Wednesday, January 21, 2009

“Our ability to measure and apportion time affords
an almost endless source of comfort”

OK. Has the “change” begun yet?

It's been awhile since I've posted anything. Not much has been happening. I've had some nice times, and life's humming along all right, but I still have this nagging feeling of being out of sorts.

I'm still bored to death of my job, and even more bored and apprehensive over the changes that will be coming in the next month or two. It's nothing compared to being unemployed or destitute, but if the point of comparison were always absolute poverty, no one I know would ever have a single thing to be unhappy about. I'm often not sure what downward comparison is supposed to do for us. Watch Slumdog Millionaire and feel uplifted and warmhearted that All Is, In the End, Good in the World?

Diversions haven't helped.

A couple weeks ago I saw a documentary called The Spider, The Mistress, and The Tangerine, about artist Louise Bourgeois. Seeing some of her installations and hearing her often-rambling musings about her art and life were incredibly exciting and inspirational. Yes! To create.... Art! To accomplish so much and have an outlet for one's convoluted thoughts.

One of Bourgeois's quotes stuck with me: "My emotions are inappropriate to my size."

She was feisty and seems to have been prone to lash out in anger at times. I understand the impulse and I'm often ashamed of it, though I wish I weren't. I'll never be quiet and polite and have an appropriate sense of "deferring to authority." I just know it.

I also saw Revolutionary Road last week. It was often melodramatic, and contrived, and included many of the types of plot devices that I find too didactic. Why must there always be a huge, roiling climax in so many stories?

The tragic moment... I often hate it. I finally understand that I'm more often drawn to the story that doesn't have a magnificent crest or even a "proper" ending. That's how life is, isn't it?

I was surprised to learn soon after seeing the film that the novel by Richard Yates upon which it was based was written in 1961, which means that Yates was only looking back on the milieu of the novel (early- to mid-1950s) through a fairly short lens. I'm halfway through a New Yorker essay by James Wood on Yates, and it's also made me curious to read Madame Bovary, of which Road apparently a "brilliant rewriting."

No time to go into the entire essay here, but the following insight from Wood has been haunting me since yesterday afternoon:
“…mid-century American suburban man is so maddening because he is both a rank escapist and a conservative pragmatist: he has arrogated to himself twin rights that ought to be incompatible — to dream of escape… while simultaneously dreaming of timid stability.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my problem in a nutshell. I hate the feeling...


Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

I've held off on "Revolutionary Road" to date and, in general, hate going to any movie in a theater that is longer than 90 minutes, longer than 80 minutes honestly. A play can last 6 hours and hold me if it's good, but rarely a movie.

What I struggle with is that weird mix of escape and stability that can exist in a supposedly "urban" environment such as mine, in a supposedly hipster neighborhood where the Sushi Bistro is two doors down from where there was a gangland shooting, and when you're in the back garden you hear neighbors on three sides of the fence discussing New Yorker and Atlantic articles while Ranchero music is blasting in the background and two homeless guys are arguing over who has first dibs on the bottles in my recycling bin. That is an Atlantic or New Yorker piece in itself. If only San Francisco had a real magazine to observe such things. As Tina Brown noted about blogging "there is too much voice".


SubtleKnife said...

the milieu of the novel (early- to mid-1950s)

So is there a revolution in it? I've only just started Of Human Bondage and so far no whips or chains.... ;-)

In my own life I've found that I need stability in all other aspects to really be able to make the effort to change one. Or even to figure out what it is I want/need.

Perhaps this is your chance to sit back, relax and take stock.

SubtleKnife said...

(That should've been but so far...)

Salty Miss Jill said...

I'm glad you're back and humming along.
Woe to the post-modern man (and woman). I feel your angst.


Huntington said...

But what if what one is trying to escape to is real stability? What I mean is that, if we all lead lives of quiet desperation, any "stability" from which we yearn to escape isn't actually stable.... it's just an ultimately unbearable veneer that anyone sane would trade for an escape to a balanced life. No one yearns for timid stability, but most of us settle for it (and for transitory, unsatisfying escapes from it) most of the time because doing so seems less difficult than actual growth. I find it hard to believe that this is limited to "mid-century American suburban man."

BigAssBelle said...

"My emotions are inappropriate to my size."

truer words were never spoken.

i hate the feeling too. i am still waiting for my life to begin. the things that were satisfying 15, 10, even 5 years ago, no longer are. i want to escape, yet i can't. it makes me very angry. i fight that with meditation and prayer when i remember. and i cook. and plan the spring garden. and hope for an economic miracle.