By Maura Kelly
Last night, I took part in a strange ritual, one that is largely indigenous to New York City: the book party. They're fairly similar to regular parties, these events; alcohol is served in little plastic cups, there is often finger food, and people kibitz. The main difference is that the kibitzing is usually, almost exclusively, about literature, the literary world and the literati.*And often, there are free copies of the volume ostensibly being celebrated.
The party was for the book I mentioned yesterday: A Good Talk, by Dan Menaker. At the shindig, I ran into one of the guys from N+1, the literary journal I like so much. I met a very pleasant young lady named Macy Halford, with the most luminous skin in the world (there was a warm glow illuminating the space around her for about 30 cubic feet), who writes a blog about books for The New Yorker.** From across the room, I saw the novelist Arthur Phillips, perhaps best known for Prague. He was cuter in person than I'd expected, although he also looked very haggard.
At one point, I found myself telling someone: "Did you know that 80% of all conversation is gossip?" And then I realized I'd read that in A Good Talk. Man, I'm so redundant.
We must have been talking about our favorite writers when French author Marcel (Remembrance of Things Past) Proust came up.
What I like so much about Proust is his incredibly sensual celebration of detail: the way he will linger over an image (like the dance of candle light upon a wall) and, similarly, his decadent attention to emotional experience. His narrator (conveniently named Marcel) can help a reader to re-live the emotional experience of longing in a way that makes it feel deliciously exquisite--the way it can in childhood (think of the wonderful anticipation you used to feel on a happy Christmas Eve, or even how you would almost burst with the most enjoyable impatience as you waited for those brownies to come out of the oven).
By the time we get to adulthood, however, whatever pleasantness we used to associate with waiting often gets subsumed by anxiety: Will he ever, ever call? Will I get the job? Will I ever write--or sell--my novel ? Because in childhood, we wait for things we know are coming; in adulthood, we don't know if so many of the things we are waiting will ever come.
Chris Beha then made a wonderfully astute observation that made me feel like I am not worthy of living in the literary world, not even on the fringes.
He said (and I hope to Marcel I don't mis-quote him here):
"For Proust, all love is self-love. He believes that it's not truly possible to love another person for who he or she really is--and that the only way an individual can manage something like romantic love is by projecting his own qualities onto the other person, and loving her for the way that she reflects him."
This is a nearly-perfect definition of narcissistic love, yes?
Lovelies, shall we talk about the other kinds of erotic or romantic love?
What are they? What are the other reasons we fall?
Perhaps there is also:
HOPEFUL OR ESCAPIST LOVE: When we fall in "love" (or something like it) because we imagine that the person we've fallen for will transform our lives, figuratively--in the sense of relieving our existential or psychological suffering--but often literally as well.
SAVIOR-COMPLEX LOVE: When we fall in "love" (or something like it) because we think that we can "save" the love object. Kind of the flip-side of escapist love.
SELF-LOATHING LOVE: When we fall in "love" (or something like
it) because the other person treats us just as badly or as negligently
as we think we deserve. (An extreme example of this would be a
relationship where some kind of abuse--emotional, vituperative,
physical--occurs frequently.) This is roughly the opposite of
REDEMPTIVE LOVE: When we fall in "love" (or something like it) because we think the love object will redeem us--that his love will mean that our own lives are worthy or meaningful. Similar to escapist love, but maybe a bit more extreme, and less concerned with any literal transformation. (Cf. Dostoevsky.)
PRACTICAL LOVE: When we fall in "love" (or something like
it) because we recognize that the other person has similar values and
similar life goals, and we think that he or she can help us attain
ANTONYMICAL LOVE: When we fall in love (or something like
it) because the love object is so different, so exotic. He or she does
things so differently from the way we do things that we are mesmerized
and captivated. A.k.a.: the love that happens when "opposites attract."
The opposite of narcissitc love.
I think most kinds of love are probably a mix of at least two of these.
Guys, does this all sound negative? If so, please keep in mind that I've never really been in love--not even close--so if you are sensing some cynicism, it is not arising from any kind of judgment of other people; it's self-judgement.
Anyway, what's missing? What's complete nonsense?
PS: A word about HAITI:: Apparently an organization
called Partners in Health (PIH) is on the ground in Haiti, helping the
people there to recover from yet another devastating earthquake. PIH
was founded by the respected Harvard world health expert Paul Farmer (well known thanks to the popular biography Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer,
A Man Who Would Cure the World). Click here to donate.
PPS: Please become a fan of the blog on Fbook.
similar to "glitterati"; a term to describe the bright lights of the
literary world--the well-known novelists, the magazine big-shots, the
**I was astonished (and slightly terrified) after noticing one of her posts mentions someone I used to date! It's a very small world.
dear commenters: will try to respond in a bit--after i finally eat a bit of breakfast and have another cup of coffee. but i'm a little busy today so if i don't get around to it, i'm sorry!
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