Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Last night and this morning I laid in bed cramped and feral, embedded in what deB calls the "semi-alienation of a woman," and reread Colette's The Vagabond, her magnificent first-person novel based on her experiences as a music-hall performer post-divorce to the Svengali Willy (and the first novel where she was allowed to use her own name, unlike the bestseller Claudine novels published under her rat-husband's moniker.) This is Colette-as-performer above, dressed in some sort of costume, a harem dancer, looks like. Such a glorious book, about the desire for freedom and travel and independence and how for Colette this interferes also with a woman's desire to be the beloved, to be passive and dependent on such overwhelm of love. She writes, "The only moment when freedom is truly dazzling is at the dawn of love, of first love, when you can say, as you offer it to the person you love: 'Take! I wish I could give you more.'" Throughout the novel her heroine Renee (a play in French on reborn) tries to elude a romance with a bourgeois gentleman of leisure named Max, who wants her to marry him and give up the life of the vagabond, she does eventually after much resistance fall madly in love with him, submitting to it, but upon going on the road with her act away from him for 40 days she manages to detach herself from that state of submission. This is often read as Colette's feminist novel of liberation. However, in the sequel, the out-of-print The Shackled, Renee does fall madly in love becomes someone's full-time mistress and at the end is defeated and destroyed when he leaves her. Like Story of O but much more cheerful. Oh, I love Colette. The Vagabond felt too timely as well because in it Renee is 33, in six months she will be 34, we are told, which is the age that I have just turned, except in Colette's world of being a gorgeous commodity - the actress, the woman - 33 is the age of an old woman, of the hag, she is caught between wanting to be desired, to be seen as young and tender in someone else's eyes, to have a spectator upon her person, as she writes, and wanting to be alone and free.
This morning after finishing the Colette I dug into the new translation of Simone de B's The Second Sex, which deals so much with the novels of Colette, especially around the idea of the subjugation of women in love (it is a much more fluid translation than the one used for decades which was translated by a sexual hygienist, I believe, although my favorite line is taken out, how women sometimes "forgo liberty to become a thing," now it is something else.) I am reading it all for the book, I hope to really engage with how deB defines and takes on the girl, filtered through literary modernism. A book lwhich I've retitled in my mind Heroines, kind of a play on Claude Cahun's book of the same name. Better? I have to say I'm going more than a bit mad with the book - I am reading three books a day and taking copious notes I won't probably ever reread, and having maybe three panic attacks a day as well (it feels Faustian, to take on a book dealing with women and madness as I find myself completely relocated somewhere new, and by that I mean dislocated.) I just keep on reading and reading and I feel like I'm in graduate school, albeit one in which I might never graduate from. And I can't actually bring myself to write anything - just read, more reading, reading. Critical studies + biographies + novels of course. Yesterday before the Colette I reread Tender is the Night, the book I always want to throw across the room. I have to say something better about it than that.
I am typing away on a new computer today and now I feel strange and worried that I cannot write on this new computer. It makes a strange clicking sound, an unfamiliar sound, and the physicality of it is different, it doesn't feel organic. I had to get a new computer because my other one was dying, and getting feverish constantly, poor baby. I hate how often one has to buy a new computer, if you have a laptop. Wish there was a way to simply fix the old laptop. I think this was in an episode of Sex and the City. Colette to Sex in the City. About right. I went to the Apple Store with John, which they were closing early because there was a little bit of ice in the parking lot - that seems to be what they do here in the South - and the guy who wanted to help us ask what was the name of my new computer. I kind of blinked at him. And then he asked what was the name of my old computer (because the files etc. on the old was being transferred to the new). I said to him: I used to have the white one. And now I have the light one. And he kind of blinked and then I gave me my name and he scurried away. And John is laughing at me, incredulous. Way to look suspicious he says. But why do I have to parrot back the names of these computers? It's a fucking computer. I got the light one so I can carry it easier on my back, my monkey, all my nervous monkeys.