Quote Of The Day: The Last Resort

From My IPhone

Quote Of The Day #49

Wilkie Walker is a 60-year-old professor, writer, and naturalist. He thought he had cancer and didn’t want to go through the indignity of radiation treatment and the painfully slow progress of declining health. He wants a quick solution. So he convinced his wife Jenny to go for a vacation in Key West, the southernmost island of the Florida Keys, thinking that he would swim into the ocean and die there, which would look like a swimming accident rather than a suicide.

Jenny is the dutiful, diligent, and traditional wife who did all the hard work at home. She has raised their two children, done all the house chores, worked on all the natural research necessary for Wilkie’s publications, communicated with editors, proofread all the drafts etc. She’s practically a researcher, secretary, wife all rolled into one. And she enjoys it, since being the wife of such an important person is a worthy identity to her.

During their long vacation in Key West, Wilkie becomes busy preparing for his suicide and grows distant to his wife. In distress, Jenny seeks friendship in Lee Weiss, who’s the owner of a small bed and breakfast hotel. The two starts a relationship.

In the meantime, their neighbor Jerry and his new girlfriend are also engaging in a relationship drama. I actually quite like their drama, but unfortunately the author didn’t explore it very much. Instead, the author adds a side story of Wilkie’s landlord Jacko, who welcomes his mother, his cousin, and his aunt to Key West. This dysfunctional family is related to an Arizona politician, who is having an affair with a Las Vegas showgirl.

Wilkie makes three attempts to commit suicide, but each time the effort is thwarted by something unexpected. Does he eventually succeed? What happens to his relatives if he dies or if he doesn’t die? The ending is a surprise.

This is “The Last Resort” by Allison Lurie. Although this book is not as good as “The War Between The Tates”, or “The Truth About Lorin Jones”, I still quite like it. I especially enjoy the relationship between Wilkie and his wife, and the relationship between Jerry, the Key West neighbor who’s a well published poet, and his girlfriend. I think the author is very familiar with academics and artists. However Jacko’s relationship and Lee’s relationship are not the best described. Jacko is a gay who’s diagnosed with HIV, and Lee’s a lesbian. I guess the author doesn’t have too much experience with their life difficulties and social challenges. Consequently their relationships are not described so well.

I’ve found the following quotes:

It was clear to Wilkie now that if he had stayed with serious science he might have made some significant discovery. Instead…he had become a popularizer. A propagandist. He had brought upon himself the fate of all successful popularizers: he had made his point so well that it had become banal.

Jenny sometimes worried that her son Billy, isolated in the nearly all-male world of computer hardware, would never meet a nice young woman, and that her daughter Ellen would scare nice young men off.

Their daughter Ellen and their son Billy, once so wholly satisfactory, had grown into flawed and problematic young adults. it was no one’s fault that Ellen should have inherited Wilkie’s strong will and his tendency to take control, so much less charming in a woman; or that Billy should have inherited Jenny’s physical slightness and her sensitivity to the opinions of others, so much less charming in a man.

She still did not understand why people enjoyed talking about themselves so much–even insisted on it–and were so eager to repeat facts they already knew. Sometimes she wondered if they were not wholly convinced that they existed and had to keep proving this.

Jacko did not respond. He merely smiled with the tolerant confidence common among physically beautiful people, who know that they make a contribution to the scene simply by being there.

Jenny knew that in the 1990s many people found her attitude strange. “Jenny’s a walking anachronism,” a loud mouthed, temporarily tipsy acquaintance had said last year when introducing her at a college reception. “She devotes herself full time to her husband, like a Victorian wife.”

(This is a quote about not wanting to know the truth.) “I had a professor who was always going on about how knowledge is power. But the way I figure it, with good news you ruin the surprise. And if it’s bad, why find out before you have to.”

When I see somebody I think is hot, it can ruin everything to know too much about him.

“We’re in a bad piece of history.” Gerry took another gulp of vodka and tonic. What made it harder, he continued, was not having support at home–having what, when you got right down to it, was an enemy in your own home. “The goddamned truth is,” Gerry went on, “women these days, most of them, aren’t on your side…. When you ask for a little help, a little warmth or sympathy, they think you are trying to exploit them or denigrate them.”

A peculiar feeling came over Jenny. It was as if for most of her adult life she had been leaning against a heavy stone wall that both imprisoned and supported her.

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