“The party was ‘a failure… The problem was that nearly everyone got dead drunk immediately, and vomited, or cried, or slept most of the night.’ [Beauvoir] was surprised when, several days later, everyone said ‘how nice it was.'” — Simone de Beauvoir, Deidre Bair
Simone de Beauvoir is my current object of admiration. There are many things I love about her, but here are a few: smart as hell, feminist, weirdo, writer, unusual, self-defined relationships. She loved Paris, New York, whiskey.
She wrote, “The mechanics of fiction totally eluded me. It was very frustrating.” Yeah. Like me, a nonfiction writer by nature, she managed to write novels, but it weren’t easy. Puritanical by nature, and by upbringing, she struggled to figure out what sex meant and didn’t mean, what relationships could and couldn’t be.
But the quote is about how people don’t know if they’ve had a good time, and the parts of human nature that hunger for, maybe even require, some self-destruction.
I stayed up very late last night, entertained, and had wine, and I don’t have a touch of a hangover. I was careful, like a 35-year-old with an instinct for health. But there’s nothing about myself overindulging I can reject. Sometimes you have to approach and go too far to get your bearings. I feel I have to do that less and less and less. I could say that’s an indicator of maturity or health. Partly. And partly I have my bearings more. I don’t have to go to the borderlands to get the view. As much.
“Really, he had no idea to what saint he ought to be praying.” – The Red and the Black, Stendhal
Only a quarter of the way through this novel. Stendhal is one of the remaining Big Deal Novelists I haven’t read. I don’t really know where the story is going. But it comes in short chapters, so I’m getting through it. His protagonist is unsympathetic. That stopped me from ever finishing Vanity Fair. He has almost nothing but selfish impulses and interpretations. There’s that cuckold storyline that is so explosive in pre-20th century work. Used to be, having an affair meant not just emotional and local strife, but social crisis in the only society one was likely to ever know.
How do you keep going with an unsympathetic protagonist? I don’t know that I would, that is, it’s fun to have a protagonist who’s a problem, you want to have rough edges to play with, but I wouldn’t spend years of my life with a character I didn’t want to be with. You have a long-term relationship with your main character, although, oddly, the person isn’t real.
I have a student with the name of a character in my last novel. I don’t recall ever meeting a person with that name before. It’s eerie saying his name, like I willed him into being. He sits in the front. Seems thus far to be a solid student. Two weeks from now, I’ll know for sure.
A week and a half of school, and we are settling in. The kids have largely decided that I am theirs, and some of them are taking time to stop by my room and say goodbye at the end of the day, or say hello to me in the hallways. Last year’s babies are coming by to worry about how hard senior year is going to be, or how they can possibly this close to college and growing up. One came by to tell me that a grandfather had died suddenly and without saying goodbye. Like a wild party, the school year will ravage us all, and by next summer, I’ll be surprised when everyone says how nice it was.