Quote Of The Day: Husband And Wife

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Quote Of The Day #64

Joe Castleman is flying from New York to Helsinki with his wife Joan to receive the Helsinki Award for literature (imaginary. No such award exists). Joan was an aspiring writer once, and attended Smith College, but she quit and ran away with her professor Joe Castleman. At the university before she ran away, she went to a literary event hosted by the university and met the “unpopular” author Elaine Mozell, a bitter woman, who drank like a fish and smoked like a chimney. Elaine told Joan that her life was ruined and nobody recognized her art. She advised Joan to give up literature since there’s no point.

Joe and Joan started their new life, and Joan subsequently supported Joe for decades in his literary pursuit. They had three kids and Joe’s career took off after he published his first book. While Joe had a great time with his book success and various dalliance, Joan felt increasingly uneasy. At a writer’s retreat in New England one summer, Joe’s affair with a young writer became public knowledge and everybody pitied Joe’s long suffering wife.

On the plane to Helsinki, Joan finally made up her mind to get a divorce, but first Joan had to confront a big dark secret in their marriage and in the history of literary writing.

The problem is that I love men passionately, even though they don’t deserve it.

He was Joseph Castleman, one of those men who own the world. You know the type I mean: those advertisements for themselves, those sleepwalking giants, roaming the earth and knocking over other men, women, furniture, villages. Why should they care? They own everything, the seas and mountains, the quivering volcanoes, the dainty, ruffling rivers. There are many varieties of this kind of man: Joe was the writer version, …who was as entertaining as anyone I have ever known, who had no idea of how to take care of himself or anyone else, and who derived much of his style from The Dylan Thomas Handbook of Personal Hygiene and Etiquette.

The women who surrounded Joe were furious at men, they insisted, yet they also insisted that he was exempt from their fury.As he listened to their unhappy, overlapping sagas, he
knew that in some unstated way he ruled the roost and always would.

Lev, with the gleaming, deep eyes, should have won the Nobel Prize for Sadness, instead of for Literature. (Though I’ve always admired Lev Bresner, I’ve never thought his novels were all they were cracked up to be. It’s Lev’s subject, not his writing, that makes you flinch and tremble and dread turning the page.

All over the world, husbands and wives routinely and somewhat pointlessly ask one another: Are you okay? It’s part of the contract; it’s the thing to do, because it implies that you care, that you’re paying attention, when in fact you might be deeply and relentlessly bored.

“No,” insisted Harry, whose own field was poetry, which pretty much guaranteed that he would remain entirely unknown and broke forever. Even so, he was deeply competitive; a mean vein of spite ran through him, as it did through all of the poets Joe knew. It always seemed that the smaller the pie, the greater the need to have more of it.

“You’re politically correct, and that really counts these days, at least as far as the Helsinki is concerned. You’ve got that extra gene, that sensitivity toward women. That unwillingness to objectify the opposite sex, isn’t that what they say about you?” Harry, the poet, said.

Harry went on. “You mix in all this feminism, if you want to call it that—even though it always makes me think of dykes with chain saws. You’re an original, Joe! A great writer who isn’t a total prick.”

As Harry had said, he was politically correct, yet somehow he wasn’t at all political. Even the Helsinki Prize was a reach. Yet critics had always admired Joe’s vision of contemporary American marriage, which seemed to plumb the female sensibility as thoroughly as it did the male, but amazingly without venom, without blame.

He said. “I’m the type that sits there slaving away all day and thinking someone will give me credit for effort. But here’s an important thing to remember, Miss Ames: In life, no one gives you credit for effort.”

She said in one of those voices that seemed to have been extensively primed by alcohol and cigarettes.while the other faculty members seemed to grow subtly drunk, Elaine Mozell became obviously so. She was bitter and difficult, a once-good-looking woman who had gotten a little too heavy and shouldered too much resentment to attract many people anymore, and yet Professor Castleman was taken with her. She was one of those angry women, this Elaine Mozell, angry because her novel had sold 1,503 copies and because she understood how talented she really was, but that it might never really matter.

It is a good read, even though I guessed what the big secret is before reading this book, titled “The Wife” by Meg Wolitzer and published in 2003. The reason I could guess the secret is because I watched the Lifetime TV series, “The Affair”, in which there’s a similar detail between a writer and his wife. After reading this book, an ad flashed on my computer to ask me to purchase another book of hers, “The Female Persuasion”, which was on sale. And I did it immediately. I am such an obedient consumer who is willingly drawing up one’s book list according to the wishes of publishing companies.

36 thoughts on “Quote Of The Day: Husband And Wife

        1. Wow, that’s exactly what my friend said the other day. You are soooo right. There are so many uncertainties and hurdles for women that it is impossible to avoid all of them even if one can avoid one or two and overcome one or two. We want to find the best path for ourselves and we want to love ourselves too…

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Oh, so true. It is so easy to find faults with a woman since in a daily life of millions of small things, a woman can err so easily. Several seconds of inattention, a pot of milk can boil over.

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        3. Haha, my father’s brothers were all very normal people and none had narcissistic trait. However my uncles on my mother’s side are mostly narcissistic. No surprise there…

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        4. Yes, that is very precise. My father is the only narcissist in his side of the family, while my mother’s family is a narcissist hellhole. I can’t believe I was born in such a nut house. I guess everybody has something to complain about, but my luck is just the worst. LOL.

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        5. Somehow I can imagine you have aunt, uncle, or cousins on your dad side who are impossible to deal with. Me too. I have such relatives who are totally unpleasant and would verbally abuse people whenever they have a chance. It is so disheartening. Narcissism are poisons that will make life very bitter and ugly.

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        6. Good for you. Toxic relatives and narcissistic relations can make us feel depleted. Whenever I think about my relatives, I just feel so hopeless. I don’t even have energy to deal with them.

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  1. Kingsley Amis was that kind of man I think. (I’m currently reading his biography.) He was also a complete wreck in many ways – alcohol-dependent, afraid of travel, being alone, etc etc. I wonder whether a completely normal and well-adjusted person would even bother to write. I know I’m neither of those things – but my anxiety, tendency towards guilt and upbringing have prevented me from turning totally into that kind of man!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really? He was a half wrecked person like that? Now you made him and his book more attractive. I didn’t really like his book about a university and a young faculty member. That was many years ago. Now I might think differently. Probably you have a much happier life than Amis, I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Before I started the bio I’d previously read “Lucky Jim” and “Jake’s Thing” (a long time ago). Reading the bio has made me curious about “Stanley and the Women” because apparently he was at his most bitter and angry when he wrote that novel, his second wife Elizabeth Jane Howard having just left him. (She was a novelist in her own right by the way.) Anyway I’ve got it on Kindle now and have made a start on it.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I can imagine the conflict between two writers who are both in bad mood. I guess Amis and Elizabeth might have the same problem, each caught in his or her own mental strain and ended up plaguing each other…

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