Love in the Time of Cholera – Love for Singles: Let Me Count the Ways – Part Two

Singles! The darkest day in the calender is nearly upon you.

Valentine’s Day!

The day when you are forced to look into the dusty heart of your singledom, the day when that brave smile will not come, when all your claims of happiness are exposed as lies, the day when Valentine cards from well meaning friends serve only to remind you of your large bottom or your wonky eye or your hideous fashion sense or your awkward walk or your venomous tongue or your dull, dull mind…

Valentine’s Day.

It will soon be here. There is no escape, but there is hope.

Love is adaptable, love is varied and love is as kind as it is cruel.

I am here to offer you a chance at love this Valentine’s Day…

I present :

Unrequited Love!

(Now don’t knock it before you have really given it a go.)

Once you have experienced the exquisite heart strain of an unrequited love, where the joy of loving cannot quite overcome the knowledge that you are not loved in return, you will recognise that such painful pleasures come with benefits.

What possible benefits are there to having a one-sided love affair?

For one, you are no longer technically single.

I know it’s only a technicality but it does serve as a buffer – if your friends know you are hopelessly in love with the woman/man of your dreams they can hardly set you up with someone from accounts.

Two, it fills up hours of your day. Even if you don’t turn into a stalker, even if you restrain yourself and turn it into a harmless hobby, unrequited love will give you something to do. Exquisite pleasure or pain – and trust me, sometimes you won’t know the difference – takes time.

And lastly, though I could go on and on, unrequited love is Romantic. So, without having to make any commitments, or sign any papers, without dull dates and awkward sexual encounters, without even having to leave your house, you can experience two separate kinds of love – both Unrequited Love and Romantic Love.

That’s a two for one deal you weren’t expecting!


Tune in tomorrow when we explore the social impediment that is Forbidden Love: exemplified by the ever criminal Humbert Humbert but also glorified by the exemplary Mr Knightly in Jane Austen’s Emma who says –

The good was all to myself, by making you an object of the tenderest affection to me. I could not think about you so much without doating on you, faults and all; and by dint of fancying so many errors, have been in love with you ever since you were thirteen at least.

The Catcher in the Rye : Thank you, J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger has died but his wonderful books will live on. Yes, he wrote more than just The Catcher in the Rye.

I thank him for them.

I, like millions of other readers, love The Catcher in the Rye.

But The Catcher in the Rye is one of those unfortunate books whose every word must bear the weight of forty or so years of school room scrutiny, of misapplied adulation, of misdirected anger and the burden of learned and unlearned nostalgia.

No book can survive such mythologising intact, as it was written, as it was meant to be read. I’m sure the book was chosen for a school text for a very simple reason, it might appeal to teenagers. But what has happened to it since, poor book, is that for many people, it is the one book they remember reading, ever, and so it is given a more important role in their lives than is the book’s due.

So when we come to read it, having seen it on people’s best books lists, of having heard of it as the books in John Lennon’s murderer’s hand, of its being mentioned umpteen times on every known media source, the poor book reveals itself as it really is, a book which might appeal to teenagers.

It is a wonderful book, don’t get me wrong. And because I read it as a teen it will stay with me forever. Happily so…

I love the scene between Holden and the two nuns he meets in the train station:

The one next to me, with the iron glasses, said she taught English and her friend taught history and American government. Then I started wondering like a bastard what the one sitting next to me, that taught English, thought about, being a nun and all, when she read certain books for English. Books not necessarily with a lot of sexy stuff in them, but books with lovers and all in them. Take old Eustacia Vye, in The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. She wasn’t too sexy or anything, but even so you can’t help wondering what a nun maybe thinks about when she reads about old Eustacia. I didn’t say anything, though, naturally. All I said was English was my best subject.

And Holden’s wonderful take on writing:

I read a lot of classical books, like The Return of the Native and all, and I like them, and I read a lot of war books and mysteries and all, but they don’t knock me out too much. What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though. I wouldn’t mind calling this Isak Dinesen up. And Ring Lardner, except that D.B. told me he’s dead. You take that book Of Human Bondage, by Somerset Maugham, though. I read it last summer. It’s a pretty good book and all, but I wouldn’t want to call Somerset Maugham up. I don’t know, he just isn’t the kind of guy I’d want to call up, that’s all. I’d rather call old Thomas Hardy up. I like that Eustacia Vye.

Both excerpts are from J.D. Salinger’sThe Catcher in the Rye

Thank you, Mr Salinger.

Cyrano de Bergerac : How do I love thee? Let me count the ways – Part One

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching…

What to do, what to say?

Love is so complex!

In this age of Twitter, texting and ‘time poverty’ our capacity to communicate complicated feelings is in dangerous decline.

Sure, we can speak in short imbecilic bursts –  we can rant, we can reiterate, repeat and Retweet – but can we elucidate, extrapolate or explain?

In this, the shallow end of the 21st century, do we even have strong or deep feelings?

If we do, and I’m not so sure we do, can we be counted on to express these feelings fully to the person we love?

I think not – at least not beautifully, voluminously or even well.

(I could make an allusion here to Cyrano de Bergerac, but what would be the point… he’s not on Facebook – well, he is actually, but…. oh, never-mind.)

Books have always spoken for the tongue-tied and as we are all suffering from this inhibiting malady…

…this Valentine’s Day, let books speak for you.

As uniform as our desires appear to be (and as uniform as perfume commercials would paint love to be ie: men want sex, women want romance), in fact, we all suspect there are as many forms of love as there are strains of the flu.

So, this year, let books speak for you, but be sure to choose your books well… for Love’s library is vast and can be daunting.

Or better still, let me be your guide.

Let us count the ways together as we make our way towards 14th February.

Every day I shall offer up a handful of loves and the books which speak for them…

By Valentine’s Day I will have prepared a vast smorgasbord of delicious dainties and you can make your choice.

Let us begin at the beginning with the most obvious – Romantic Love:


How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning taken from Sonnets from the Portuguese

Tune in tomorrow when we explore the cul-de-sac that is Self Love: exemplified by the ever uncomfortable Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth.

Andre Agassi and The Australian Open – Champion Tennis Stars Are People, Too!

The cover of OPEN: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi’s, has to be one of the best covers of 2009.

It stopped me in my tracks the first time I saw it.



A face like that could not lie.  I had to believe every word written within.

I was once President of France.

Yes, Mr Agassi.

Do you think I’m lying?

No, Mr Agassi.

Can you run down to the corner store for me? I need… now listen carefully… Two tins of tennis balls, Gatorade, Methamphetamine and a copy of Sports Illustrated. Got that? I don’t have my wallet. Can you pay? I’ll pay you back.

Yes, Mr Agassi.

Unfortunately, Andre’s admission that he took drugs while playing tennis was forgotten once the Tiger Woods story broke.

Before we moved on we needed to add a new entry in the Guinness World Records.

I can believe that Tiger could continue to play top-notch golf whilst having his innumerable flings – golf is barely a sport – but it is almost unbelievable that Andre could play tennis, run down every ball as he was famed for doing, whilst using illicit drugs.

I mean Roger Federer is good, but he’s not that good.

Andre Agassi’s version of events makes for compelling reading – and having read it, I now get disappointed watching the Australian Open; for when the tennis is over, I want the cameras to follow the athletes down the tunnel to see what they get up to off the court!

But the only way I can do that is to keep reading…

A Horror Story from the Letters of Thomas Carlyle

A tale writers tell to frighten one another…

JOHN STUART MILL had borrowed that first volume of my poor French Revolution (pieces of it more than once) that he might have it all before him, and write down some observations on it, which perhaps I might print as notes. I was busy meanwhile with Volume Second; toiling along like a Slave, but with the heart of a free Roman: indeed, I know not how it was, I had not felt so clear and independent, sure of myself and of my task for many long years.

Well, one night about three weeks ago, we sat at tea, and Mill’s short rap was heard at the door: Jane rose to welcome him; but he stood there unresponsive, pale, the very picture of despair; said, half-articulately gasping, that she must go down and speak to Mrs. Taylor. . . . After some considerable additional gasping, I learned from Mill this fact: that my poor Manuscript, all except some four tattered leaves, was annihilated! He had left it out (too carelessly); it had been taken for waste-paper: and so five months of as tough labour as I could remember of, were as good as vanished, gone like a whiff of smoke.

—There never in my life had come upon me any other accident of such moment; but this I could not but feel to be a sore one. The thing was lost, and perhaps worse; for I had not only forgotten the structure of it, but the spirit it was written with was past; only the general impression seemed to remain, and the recollection that I was on the whole well satisfied with that, and could now hardly hope to equal it.

Mill, whom I had to comfort and speak peace to, remained injudiciously enough till almost midnight, and my poor Dame and I had to sit talking of indifferent matters; and could not till then get our lament freely uttered. She was very good to me; and the thing did not beat us.

I felt in general that I was as a little schoolboy, who had laboriously written out his Copy as he could, and was showing it not without satisfaction to the Master: but lo! the Master had suddenly torn it, saying: `No, boy, thou must go and write it better.’ What could I do but sorrowing go and try to obey? That night was a hard one; something from time to time tying me tight as it were all round the region of the heart, and strange dreams haunting me: however, I was not without good thoughts too that came like healing life into me; and I got it somewhat reasonably crushed down, not abolished, yet subjected to me with the resolution and prophecy of abolishing.

Next morning accordingly I wrote to Fraser (who had advertised the Book as `preparing for publication’) that it was all gone back; that he must not speak of it to anyone (till it was made good again); finally that he must send me some better paper, and also a Biographie Universelle, for I was determined to risk ten pounds more upon it. Poor Fraser was very assiduous: I got Bookshelves put up (for the whole House was with Books), where the flowing Biographie (not Fraser’s, however, which was countermanded, but Mill’s), with much else stands all ready, much readier than before: and so, having first finished out the piece I was actually upon, I began again at the beginning.

Early the day after tomorrow (after a hard and quite novel kind of battle) I count on having the First Chapter on paper a second time, no worse than it was, though considerably different.’

Letters of Thomas Carlyle.

This tale was re-told in the TV comedy series Blackadder – though names and dates were changed.

Christina Stead, Henry Handel Richardson, Clive James, Germiane Greer

Bring Back the Cultural Cringe

The cultural cringe served a purpose, it caused the best and brightest to look outwards beyond the Australian Coastline to a world of complexity, of difference, of foreign ideas, foreign questions and answers and of universal solutions. Since the demise of the cringe self-complacency has stifled our endeavours. Our benchmark is ourselves. Our history is confined to this island, oh, and the tiny stretch of Turkey, known as Gallipoli. There was a moment in recent times, more than ten years ago now, when I believed Australia would take a leading role in the development of a Global Community but that was not to be.

We are not an ignorant nation. We travel. We read. We follow, through various, sometimes dubious, means, politics and engage in it. We have a confident voice when expressing our views.

Once we looked out to sea for signs of ships bringing news from the mother country. We are our own mother country now. Yet we still love to sit on the beach and look out to sea. Let’s not stop looking out to sea. Mentally we are turning, some have turned, inwards. There is no inland sea, just dust and heat. Let’s not turn in completely.

On Australia Day I’d like to celebrate the Global Australians: some of our finest writers, who found in the surrounding seas no impediment to their personal patriotism – Christina Stead, Henry Handel Richardson, Frederic Manning, George Johnston, Hal Porter, Patrick White, Germaine Greer, Clive James, Robert Hughes, Peter Carey and Frank Moorhouse… to name but a few…

Advance Australia Fair!

Brangelina: On the Shoulders of Giants

News of impending doom?

How glorious!

What timing!

– Cut from the distressing plight of thousands to shots of the glamorous couple – Brad and Angelina.

In One, Two… Go Live!’

What to think?

Thankfully, the weather-cocks of our emotional response – the gossip columnists and the pretty, unnaturally mobile faces who keep us informed via the television ‘news’  – have coordinated seamlessly, crying in unison – Think of the children!

All ethical inconsistencies have now been ironed out… well, if not ironed out, then vigorously shaken so the creases appear to be intentional… and that will do – it need only be worn once.

So, instead of devoting more time to supercouple Brangelina I thought I would use their names to promote the books which helped pave the path to their success.

As we know, a good actor is a blank slate on which a character can be written, and the success of this couple may just be due to the fact that their slates are blanker than their peers.

The Books That Made The Stars Shine

Brad’s book journey begins with a bit part in the film of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel Less Than Zero, a perfect place to begin a career.

Angelina’s book journey starts with The Bone Collector by Jeffrey Deaver, which was back in the day when she had a vial of her then beloved’s, Billy Bob Thornton’s, blood on a chain around her neck.

Brad’s next book move was in Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, a role he liked so much he took a very similar role in the film of Jim Harrison’s Legends Of The Fall. (A movie many women remember for the horse riding scene.)

In between these two classic American tales, he was seduced by the dark side in Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, starring opposite Tom Cruise, who played himself.

Angelina, meanwhile, dug deep, discovering the unstable soul within, appearing in Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen.

Brad Pitt took on two memoirs, Seven Years in Tibet (it felt like more than seven years) by Heinrich Harrer and Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra, which leaned heavily on the plot of one of my favourites – The Count of Monte Cristo.

Appealing to the masses, Angelina accepted the role of a character, Lara Croft, from a computer game – which are the novels of the Bart Simpson generation (ie: forever ten generation); then returned to memoir with the powerful A Mighty Heart by Mariane Pearl.

In the same year she took part in the telling of Beowulf in 3-D, something that the classic text was screaming out for.

After the brilliantly disturbing Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, Brad also went time travelling, donning the armour of Achilles, in the film of Bart’s father’s famous epic, The Iliad – Troy.

Brad rounds off his literary partnership with one of the greats of modern American writing – the glamour boy of his time – F. Scott Fitzgerald. Brad plays Benjamin Button in the film of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, whose passage from youth to old age is reversed, which signified something deep, I’m sure. However, there was controversy as the film borrowed heavily from a lesser known work – The Curious Case of Demi Moore.

Rumoured future literary collaborations include Angelina as Kay Scarpetta from Patricia Cornwell’s crime series and for Brad, it’s back to Ancient Greece for The Odyssey hopefully playing Odysseus. But who might play the patient Penelope?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 15,964 other followers

%d bloggers like this: