From My iPhone
Quote Of The Day #51
Professor Coleman Silk, in his seventies, used a derogatory word to describe two absent students in his class. The students complained, the school investigated, and the news spread on campus. Coleman felt that he was unfairly vilified and censured–in a rage, he quit. His eminent wife couldn’t take such a shameful blow and died, most likely of a pre-existing condition but Coleman thought the heartless university had killed her.
(Emotional or moral suffering) is more insidious even than what physical illness can do, because there is no morphine drip or spinal block or radical surgery to alleviate it. Once you are in its grip, it’s as though it will have to kill you for you to be free of it. Its raw realism is like nothing else.
Coleman and his wife has a stormy marriage and a troubled relationship since both are strong minded, both are impeccably correct all the time, both are unyielding.
… million difficulties of the Silk’s marriage. (His wife’s) imperiousness had for four decades clashed with his own obstinate autonomy and resulted in the unending friction of their lives……for years, they had not slept in the same bed or been able to endure very much of the other’s conversation–or of the other’s friends.
Coleman started to see Faunia Farley, who’s a cleaning woman at the university and more than 30 years his junior.
Thirty-four years of savage surprises have given her (Faunia) wisdom. But it’s a very narrow, antisocial wisdom. It’s savage, too. It’s the wisdom of somebody who expects nothing. That’s her wisdom and that’s her dignity, but it’s a negative wisdom. This is a woman whose life’s been trying to grind her down almost for as long as she’s had life. Whatever she’s learned comes from that.
Coleman’s boss at the university, Delphine Roux, had several skirmishes with Coleman long before the incident that terminated his career. She wanted Coleman to adjust his angle when teaching ancient Greek and Roman texts, which, in her opinion, are filled with language of sexism etc. Coleman refused to comply.
Isn’t mythology full of giants and monsters and snakes? By defining Coleman as a monster, she defines herself as a heroine. This is her slaying of the monster.
Coleman had four children, three boys and one girl, who were in their 20s and 30s. They were unsympathetic to their father’s trouble. His daughter Lisa used to have better relationship with Coleman than her brothers had, but she turned against his father, choosing to believe rumors rather than the familial connection.
For someone whose life existed only for others–incurable altruism was Lisa’s curse–she was, as a teacher, perpetually hovering at the edge of depletion. There was generally a demanding boyfriend as well from whom she could not withhold kindness, and for whom she turned herself inside out, and for whom, unfailingly, her uncontaminated ethical virginity became a great big bore. Lisa was always morally in over her head, but without either the callousness to disappoint the need of another or the strength to disillusion herself about her strength.
Even Coleman’s lawyer Primus didn’t sympathize with him and Coleman, for the first time in his life, saw through Primus’ fake facade.
Coleman had silently listened, suppressing his feelings, trying to keep an open mind and to ignore the too apparent delight Primus took in floridly lecture on the virtues of prudence… In an attempt to humor himself, Coleman had been thinking, “being angry with me makes them all feel better. It liberates everyone to tell me I am wrong. Primus’ sense of himself as brilliant and destined for great things seemed to have got the best of him… (He is) a vocal master of extraordinary loquaciousness. So perspicacious. So fluent. A vocal master of the endless, ostentatiously overelaborate sentences. And so rich with contempt for every last human problem he has never had to face.”
This is the beginning of “The Human Stain” by Philip Roth. And Coleman’s trouble with the university and his affair with Faunia are only the beginning. Very soon, the book reveals a bigger secret of Coleman’s life–he is not who he claims to be. I don’t want to offer any spoiler here and I just want to say it is a fun read. I almost think that the book will be even better, if that is entirely possible, if the author had the experienced of an underprivileged and marginalized person who tries to make something of himself. It would have been more insightful if that’s the case. Well, it is just my conjecture. The book is already wonderful as it is. Some passages are so nice that I almost highlighted the entire page.