Wednesday, June 20, 2007
More Anatole France--Adventures in Uninspiring Writing
The most interesting thing about Jocasta and the Famished Cat is the title. And, upon reading the book, it turns out that the title is actually two titles. Of unrelated novellas. Shoved into one volume. Which changes everything. In both, characters come and go with no real purpose. One starts off with a somewhat interesting scene in which a woman inexplicably falls for a creepy vivisectionist out to prove the Stoics wrong. They were, he says, "dull maniacs who affectedly pretended to despise suffering. If I had one of the barbarians under my tweezers in place of the frog, he would quickly find out if one can suppress suffering by an effort of the will. Besides, it is a good thing for living being to be endowed with the faculty for suffering." The book then slumps into the well-worn track of the hazards of marrying for money. And what a handwringer the wife is: "Poor terrified Helene never ceased trembling." She ceases eventually, but it appears to be her hobby for 90% of the work. It turns out to be France's first book, written in 1873 or so. Well, that's that. Helene at least wasn't as annoyingly wimpy as Germinie Lacerteux in that novel by the Goncourts. I never wanted someone to finally go ahead and die so much as that one. She never appeared on the page without the back of one hand firmly affixed to her forehead. And the fact that she was based on a real person whose last name was Malingre simply can't be beat.
In other news, I decide for the first time all summer to go outside and lie in the sun so as to help fade the stark outline of a tanktop off my torso. Rather than put myself on display in my side yard for all passersby to admire, I chose to spread my blanket close to the neighboring house's garage. The area had plenty of sun and was screened off a bit. Since the house is vacant, my car is in the driveway, which further screened off any views of blinding white dermal reflectivity.
I am just drifting off to that blissful sunbathing stupor when I hear footsteps beside my car. Two people are standing there. With cameras. A bit slow on the uptake, I blink at them a bit, then think that they must be with the bank, which is selling the house. One of them looks at my setup, then at my car, asks, with a bit of are you kiddin me tone, "Are you staying here?" I tell him no. He then tells me that I can't park in the driveway or they will have it towed. This after being asked to park there by the relatives of the previous owner so that the house would look occupied. After more than a year of doing so, of mowing that lawn occasionally, it's don't park here or you'll get towed. Hey buddy, it's not my fault you don't feel self-actualized at work. Perhaps it's all for the best. Further exposure to the sunlight would increase my chances of melanoma. Just see if I mow that lawn again.
*Pix adapted from L'Etoile de mer by Man Ray