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Posts Tagged ‘love’

5: “If I Overdwell on This It Can’t Be Helped”

April 2, 2015 | by

From “Grace Acts” through “Grace, Again,” pp. 90–116

mating

This is the fifth entry in our Mating Book Club. Read along.

“So here he is, after all this setup: Denoon.” That’s how Joshua Cohen began his post last week, and the moment when we finally confront our “genuinely goodlooking man” does feel exactly that dramatic. It’s a strange kind of meet-cute: girl meets boy at furtive political symposium; girl is foisted on boy by boy’s not-quite-ex-wife.

This section takes in two run-ins between our narrator and Denoon: the first inside the guesthouse of the USAID director’s opulent home, the second near the outhouse on the Tutwane family plot in Old Naledi. After this, our narrator shares a meal with Grace, the not-quite-ex, at the humble Carat Restaurant, “which was doomed to fail because they gave you too much food for your money.”

Cohen wrote that last week’s one-act “operat[es] on multiple time lines,” but so does the novel as a whole: our narrator writes from an undefined future, looking back on life pre-Denoon until we “plunge into Denoon and what followed.” As hints accumulate of the disagreements, passions, and disappointments ahead, our expectation grows fevered, even as the details of the meeting itself remain wonderfully unknowable. Even though we’ve been working our way toward this encounter, and even though we know that this is where the story truly begins, the moment still feels wildly significant. The narrator speaks of “a feeling of fatedness”: “The feeling was that this was supposed to happen, according to the stars in their courses.” Read More »

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The Universal Language of Mankind

February 27, 2015 | by

neildiamondserenade

Detail from the cover of Neil Diamond’s Serenade, 1974.

“Increasingly rare is the scholar who braves ridicule to justify the art of Longfellow’s popular rhymings,” the critic Kermit Vanderbilt once wrote. One scholar of the human heart who’s never been accused of fearing ridicule is Neil Diamond. And, on his 1974 album, Serenade, he paid tribute to the Fireside Poet with his hit song “Longfellow Serenade.”

In the liner notes to a later compilation, Diamond explains, “Occasionally I like using a particular lyrical style which, in this case, lent itself naturally to telling the story of a guy who woos his woman with poetry.” Read More »

My Fair Lady

February 17, 2015 | by

alma doll

The doll of dolls: Alma Mahler, or someone near enough?

When people know that one has a certain interest—say, dolls—they will very kindly send one stories that they think correspond to the subject. As a result, I’ve had brought to my attention everything from articles about Upper West Side doll-hoarders to videos about sex-doll fetishists. In their way, these are all engaging, and it would seem churlish to explain that you, in fact, don’t particularly care about puppets or mannequins, or that, while you liked Lars and the Real Girl or Daphne du Maurier’s The Doll perfectly well, it wasn’t out of any sort of niche fascination. 

(In fact, privately I feel that this points to a systemic marginalization of dolls in our society, and that films like Annabelle only contribute to a culture of casual discrimination. Dolls are unfairly maligned as sinister, or as inherently sexual, and while there are certainly a few bad apples—and the fetishistic qualities of any human totem are part of their fascination—I think they get a bad rap. Indeed, following the death of Doll Hospital proprietor Erving Chase, a New York area doll can’t even get adequate medical care. But I digress.) 

The case of the famed Alma Mahler doll, however, is a special one. While it was sort of a sex doll and sort of a mannequin—and as such, not really my area of study—it also had an unimpeachable toy pedigree: in 1918, after the great muse ended her relationship with the artist Oskar Kokoschka, he commissioned a life-size replica of his lost love from the doll-maker Hermine Moos. Read More »

Ordinary Human Love: An Interview with Clancy Martin

February 12, 2015 | by

Martin, Clancy (c) Greg Martin

Clancy Martin. Photo © Greg Martin

I first encountered Clancy Martin’s writing in NOON sometime in 2006 or 2007. He became one of my favorite writers. I looked forward to new work from him, wanting to add to the world he'd created in my imagination—a world I found endearingly and distinctively full of vulnerabilities, awkwardness, psychology; bleak, funny, and extreme situations; emotional, considerate, out-of-control characters; and other things I enjoy. I liked his calm, detached, careful, slightly deadpan narrators, and the stories they told—in his novel, How to Sell (2009), and his novella, Travels in Central America (2012)—were dark and moving and, in certain moods, funny on several different levels. 

Martin’s new book, Love and Lies: An Essay on Truthfulness, Deceit, and the Growth and Care of Erotic Love, is moving and funny but not, in my view, dark. It’s actually very optimistic, though maybe not in the way one would expect from a book about love. “To choose to fall in love is, we might think, in some way to fabricate or even to falsify love,” Martin writes. “But that’s the very notion I’m combating. I want to challenge the idea that love forces itself upon us with all the strength of truth.” He expands his argument by examining Plato, the Kama Sutra, Nietzsche, Freud, Adrienne Rich, Simone de Beauvoir, James Joyce, and dozens of others, as well as his memories of his personal experiences with his wife, two ex-wives, and three daughters. I asked Clancy some questions about love and lies via e-mail. 

One of the quotes in your book is from Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche—“Love is mutual loneliness, and the deeper the loneliness, the deeper the love.”

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche recognizes that we are alone, and that the need for love is a mutual recognition that we are alone. Both the desire for and the desire to love—giving and receiving love—spring from this profound, unavoidable, so often avoided fact about human life. We are alone. I can’t get into your head and you can’t get into mine. Many of my memories and thoughts and feelings remain entirely private to me. But it is precisely this fact that informs our need for love. In some ways, the more I love you, the more urgent my need to know you and to reveal myself to you, the beloved, becomes, and so our separation becomes that much more intense. In Freudian terms, it’s as though we all desperately wish to climb back into the womb. And I don’t think we should underestimate the profundity of Freud’s insight on these questions, even though it’s the tired, tiring fashion lately to take him less seriously than we used to do. Read More »

There’s Nothing Wrong with Love

February 11, 2015 | by

Rosalie_Ida_Blun_Straus

Isidor and Ida Straus.

Many people hate Valentine’s Day for its commercialism and general tawdriness. And even those of us who don’t—who might, say, have invested in boxes of conversation hearts, or bedecked their apartment doors with slightly crooked foil hearts from the ninety-nine-cents store—understand that the holiday is kind of repulsive. However unironically the candy heart beats in your breast, however much you enjoy the prospect of couples sharing overpriced prix fixes or the sight of beleaguered husbands clutching bodega roses, it’s hard not to feel depressed under the weight of the sexy doubles entendres and seasonal boxers. Hallmark holiday? That alone I could handle. It’s the treacle plus a thousand leering letterpress puns that really start to break the spirit.

If you’re feeling that fatigue and happen to find yourself in New York, a good antidote is Straus Park at Broadway and 106th Street. Read More »

Bright Lights, Big City

February 2, 2015 | by

forjulia

From the giveaway table.

I’ve mentioned my building’s giveaway table in this space before. If you’re clearing your bookshelves, you can leave just about any volume on the table and find it snapped up with gratifying alacrity. I’ve scavenged treasures aplenty there, and marveled at all manner of curiosities: The Kosher Cajun CookbookCelebrity Vineyards, Who’s Who in Dogs, a CD of music for kids called Oy Baby!, and The Winds of Fortune: the Memoirs of Guy de Rothschild. (Incidentally, if anyone is studying macroeconomics, there’s a pretty good line in used textbooks.) 

But over the weekend, I picked up something different. It’s an old Modern Library hardcover of War and Peace, the Constance Garnett translation. And there, on the flyleaf, is an inscription: Read More »