Sunday, February 11, 2007

"Down with Love"


I love this picture! From the latest "grouchy valentine" issue of washington post book world titled "down with love." The first book review (or at least the book being reviewed) seems more like a case of sour grapes ("Love good, Sex bad!").

It seems strange to have to state the obvious all over again: Both males and females should work hard to gain another's affection and trust. And one's sexuality is not a commodity that, given away too readily and too often, will exhaust or devalue itself. Tell girls that it is such a commodity (as they were told for a number of decades), and they will rebel. The author is conflating what the girls refuse to conflate: love and sexuality. Sometimes they coexist, sometimes not. Loving, faithful marriages in which the sex life has cooled are as much a testament to that fact as a lustful tryst that leads nowhere.

Another one about women having mediocre sex lives and what should be done about it...

Maybe you're tired. Or you just don't feel like it. Perhaps it's your lover's fault; he doesn't know what you like. Or there's no time, the kids take all your attention, your job drains the life out of you. Or the dishes need to be done, the laundry has to be folded, and your body is not what it used to be. Or maybe you've never understood what all the fuss is about. It's easy to find reasons not to have sex.

Just in case the psychology claptrap is boring, here's an old column by Michael Dirda, Book World's editor, on the history and representation of love in French Literature... Also in the latest issue Dirda reviews a book about the friendship of Wordsworth and Coleridge. Such a shame, Wordsworth's philosophy and romanticism looks so out of place in our world. almost a cliche...

I am reading about Love too (and I am not grumpy or grouchy at all!). The Man Without Qualities isn't a very romantic book (Musil basically says that there is a big gaping hole where we thought we had a "soul"). Though it has some great passages about love, written in a very peculiar and ironic style, like this one:
Neither Diotima not Arhnheim had ever loved. [...]This shrewd man, although imbued with experience of life, was still untouched and in danger of being parmanently alone when he met Diotima, whom destiny had destined for him. The mysterious forces within them converged. It could be compared only with the movement of the trade winds, the Gulf Stream, the volcanic tremors of the earth's crust; forces vastly superior to those of man, akin to the stars, were set in motion from one to the other, overriding such barriers as hours and days, measureless currents. At such moments the actual words spoken are supremely unimportant. Rising from the vertical creases of his trousers, Arnheim's body seemed to stand there in the godlike solitude of a towering mountain. United with him through the valley between them, Diotima rose on its other side, luminous with solitude, in her fashionable dress of the period with its puffed sleeves on the upper arms, the artful pleats over the bosom widening over the stomach, the skirt narrowing again below the knees to cling to her calves. The glass-bead curtains at the doors cast moving reflections like ponds, the javelins and arrows on the walls trembled with their feathered and deadly passions, and the yellow volumes of Calman-Levy on the tables were as silent as lemon groves. We will reverently pass over the first words spoken.

17 comments:

Antonia said...

Man without Qualities is a very romantic book, I can assure you :)
just wait....

Alok said...

There are some fantastic passages about love in the book but it is all ironic and detached. when one starts thinking about something, it always breaks apart. same thing happens with love or anything else... thinking reduces things to nothing... I don't completely agree but i think it is true and isn't that what Musil is also saying?

Cheshire Cat said...

But love is already nothing :)

Alok said...

God, What a bunch of cynics!! :(

Antonia said...

it gets more interesting when Agathe comes into play. i was really seriuous when I said it is a romantic book. I think it is, deeply, behind all this cynicism and that General Stumm is the actual hero. People always get distracted by this Mach-stuff and by this oh the modernity, we are only just pieces and never whole and completely lost our identity. I tell you, wait until Ulrich falls in love with Agathe, but dont skip parts, read it on the whole and wait until Agathe comes. and by the way, General Stumm also falls in love, sweetly, innocently,not at all cynically.

Cheshire Cat said...

Oh, as in tennis or French (l'oeuf). As you can imagine, Beckett loved (*snigger,snigger*) the pun as well.

Alok said...

Wow! So that's the origin of "love"... i had always wondered about the etymology of the scoring system. Wow again...

Alok said...

antonia: who is this Mach? I think one needs to be totally familiar with Nietzsche at least to understand what Musil says. I don't think I am able to grasp everything but still it is very provocative and has lots of stuff to think about... students of philosophy and sociology will appreciate it more.

Alok said...

okay, i think it's Ernst Mach. hmmm.. I learnt a new name just now. Interesting because I knew about "Mach number".

Antonia said...

no you dont have to read the whole Nietzsche. Maybe one book or so, that gives enough background. But Nietzsche is not so important, Musil anyway makes fun of him the whole time
yes it is Mach,if I remember correctly Musil wrote his thesis on him, was quite an influence on Musil, this Mach...

Alok said...

yes he wrote his doctoral thesis on Mach. I will put up a collection of links of essays about him sometime. I am right now reading some of them.

Szerelem said...

I recently told someone on my blog, rather asked a rhotrical question - Can love ever be redundant? And was called an idealist in return! Ah, well :P
It's interesting you say all that the paragraphs on love in Man without Qualities. I would think German doesn't lend itself to love and passion the way French or Italian do. Ofcourse I am probably completely biased here...

Szerelem said...

*what you say about all the paragraphs

Alok said...

yes, that's an oft heard complaint against the German language :) I think it was someone from the german band rammstein who said that French is the language of love and german is the language of anger :)

In this book, at least in the beginning, the passages about love are written in a satiric tone. Musil mocks the spiritual pretensions of some of his characters who are trying to grow out of their emotional alienation and find some depth and authenticity in how they feel. I have only started reading the book, but Antonia in the comment above says that he is more serious and un-ironic about love towards the end. Its a very long book, I don't know if I will ever reach the end!

But yes the french are the greatest masters in these matters. even when they philosophise they don't lose touch with the original "feeling" or "state of being" (hehe I am getting philosophical too!) Proust is the greatest of all, even though he talks only or mostly of unhealthy sides of love -- jealousy, obsession, possessiveness, illusion, disappointment.

Alok said...

Also have you read the sorrows of young werther?

It's extreme romanticism...

Szerelem said...

Hah! I was going to write about the French in my last comment as well :)

Haven't read The Sorrows of Young Werther. I think we are both on our own literary trip. You of the Germanic world and I of parts of the ex Ottoman empire :P

Alok said...

yeah these Germans are crazy people. so gloomy...