Look, I'm not doing this for you, but for my own dark and twisted reasons. Oh, and because everyone else is doing it.


May 21, 2005

a book review (a book about seduction)

I've put away the interminably long (just under 1500 pages) A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth, for the moment in favor of slightly lighter reads. I'm halfway through The Cigar Roller, by Pablo Medina, and have just finished The Calligrapher, by Edward Docx.

The Calligrapher was an excellent read until the very end. Docx has a great way with the English language and I really enjoyed how he employs the poetry of John Donne to drive home his points about men and women, and the complexity of human relationships. The problem is that the last 2 pages read like an unsatisfying mini-series ending; as if the author had just given up.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't read it, because there are far too many worthy passages for the ending to ruin it completely. Docx's use of language (and being an anglophile I have a thing for the Britishness of the book) is very satisfying. The anti-hero narrator describes (pgs. 139 - 140 - I'm all about citing) how regular guys go about seduction and how it screws it up for the more exceptional ones:

All of which leaves us - you and me both - crying quietly into our hands
with shame and despair. But by such roads does the regular guy, in his many
guises, like to travel. The world is full of fuckers and there's nothing we can
do. Idealism, as you will have noticed, has died a short but tragic death. Don
Quixote rode in vain and Karl Marx is long forgotten, muttering the truth into
his beard like a mad tramp lying on a broken box on the pavement outside King's
Cross station. We live in the age of the lowest common denominator. And boy oh
boy is it low.

I should have marked more passages to mention, but I kept wanting to find out what would happen next. Also, as much as I dislike the Playa at my age, I was fascinated by the pyschological profile, and at the idea that a guy could put so much consideration and planning into seduction - even when considering breakfasts after a successful overnighter:

Between you and me, I find it almost impossible to guess breakfast
requirements in advance for women like Cecile. You would presume that, like so
many women on the ecologicial revolution, she prefers fruit- cleansing,
nutritious, zestful. And yet no doubt she sometimes wakes to find herself
craving the immoderate satisfaction of a chocolate croissant.... In the end, I'm
afraid, I don't think there is any way round it: you just have to accept life as
an uncertain business and make provisions for all

Even here there is danger. The talented
amateur, for example, will stride merrily out to the shops on the eve of an
assignation and buy everything his forthright imagination can conceive of -
muesli, muffins, marmalade, a range of mushrooms, perhaps even some maple syrup.
Thus laden, he will return to stuff his shelves, fill his fridge and generally
clutter his kitchen with produce. But this will not do. Not only will his
unwieldy efforts be noticed by even the most blase of guests - as he offers her
first one menu, then another - but, worse, the elegance and effect of seeming
only to have exactly what she wants is utterly lost, drowned in a deluge of
petits dejeuners.

No - the professional must take a
very different approach. He will, of course, have all the same victuals as the
amateur, but - and here's the rub - he will have hidden them. All eventualities
will have been provided for, and yet it will appear as though he has made
provision for none. Except - magically - the right one.

Anyway, thank fuck I got the strawberries.

So now I find myself going over those dates where things went so smoothly and wondering how much planning went into them. Just fascinating.

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