Quote Of the Day: Josie’s Story

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Quote Of The Day #56

Josie grew up in a small town near Chicago. Her family was chaotic and her parents were not very responsible.

She was actually a small town drunkard’s angry daughter, a young woman already haunted by grim memories and oppressed by an inextinguishable resentment over the injustice of her origins; hampered at every turn by her earliest mistakes and driven by fearsome need to bouts of desperate deviousness, she was a more likely fair-haired heroine for the scrutiny of a gloomy director than for the sunny fantasies of Hollywood.

Josie couldn’t wait to get out of her dysfunctional family. And just in many of these cases, she fell for the first man she met, got married very young, had two kids, and got divorced several years later. Due to her jobless situation, she lost custody of her two kids, which caused emotional damage to her. She then got enrolled in U. of Chicago, but she quit after one year to become a secretary. One day, she met Phil, who’s a graduate student, and a romance bloomed.

Phil was a little narcissistic and he wanted to be admired at all time. He was not a bad person at all and often he could be very generous when he felt like it. His narcissism made him impossible to love two previous girlfriends, who were normal and emotionally stable. They couldn’t admire Phil as much as he wanted them to. Josie was different.

Josie admired academic achievement, which she herself didn’t have the self discipline to pull it off. Phil provided the perfect model of achievement for her to admire and worship. On the other hand, Phil had the young ardent desire to rescue Josie from her abysmal past and all those bullies in her life. At first, they had a good time and they even thought of getting her two kids back to live with them. However a year or two later, their relationship deteriorated. It became so bad that Phil wanted out. So he left Chicago and came to live in New York. However Josie would not let him go. So the two ended up coming to New York together, where Josie faked a pregnancy and Phil was forced to marry her.

I was as hypnotized–and flooded with chivalric fantasies of manly heroism–by her unforgiving hatred of all the radically imperfect men who she calimed had abused her and had come close to ruining her as she was enchanted–and filled with fantasy–by my idyll of neatly ironed pajamas and hot tomato soup and what that promised about the domestication. The more examples she offered of their irresponsible, unprincipled conduct, the more I pitied her the injustices she had had to endure and admired the courage it had taken to survive. She reviled them with that peculiarly potent adjective of hers, “wicked”…

Two years later… we no longer had anything resembling a love affair, only a running feud focused on my character flaws and from which I was finding it impossible to escape no matter how far I fled. … The deterioration of trust between Josie and me had elicited the most grueling, draining, bewildering quarrels: her adjective “wicked” did not sound so alluring when it began to be used to describe me.

Phil introduced Josie to jobs in publishing, but Josie had a hard time holding on to those editor jobs. Their relationship got worse and eventually Phil filed for divorce, which was not so easy in New York during the early part of 1960s. Phil was ordered to pay alimony and he resented it deeply.

I won’t describe our life together on the Lower East Side except to say that I am as surprised today as I was then that we didn’t wind up–one or both of us–maimed or dead. She produced the perfect atmosphere in which I couldn’t think. By the end of the year, I was nearly as ripe for hospitalization as she was, my basement apartment having all but become a psychiatric ward with cafe curtains.

Several years later, one day Josie died of a traffic accident. She and her boss, an editor in a publishing company, traveled in a car. Her boss was the driver. The car hit a tree in Central Park at night and she was dead instantly.

Her eradicable need for a conscienceless, compassionless monster as a mate had at last been realized–I felt absolutely nothing about her dying at thirty-nine other than immeasuable relief. …I’d always understood that one of us would have to die for the damn thing ever to be over.

Although the portrayal of Josie is not very fair, I have to say I really enjoy reading this book. Actually I think “The Facts” are the best book by Philip Roth, as good as “Of Human Bondage” or “The Hearburn”, the other two books about relationship dramas that I have really enjoyed. The book can be even better if Josie’s background and psychology are explored even more, but the author is too concentrated on his own complaints and frustrations.

23 thoughts on “Quote Of the Day: Josie’s Story

  1. Sounds like a book that shows human nature in a raw and animalistic way. Pining and fighting for territorial rights over people and emotions. Would be very interesting and also depressing to read. Haha. But that’s life. Thanks for sharing this, Haoyan. šŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is interesting and depressing at the same time. You are right on the point there. And one feels that one likes it and hates it at the same time. LOL. Still I consider it a very well written one despite its flaws and bias.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This book sounds quite interesting and I may have to read it myself. Roth always ignores the background even when it would have been interesting and fixates on the male character lol.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So true. Roth always laud the male character as some god like creatures whose faults only increase their loveliness or at least make them more human like. And their perfect manly equilibrium and good fortune are often damaged by female train wrecks who want to cling on them as leeches. Typical Roth world. What can I say? I mean 70% of the book readers are women and he has numerous female fans despite the fact that he berated women with a loud speaker.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, so true. Those women who loves Roth’s book are ardent fans. I read an article about some women professors who adored Roth and defended Roth. Nothing can change their views. It almost reminds me of Trump’s fans.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Oh, I read an article somewhere that pointed out that people who hated Hillary the most are not men, but rather women who served the system loyally but not getting the acknowledgement, who labored hard but not getting to share power in society or even in their own family for many instances. Those who’s most vocal about their opposition are those whose husbands had never supported them as Bill supported Hillary. I don’t know if this is true since I don’t know enough of American politics to make my judgement. However I do know that the angriest women (angriest people rather) in my own family are my mother and my grandmother who serve the system loyally and bitterly and angrily. They are half mad at everybody under the veneer of social appropriateness.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Yeah I read that too. I also learnt in one of my history classes about how women played a huge role in electing conservative leaders and keeping a lot of patriarchal systems alive. For example, a significantly large amount of people that were a part of the KKK were women.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. I read it somewhere that a significant portion of anti-abortion activists are women too. Some of them can go into an abortion clinic, get their abortion, then come out to continue holding their protest placard with anti-abortion slogans. And their own undergoing of abortion makes them more ardent in their anti-abortion activities so that they can cleanse themselves of their “sins”. I think women are just driven crazy by the social settings they were born into.

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        5. Yeah I think the majority of pro-birth activists are women and a number of them have had abortions themselves and still continue to be pro-birth. I definitely think that social settings mess up women but I also think that these women have the privilege of never really having to deal with what people who need abortions go through. When you experience certain things it makes you empathetic to others but if you’ve never had any issues then you’ll lack empathy.

          Liked by 1 person

        6. You are absolutely right about this. I’ve never thought about this aspect before. People who live with the privileges don’t know how underprivileged people live. So true. Now to think of that, I experienced that myself. I know a woman who’s quite privileged and gets a good academic job. She criticized others for not working hard, but the truth is she has the credentials and backgrounds and training, which other people don’t have access to. It is not a problem of diligence, but rather a problem of scarce opportunities.

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        7. Yes, you hit the nail on the head. It’s not about people not wanting a better life but rather that opportunities are so scarce and nepotism is alive and well. It’s easy to do well if you’re from a good background but if you don’t have connections the world is a tough place.

          Liked by 1 person

        8. I should write a post about this. I mean an unfortunate South Korean girl couldn’t find a position in the humanity field and she ended up going back to South Korea to marry into a sadistic but powerful family. And of course the poor girl was ridiculed and not sympathized. Actually I think the girl would have chosen to stay in the academic field in she could, but there’s no opportunity for her. It ended up that she chose a traditional role.

          Liked by 1 person

        9. Wow, that’s so sad but very realistic. These things do happen a lot. There’s no opportunity so women have no choice but to revert to their traditional role. Yes, you should write a story about this.

          Liked by 1 person

        10. Actually I’ve met three Asian girls making the choice of going back to their traditional role. One is a Japanese girl, one is an Indian girl who became a medical doctor, one is this Korean girl. Now looking back, I really respect their courage even if they eventually had to retract their steps. They did try to defy tradition, but only to find that life on their own and love on their own are a completely different playing field, which they had never had the opportunities to learn its rules. It’s a difficult struggle for them.

          Liked by 1 person

        11. Wow, that’s sad. They are definitely very strong for trying to break free but it’s not always possible. In fact, it’s not possible for most. In a patriarchal world like the one we live in, we as women are often forced back to traditional roles even when we try to free ourselves from them.

          Liked by 1 person

        12. So true. Women tried very hard, but since the journey has too many obstacles, even if they avoid one, they can fall into the next one. And most importantly, I think a lot of parents don’t teach their daughters enough psychology or skills to navigate the very complicated social landscapes. And a lot of books are talking about things that are irrelevant to women’s life. Women need to explore more venues for information, experience, knowledge…


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