Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot is a story about self-actualization. Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell are on the cusp of adulthood and embroiled in a love triangle; self-actualization is definitely a long way off for our three protagonists. The novel documents the proverbial ‘journey’ of the individual and acknowledges the cultural shift that has happened in the Western world since the last century: marriage no longer signifies the expression of a person’s full capacity. Thank goodness.
I’m not going to write a proper review today, but I will say this: don’t be put off by the prose in the first chapter; some of it is a bit over the top with superfluous adjectives and adverbs aplenty. It’s a good book; as awkward and pretentious as many of us were in our late teens, but ever-evolving and increasingly complicated in the latter parts. I liked it; I was familiar with its ‘people’, and I always enjoy books that hit close to home.
I’m not writing a lengthy post, because I’m feeling a bit depleted by my children. I am a creature of habit, and during the school holidays I tend to feel a bit ‘at sea’. I’ve been feeling this way for the last week; unsettled; a little bit out of sorts. I’ve been writing infrequently and indulging in way too many sugary treats. I’ve been torpid and irate with the kids. My darling poppets grew accustomed to the Lotto life whilst holidaying in Hong Kong and they’ve come home rather tetchy and spoilt. So I’ve had to practise a bit of ‘tough love’ to restore my usually (mostly!) delightful boys. It’s been exhausting.
A dear friend of mine, Jen, has provided some relief in the form of a tiny book; a book of consolation. It is about ‘surviving as a sensitive observer in a harsh world’. These are letters from German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, to his young acolyte and would-be writer, Franz Xaver Kappus. Ever humble and unwaveringly kind, Rilke writes of the experiences particular to artists; the inevitable disappointments and heady joys.
This week, I do not have the wherewithal to write a decent review, but I’d like to share a passage from Letters to a Young Poet, where Rilke tries to respond critically to his young admirer’s poetry:
With nothing can one approach a work of art so little as with critical words: they always come down to more or less happy misunderstandings. Things are not all so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered, and more inexpressible than all else are works of art, mysterious existences, the life of which, while ours passes away, endures.
Such is the nature of writing: we writers seek to express the inexpressible; we choose our words with the utmost care, and it can grow to be a tiresome thing, an extremely difficult thing, when the body and soul are weary. I have a feeling that this book will be a good tonic.