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.