the least you can do is not make me feel guilty about it" (184).
"No," she said. "I'm not wrong. I only want to be with you. That's all I want in my life. You're the best person in the world. You can do anything you want, and I can be there for you. You'll own lots of companies and I can work for you. Or you can run for president, and I'll work for your campaign. I'll do the things that nobody else will do. If you need somebody to break the law, I'll do that for you. If you want children, I'll raise them for you" (235).
"Jonathan says you're a very fine student," the old man continued gently. "And so I'm guessing you've already had the experience of being frustrated with people who aren't as bright as you are. People who are not only unable but unwilling to admit certain truths whose logic is self-evident to you. Who don't even seem to care that their logic is bad. Have you never been frustrated that way?" (267)
Walter couldn't avoid thinking about how alone Lalitha was in her identical room. Part of his feeling of inferiority consisted of straightforward envy-envy of her youth; envy of her innocent idealism; envy of the simplicity of her situation, as compared to the impossibility of his-and it seemed to him that her room, though outwardly identical, was the room of fullness, the room of beautiful and allowable yearning, while his was the room of emptiness and sterile prohibition. He turned on CNN, for the blare of it, and watched a report on the latest carnage in Iraq while he undressed for a lonely shower (303).
"Seriously, Walter. That kind of man is very primitive. All he has is dignity and self-control and attitude. He only has one little thing, while you have everything else" (307).
He wanted to be the person who walked into a room where Patty was, not the person waiting in a room she walked into. To be the person waiting was to be too vulnerable; it wasn't Katzian (359).
"The reason the system can't be overthrown in this country," Walter said, "is all about freedom. The reason the free market in Europe is tempered by socialism is that they're not so hung up on personal liberties there. They also have lower population growth rates, despite comparably income levels. The Europeans are all-around more rational, basically. And the conversation about rights in this country isn't rational. It's taking place on the level of emotion, and class resentments, which is why the right is so good at exploiting it" (362).
"You did the worst thing you could possibly do to me," he said. "The worst thing, and you knew very well it was the worst thing, and you did it anyway. Which part of that am I going to want to think back on?" (462)
Although Walter undoubtedly didn't see things this way himself, Patty felt justified in going to Jersey City for such consolation and payback and self-esteem bolstering as sleeping with a selfish musician could provide (508).
||[Nov. 7th, 2010|01:13 pm]
the lie detector
The Last of the Savages by Jay McInerney (1996)|
The next day they were on their way to Paris for their honeymoon. It seemed there should be something more than this dangling curbside parting to publicly mark the beginning of their wedded life; I suddenly understood the purpose of the big wedding with its sense of communal witness and closure.
As the limousine pulled away they were snuggled--or was it huddled?--together in the backseat, but as I rattled toward New Haven in the cigarette-stinking train, I couldn't shake a plummeting feeling of anxiety for their future (119).
Matson laughed. "You can't be too civilized. Which is not to say I'm in favor of repression. There's a public, civil self and then there is the private realm, and the twain need never meet. That's where Will and his fellow primitivists go so wrong, trying to collapse the distinction. Here, for instance, in this room, we happily occupy the private sphere." And with that he poured us another drink (125).
All the repressed and inchoate guilt of an unjust society found outlet in this single fear--they will do to us as we have done to them (180).
It is in the spring that I cannot shake the sense of what I have surrendered. And if on an April day I am filled with desperate longing at the sight of a young man in a white cotton sweater strolling like a god across the Hellespont of Fifty-seventh Street, hailing a cab with his tennis racket, does that mean my life is a lie? If the love I feel for my wife is almost fraternal, if she often seems only half real to me. If I have been more or less in love with my best friend for thirty years? Studying the living room that night, I suddenly realized how feminine it was, all chintz and pillows, with its pale garden of floral Benison and Brunschweig fabrics (259).
||[Sep. 19th, 2010|04:46 pm]
the lie detector
The Good Life by Jay McInerney (2006)|
"Just out of curiosity," Corrine said, "did you ever fuck Jim?"
"That still doesn't justify the way she acted tonight."
Corrine laughed. "I like the idea of an immoral act gaining legitimacy in light of subsequent events" (44).
"How do you define romantic?
"Unrealistic expectations. A yearning for the infinite. Dissatisfaction with the actual. The actual being the familiar. The body of the woman you've already slept with. When you fuck a strange woman, you're searching the void for meaning" (62-3).
Despite his recent hiatus, Washington still liked to say that men had four needs: food, shelter, pussy, and strange pussy. Whereas Russell believed there were two kinds of men--those who cheat, and those who felt guilty afterward--and that he was irrevocably one of the latter (121).
"Are you saving yourself for someone else?"
That was exactly what she'd been doing for almost two months now, though she hadn't admitted this to herself before now. But at the moment, she was protecting something far more basic. She couldn't believe this was happening. Struggling against him in earnest now, she was amazed by how strong he was, how ineffectual her own strength in comparison.
The battle apparently excited him, his erection growing and hardening against her thigh. She thrashed and tried to scratch at his face, but he pinned her arms back against the bed as he pulled himself on top of her. He could, she realized, overpower her. And if he did, she would never be able to forgive him. If he--she could hardly bring herself to think the word--if he raped her, she would have no choice but to leave him.
As she considered this, she suddenly stopped struggling. Yielding up her body, she tried to empty her mind so as to preserve two irreconcilable ideas--that she was surrendering of her own will, and that in resisting up to that point, she had remained true to Luke. She choked back her tears as he thrust his pelvis at her, probing with his cock between her legs, thrusting himself half an inch into her ass before he retreated and probed again.
The act itself took less time than its violent prologue, and when he rolled away from her, she lay rigid, determined not to move or to speak, imagining his postcoital remorse, calculating her moral advantage, contemplating the stark vista of her new freedom. Whatever she decided now, her decision would be unclouded by guilt or sympathy for Russell (306).
"Loving isn't the same as wanting, Luke. And it's certainly not the same as having. It's not about desire and self-fulfillment. In the end, it's about wanting what's best for the other person. It's about giving and even, sometimes, letting go. Sometimes I think love is more about renunciation than possession (317).
She found herself lying in a small parlor with a lumpy slipcovered couch, a couple of Shaker chairs with woven seats, a rattan coffee table populated with half a dozen incarnations of the Buddha in bronze and wood. Two bookshelves sagging with faded paperbacks. Crude, colorful school of de Kooning canvases adorned the walls.
"Who's your friend? Last of the action painters?"
"Do you like it? he asked.
"The house? It's adorable. I've always looked in from the street and wondered about these places. I feel like Djuna Barnes is going to knock on the door any minute and ask to borrow some gin, or e.e. cummings to say, 'Kisses are a better fate than wisdom.' (342)"
|clay = stewart, IMO
||[Aug. 13th, 2010|03:18 pm]
the lie detector
Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis (2010)|
"I'll have to check my schedule and let you know."
"Schedule?" he asks. "That's funny."
"Why is that funny?" I ask back. "I'm really busy."
"You're a writer. What do you mean, busy?" His voice had been slack but now it isn't. "Who have you been hanging out with?" (65)
I'm murmuring to myself. "That's why she was at your house."
Blair realizes something after I say this. "You never asked her why she was there, did you?" Another silence. "Jesus, it's still all about you, isn't it? Didn't you ever wonder what the hell she was doing there?" Blair's voice keeps climbing. "Do you know anything about her except how she makes you feel?" (74)
"You wanted me to help her and I tried, Julian, but now I realize you didn't care whether I got hurt or not."
This moves something in Julian and his face tightens and his voice begins to rise. "Look, it's really cool you're trying to help me out here, but why do you keep thinking Rip was involved in Kelly's death? Do you know something? Do you have any proof? Or are you just making shit up like you always do?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Stop it," he says and suddenly he's a different person. "You've done this so many times before, Clay. I mean, come on, dude, it's a joke. Yeah, you tell people shit, but have you ever really gotten anybody anything?" he asks sincerely. "I mean, you promise shit and maybe you get them closer but, dude, you're lying all the time--"
"Julian, come on, don't--"
"And what I found out is that you really won't do anything for anybody," he says. "Except for yourself." The gentle way he says this forces me to finally turn away. "This, like, delusional fantasy you have of yourself is..." He pauses. "Come on, dude, it's a joke." He pauses again. "It's kind of embarrassing."
I force myself to grin in order to lighten the moment and not scare him away.
"Why are you smiling?" he asks.
"It must be a pretty good act," I say. "This... fantasy I have of myself."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because you bought into it," I say.
"I never thought you'd actually fall for her."
"Why did you think that?"
"Because Blair told me how cold you could be" (151-2).
"Why would you do that?" This is a question you ask when you don't know what else to say (168).
There are many things Blair doesn't get about me, so many things she ultimately overlooked, and things that she would never know, and there would always be a distance between us because there were too many shadows everywhere. Had she ever made promises to a faithless reflection in the mirror? Had she ever cried because she hated someone so much? Had she ever craved betrayal to the point where she pushed the crudest fantasies into reality, coming up with sequences that only she and nobody else could read, moving the game as you play it? Could she locate the moment she went dead inside? Does she remember the year it took to become that way? The fades, the dissolves, the rewritten scenes, all the things you wipe away--I now want to explain these things to her but I know I never will, the most important one being: I never liked anyone and I'm afraid of people (169).
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