Quote Of The Day: Wake Up, You Are In …

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Quote of the day #50

It’s a simple story. Peter is a writer who published a popular book before he’s 30. He meets Maureen, who adores him, but the relationship just don’t work out. Maureen is too headstrong for Peter and the two have escalating clashes. Finally they split up, but Maureen fakes a pregnancy. Peter feels that he has to do the right thing and they get married.

For three years, Maureen throws tantrums at home and Peter has affairs outside of their home. Peter wants a divorce and Maureen wants alimony. They go to court and the judge is more sympathetic to Maureen. Peter can’t afford to pay $100 a week alimony (the book was published in 1974) and tries to find ways to convince the judge that he is broke.

Maureen tries to commit suicide, but is saved by one of her friends. And soon afterwards, Maureen dies in a traffic accident when she was traveling with her ex-husband, who she had married before she met Peter. That’s the end of the story and the stormy relationship between Peter and Maureen.

It is such a good book. I really like it and I feel very guilty that I like it since it is so blatantly misogynistic. Peter’s hatred of Maureen and his general attitude towards women is very truthfully and skillfully described. Since it is so truthful, it is hilarious. I don’t know if the author intended it to be this way, but it is hilarious. And what impresses me most is Maureen’s retort of Peter–she is so good at pointing out that Peter’s self centered narcissism has prevented him from sharing his life with her. His self discipline, his insistence on being clean and hygienic, his rigid vision of life is the real barrier for him to connect with women. Well, probably I put it too plainly here. I mean the author wrote in a little more nuanced ways. Somehow I just love the dialogue between Peter and Maureen.

It is almost an autobiography and the scenes and the languages are so real. It is “My Life As A Man” by Philip Roth. I read his “Portnoy’s Complaint” and really didn’t like it at all. Then I read his “Goodbye Columbus” and didn’t like it. That was 10 years ago. And this is why I am quite surprised that I like “My Life As A Man” so much. For example, he talks about his upbringing as a nice Jewish boy who always does the correct things, aces the exams, and wins his mother’s approval. When he starts to deal with real life’s messy situations, all the correctness and perfectionist training he received from his mother and his school work against him.

It’s a good read and here are the quotes I like. I think the best quote is at the end when Maureen is in hospital and about to wake up from a suicide attempt, Peter goes in and says to her, “Wake up, Maureen, you are in hell.” I have to say this line is hilarious to me, being a person growing up with parents who hated each other and battled each other. This line perfectly describes such a relationship–each person wakes up each morning in hell. Yes, this book is very low on sympathy and empathy, but in some way, when a relationship goes bad, it is a hell. And if a society doesn’t allow them to separate, it is a hell without exit.

I was pleased myself though not so awe struck. In fact, the example of my own tireless and resolute parents have so instilled in me the habits that make for success that I hardly had any understanding at all of failure. Why did people fail? Why would any one prefers the ignobility of defeat to the genuine pleasures of an achievement. Especially, as the later is so easy to effectuate. All you have to be is attentive, methodical, thorough, punctual, and persevering. All you have to be is orderly, patient, self disciplined, undiscourageable, and industrious… That was it. What could be simpler.

I was then married to a woman I loathed, but from whom I was unable to separate myself, subjugated not simply by her extremely professional brand of moral blackmail, by that mix of luridness and con that made our life together resemble something serialized on afternoon TV or the National Inquirer, but by my own childish availability to it.

“How could you embarrass me like that? How could you say that with me right there on your side?” Maureen said.

“Say what?”

“You know damn well, Peter, say Walter is your editor.” Maureen said.

“He is.”

“What about me?” She cried.

“You?”

“I’m your editor. You know very well I am, only you refuse to admit it. I read every word you write, Peter. I made suggestions. I correct your spelling.”

“Those are typos, Maureen.”

“But I correct them. And then when some rich b*ch… asked you, you said Walter. Why must you demean me like this? Why did you do that in front of that empty headed girl?”

“Maureen, not this, not again.”

“Yes, again, and again. Because you will not change.”

“But she meant my editor at my publishing house.”

“But I am your editor.”

“You are not.”

“Suppose I am not your wife either. Why are you so ashamed of me? In front of those phonies no less, people who would not look at you if you won’t this month’s cover boy. Oh, you baby. You hopeless egomaniac. Must you always be at the center of everything?”

The great world was so obviously a men’s. It was only within marriage that an ordinary woman could hope to find equality and dignity. Indeed, we were led to believe, by the defenders of womankind of our era, that we were exploiting and degrading the women we didn’t marry rather than the ones we did. Unattached and on her own, a woman is supposed to be not able to go to the movies, or out to a restaurant by herself… It’s up to us then to give them the value and purpose that the society at large withheld, by marrying them. If we didn’t marry women, who would? Ours is the only sex available–the draft is on.

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