Friday, August 26, 2016

Diary

A languorous summer seems to be drawing to a close with the arrival of cooler temperatures and rain. Occasionally we retreated to the basement, where the temperature peaks at seventy degrees, to cool off. I have had a greater sense of lethargy this summer than most. All I did was grow tomatoes and go on a couple of trips. The most recent trip was a road trip to Valatie, New York to see the garden of the author of a blog that provides some of the recipes that we use. I especially liked the sprawling, dilapidated old mansion that survives from the early mill days of the region. I also liked having the opportunity to drive at one hundred miles per hour, which awakens me from my torpor. The third annual world meeting of Doubt the Experts took place on August 16, and it may be the last one, because John's parents are selling their summer house in Weybridge and he may not be back. Actually, the meeting consists of two guys sitting at a bar drinking beer and talking.

I continue to think about why I like the writing of Simone de Beauvoir. It is no coincidence that I also like the writing of George Eliot. The emerging idea is that I find slightly masculine women more aesthetically appealing than masculine men or feminine women. My theory is that motivations that are biological in origin infiltrate people's conscious or unconscious goals, and that much of what men do, regardless of their age or vocation, boils down to attracting women (or men, if they're gay). They are competing and making ostentatious displays in order to get attention and win devotees rather than seeking truth or beauty as ends in themselves. You can see this everywhere, from Joseph Smith to Hugh Hefner to Wilt Chamberlain to Charles Manson to Jimi Hendrix to Bill Clinton to Donald Trump. The concept of the "rock star" is quintessentially male, and it can also be found in a slightly more subdued form in academia and the arts. In practice, what this means is that, even among male intellectuals and scientists, attracting bimbos may sometimes take precedence over seeking truth. Clear examples are harder to find among the intelligentsia, but think of Saul Bellow or Richard Feynman.

This idea came to me not on a theoretical basis but directly from noticing that there is a qualitative difference in the writing of George Eliot and Simone de Beauvoir that other writers are unable to match. Specifically, I perceive that they are trying to express truths, and that for them this takes precedence over entertaining their readers, increasing their incomes or becoming famous, though they may retain a peripheral interest in those aspects. Notably to me, they lack what I think of as male competitiveness: they are not trying to win. I think that cooperation is more present in women than in men, and that, particularly in literary and artistic pursuits, the desire to win tends to compromise the quality of a work. The emphasis is different in most female writing; there is less competition and the emotional takes precedence over the rational. If you've read much of this blog, you will have noticed by now that I'm not a big fan of emotional outpourings.

It is possible that a feminized male writer would also appeal to me, but I haven't found one yet. At first I thought Proust had potential, but I have since decided that he is missing a crucial ingredient: intelligence. So, when I read literature that is supposed to be good, the men usually seem to be showing off and exaggerating their knowledge and insight, and the women usually seem unduly emotional and unrealistic. Unfortunately, George Eliot did not write a memoir, but there is no doubt in my mind that if she had it would have been just as engrossing as Simone de Beauvoir's. Both George Eliot and de Beauvoir were more masculine than most women writers, and, ironically, they even attracted female groupies.

I've started de Beauvoir's The Prime of Life and will be commenting on that. My readers may not share my enthusiasm for de Beauvoir, but if they continue to read this blog they will just have to put up with it, because she has become my imaginary friend.

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