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Note to Self

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Javier_Bardem.jpg
If I am ever crafting a romantic male lead in a novel, I'll do well - both for character and for reader - to spare him the indignities of chronic constipation. 

I don't get what Gabriel García Márquez was doing, in Love in the Time of Cholera, when he saddled poor Florentino Ariza (as played by Javier Bardem in Mike Newell's movie version, pictured left) with this debility.

Granted, I recognize that the problem is common.  Also, that people who suffer chronic constipation have just as much entitlement as the rest of us to passionate love affairs.  Also, that they can screw a lot.

But I don't like to dwell on it.  When García Márquez conflates constipation and screwing, as he does Florentino Ariza first meets Leona Cassiani, I cringed:

Florentino Ariza remembered a phrase from his childhood, something that the family doctor, his godfather, had said regarding his chronic constipation: "The world is divided into those who can shit and those who cannot." . . . But with what he had learned over the years, Florentino Ariza stated it another way: "The world is divided into those who screw and those who do not."
(p. 183).  Please!  Gabriel!  Spare us!

Throughout, I had problems believing Florentino Ariza as "one who screws" because I just couldn't reconcile the openness required for sexual release with the closedness required for chronic constipation.  And when one of Florentino Ariza's lover takes his enemas with him, I found myself regretting the compassionate capacities of my gender: ladies, there are limits!

Later, when Leona Cassiani gives the aged Florentino Ariza his enemas, I had a hard time with the humiliation and emasculation that redounded to Florentino Ariza from this interaction.  He's going to get up off the enema bed and go woo Fermina Daza?  Really?

When it comes to enemas and a romantic male lead, my feeling is that there's too much realism and not enough magic.

(Image of Javier Bardem in the film version of Love in the Time of Cholera from The Telegraph)

Note to Self

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Having become excited about Henry James by Alan Hollinghurst's infectious enthusiasm for James in The Line of Beauty, I for some reason decided, instead of reading Henry James, to read Colm Toíbín's The Master, a biography of Henry James in novel form.

I cannot explain why this course of action seemed the logical expression of my interest in James' novels.  

I was disappointed by The Master, finding James the man less than his work.

Unfair, of course, to James; I cannot think of a single artist who isn't less than his or her work.

Unfair, as well, to Toíbín, whose achievement in The Master cannot credibly be criticized for not being one by Henry James.

No option, I'm afraid, but to pick up a novel by James.  I just wish Portrait of a Lady hadn't been so long and, I can't help thinking, contrived . . . .

Note to self

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If ever I find myself graced with the good luck to enjoy an international bestselling memoir, let me not tarnish that work with a redundant, dated, cash-pandering follow up.  

Because, while in 1937, the observation that, "[i]n some respects, although not in all, the white men fill in the mind of the Natives the place that is, in the mind of the white men, filled by the idea of God" (Out of Africa, p. 358), might be thought-provoking, in 1960, the assertion that

The dark nations of Africa, strikingly precocious as young children, seemed to come to a standstill in their mental growth at different ages.  The Kikuyu, Kawirondo and Wakamba, the people who worked for me on the farm, in early childhood were far ahead of the white children of the same age, but the stopped quite suddenly at a stage corresponding to that of a European child of nine.
(Shadows on the Grass, p. 382), is simply racist.

Because, if I'm going to pander for cash, let me do so whole-heartedly and write - not another allegedly quaintly charming book about my servants, about whom no one cared the first time - but about the lover to whom I referred with the exact mix of obliqueness and explicitness sufficient to pique a world-wide appetite lasting more than seventy years.

Someone should cash in on that appetite.  Why not me?

Note to Self

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When aroused by a sexual passion that cannot (for the moment) be sated, and while attempting to "sleep it off" in the (vain) hope that I'll wake up with a sensibly lower pulse and less mindless desire to throw my legs over the shoulders of the (for the moment) unavailable object of my affection, A House for Mr. Biswas is not ideal reading material.  It fails to grip.  It leads to questions like, "Are 626 pages really necessary?  In a plot-thin, character-driven book, couldn't its main theme -- the relationship between housing and self-actualization -- have been explored in a more moderate 300 pages?"  Unfair questions, completely.  There are simply very few literary characters more spectacularly unsexy, or more obviously not candidates for the legs-over-the-shoulders treatment, than Mr. Biswas  -- no surprises here that V.S. Naipul admits that he was having "carnal pleasure for the first time in my life" in 1972, at the age of 40, and that he wrote Mr. Biswas in 1961 -- and in my current state, Mr. Biswas compels about as much interest as does the 8 year-old brother of the boy-besotted 15 year-old girl.  Doesn't mean the 8 year-old isn't fascinating.   

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