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Posts Tagged ‘Age of Innocence’

#Undateable; Toolkit Reading

August 4, 2011 | by

Inspired by the new hashtag sensation, who are your top “undateable” literary characters (and your top “dateable”)? —Rhonda

Heathcliff is definitely up there. So is Cathy. (My favorite entry is “Detective, possibly with Asperger Syndrome, opium addict, involved in bromance with roomie.”) At the risk of double-dipping, this week I’d award the palm to Harriet, narrator and heroine of the aforementioned After Claude:

“I’m not a charlady. I’m a sensuous woman. Please, Claude, please. I’m not asking you to take me to rapturous heights. Your feeble efforts mean more to me than all your mountain goats rolled into one. Remember how it was for us at the beginning, Claude? Gigantic. You were a tidal wave. All right. Maybe it’s not in you to maintain that hectic pace. I don’t care. I’m not like other women. I’m not asking for heaven, Claude, I’m just asking to be held.”
When the echo of my shrill voice died out, there was a resounding silence left in the room, as if a monster rock-and-roll concert had ended on one abrupt note.
“Harriet, don’t cry.”
“Why not? After all we’ve meant to each other, suddenly you’re horrified by my touch.”
Claude, completely dressed, took my hand and held it tightly. “I’m sorry if I’ve given you that impression, Harriet, because it’s not correct. I had no right to blame the breakup on you.”
“There doesn’t have to be a breakup. I don’t want to hear about breakups,” I wailed.
“You’re a beautiful girl, an intelligent girl, a sensitive girl. It’s just that we’re not suited.”
“Are you determined to spend your life with a stupid slut?”
Claude sighed. “I need to be alone.”
“What is this suicidal despair? So you haven’t been King Farouk for a couple of weeks. It’s not such a tragedy.”

The most dateable woman—the most dateable character—I can think of is Viola in Twelfth Night, but my eleven-year-old self would have killed to have a Coke with Jolenta, of The Book of the New Sun.

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Staff Picks: Harriet the Spy, Happy Fourth of July!

July 1, 2011 | by

In the embarrassing oversights department, I had been meaning and meaning to read the novelist Jean-Philippe Toussaint. Why did it take me so long? His latest work to be translated into English, The Truth About Marie, is haunting, clever, funny. I can’t wait to read more ... as soon as I finish Harriet the Spy. Where was she all my life? —Lorin Stein

I saw a really interesting film recently: The Target, which was cowritten by Vladimir Sorokin. It's a strange mix of Anna Karenina, sci-fi, and social commentary, but it works. Light viewing it's not, but if you're in the mood to stomach a dystopia in which love is a soulless illusion, it's worth seeking out! —Sadie Stein

Also, I’m going to see Le Rayon Vert—back at Film Forum by popular demand. —L. S.

This weekend, I’m reading Rebecca Wolff's The Beginners, a debut novel about a fifteen-year-old girl who befriends a new couple in town, the Motherwells. The Motherwells say they’ve moved to Wick, Massachusetts, to study the town’s history of witchcraft, but from the reviews, it sounds like spookier things start to happen. —Thessaly La Force

Even though Monday is Independence Day, today is the ninetieth anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Check out one of my favorite contemporary Chinese short-story collections, the irreverent and absurd I Love Dollars by Zhu Wen. —Ali Pechman

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A Week in Culture: Gemma Sieff, Editor, Part 2

January 6, 2011 | by

This is the second installment of Sieff’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.

DAY FOUR

11:00 A.M. This copy of Innocence comes from Adam’s Books, a used bookstore on Bergen Street in Brooklyn that has since closed. The volume was, in a previous incarnation, a gift and carries an inscription:

DINA—

I hope you enjoy this gift. But I must tell you now, while everyone’s watching, that I have a gift to give you when we are alone that will lead to something even grander and more sublime than this novel, or any work of art for that matter. I am thinking of touching you now, watching you while you read this inscription.
Your hulking, sometimes brilliant and temperamental, boyfriend. You are my only baby.

I love you

Paul

X-mas 1992

By the way—this title is appropriate given the theme of the fall in our relationship.

This couple actually seems kind of sweet. One wonders why she chucked the book—but it doesn’t mean they didn’t get married. She could have been having an Archer moment. “The message inside the envelope … ran as follows: ‘Parents consent wedding Tuesday after Easter at twelve Grace Church eight bridesmaids please see Rector so happy love May.’ Archer crumpled up the yellow sheet as if the gesture could annihilate the news it contained.” Yet there he is on his wedding day with the old ladies in their “faded sables and yellowing ermines,” observing every ritual and “formality … which made of a nineteenth-century New York wedding a rite that seemed to belong to the dawn of history.”

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