Tuesday, August 17, 2010

This Greenwich memoir I'm reading.

A friend lent me Kafka Was the Rage, a book I normally probably would never have picked up myself, since I tend to avoid books about the Bohemian life of the artist or like, anything very Beat Generational to it.  Don't ask me why -- it's not that I don't appreciate what those artists in those times must have been living through, but I think it's a little too glorified for my taste, or something.  Plus, I couldn't get through Tropic of Cancer.

But anyway, my friend really likes this book so I'm giving it a try.  I have to say there are parts I like better than others, and it's not really a traditional read for me, although I do find the character of Sherri intriguing.  Anyhow, more importantly, some quotes I liked:

When you look back over your life, the thing that amazes you most is your original capacity to believe. To grow older is to lose this capacity, to stop believing, or to become unable to believe.

I supposed, I said, that love would change me, too, would advance me somehow. Because without that, it's just sex, just mechanics. And while sex is fine - it's wonderful; it can be like flying - it isn't enough. It doesn't explain, doesn't justify the whole business. It can't account for two thousand years of poetry, for all the laughing and crying. There has to be something else, something more. Otherwise, love wouldn't be so famous; we wouldn't be carrying on about it all the time. It wouldn't be worth the trouble.
--[pg. 51]

It might have been the shortest, or the only, way through my defenses, because I had a literature rather than a personality, a set of fictions about myself.
--[pg. 52]

Most people would say that lovemaking is a defense against loneliness, but with Sheri it was an investigation of loneliness, a safari into its furthest reaches.

I thought of Sheri and wondered whether, with all the trouble she gave me, she wasn't better than loneliness. Yet I had been lonely with her too - I saw that now. She wasn't company in the ordinary sense. I was lonely between bouts of desire, between distractions. There was no peace with her. She was like a recurrent temptation to commit a crime.
--[pg. 80]

It takes a while for a betrayal to register. At first you deny it. You say, Don't be silly, or It's not possible. Then there's a dead spot, a silence, a regrouping. After that you go slowly, gradually through the character of the other person. You examine all the evidence against the idea of betrayal and you say, No, it can't be.

We never believe such things until they're over. You need leisure to think about tragedy. Maybe you can face it only in the absence of the person, after the fact. Or you can do it only when you yourself are in despair.
--[pg. 103]

Another thing I've realized, he said, is that it's harder for a Jew to die. Forgive me for falling back on the chosen, but there's a certain truth in the old boast. It's harder for us because we expect more; we need more. How irresponsible, how careless it is to die so soon. IT's such an unintelligent thing to do. We become doctors to prevent death, lawyers to outlaw it, writers to rage against it. But if you're not Jewish, it's different. It may not be quite so bad, so costly. You can die gracefully, athletically, with a thin-lipped smile and a straight nose. A blond death, a swan dive, a cool immersion. You can die without an accent, without dentalizing.


Okay I just finished the book actually. I found a lot of the thoughts therein very interesting to ponder, and especially the last chapter on sex during those times is really interesting. To view how sex itself was exciting because of how secret it was in a lot of ways.

The book ended up abruptly, so I was glad to read the postscript, which explained that he'd died before he could complete his memoir. Sad. But the postscript was very poignantly written by his wife.

Overall, I liked a lot of the ideas and thoughts being presented here. Anatole Broyard seems to me the kind of character I write about often -- on the outskirts of something, trying to tap in, but never quite succeeding. While I didn't love this book, I felt it was a worthwhile read.

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