Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Literary Studs II

Sir Kingsley Amis:

"There were parties at the Amises in which every woman present was invited by him to visit his greenhouse in the garden; they all knew what the invitation meant.

"The writer Al Alvarez, present at one such long, drunken evening, remembered that 'the rest of us sat around trying to make conversation and pretending not to be embarrassed.

"'Half an hour later our host and whichever lucky lady had gone with him sauntered back in, smoothing their clothes and hair but not quite able to conceal the wild furtive triumph in their eyes.'"

The story goes on to talk about how this triumph would shortly afterwards fade to misery for all involved, but I can hardly get interested in that. Almost everyone is miserable to some degree, and I don't buy that the misery that follows in the wake of triumph as a hard contrast to it is worse than the eternal low level kind of misery that knows no such release. The man who triumphs can sell his misery as more serious because he experiences the feeling as an affront, and because smaller people are trained, or have trained themselves, to think of any minor emotional affliction he may suffer as being a greater calamity in the real, social world, than the worst thing that could befall them; this does not make it so however.

All of the people involved in these stories are dead or extremely old now, and it is the people who never did anything illicit, or not more than once or twice in the whole of their faded lives, who appear ridiculous in such stories.

I gave a thought to running a parallel series about Literary Duds, featuring people like Ruskin and Lewis Carroll whose sex lives were a series of unending disasters, or who suffered any great social or intellectual humiliation, whether sexual or not, as if that perspective would make me feel less oppressed by the overwhelming feats of the studs. That would not be a very likely outcome, however.

There are a million of these anecdotes about the sexual triumphs of superior men buried in libraries (it is hard to find just the right episodes and descriptions online--these tend to be things you come across in passing that make an impression at the time but that you then cannot find again). You could easily have an entire site with this as a sole subject. To be honest I am not as stirred by these stories as I was even a few years ago. I used to take it as a grave insult, in my late 20s and early 30s especially, but even beyond that time, that I could find no woman anywhere who would flirt with or express--or even attractively feign--the least curiosity or interest in me at all. I am not claiming to be an exciting person or anything, but no one in his 20s and 30s who has any spirit wants to go through the world in that degree of total invisibility as far as these things go. In the last couple of years I have had to admit that I have gotten old, that my record in the game of life, while I still think it is around .500, if not slightly above, has not been good enough to put a claim on the attention and interest of other people, and that it would probably be embarrassing to me at this point if anybody were to behave in a flirtatious manner, since they would in all likelihood, given the nature of such things, be attributing qualities to me that I could no longer pretend to flatter myself as having any grounds; and while it is not impossible, it is doubtful that it is more likely than it was when I was more or less in my prime that people should develop a fondness for personal attributes that have been revealed to be mediocre at best...

For people who would protest that I have no business to be even speculating about these kinds of subjects, I am playing/pretending, admittedly feebly, at being a person of the type who at least moves in the kind of world that are celebrated in this and other literary-themed posts. Whatever may happen in my inner life in this way translates exactly zero percent to my actual, outer life, the only one anyone would insist counted if I tried to assert my fancies of what kind of person I was as what kind of person I really was. In the life of this blog, this general topic, translating as it so often does to high intelligence, liveliness, worldly success and achievement, is important and the consequences and causes of not being such a person are ones that I will feel compelled to think upon on a more or less continuous basis.

And believe me, these essays are not going to pique anybody's desire to get to know me better. It is at this point a dead phenomenon that I think is for my own sake worth dissecting and asking the question "why?"

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