Monday, December 1, 2014


(THIS IS ANOTHER IN THE "CHRONOLOGY IS OVER-RATED SERIES." IN FACT, THAT RUBRIC COULD APPLY TO NEARLY EVERYTHING THAT GETS POSTED HERE. But I've decided not to worry about it. Ditto for all the strange things that keep happening to my fonts and their sizing, and to the fuzzy photos I post (honestly, they looked just fine before they went up!), which are even keeping my techno-savvy husband perplexed. Please know that although I would love to have everything look as elegant and be as timely as the blogs I admire (Susan Morgan's HALF-YEAR ITALIAN  and Australian Celia's ever-gorgeous FIG JAM AND LIME CORDIAL), I am a certifiable Technodunce, and this is the best I can do. Among the many things Italy is teaching me is to try to leave perfectionism to those who are perfect. As long as what I post is legible, I'm going to stop fiddling and beating myself over the head about it. Roger Rosenblatt, whose writing I adore (See his "Rules For Aging," but if you have a weak bladder, be sure to hit the bathroom first because of how hard you will be laughing), has an important rule: LEAVE BAD ENOUGH ALONE. This is my new philosophy for when things go amiss.)

Having just finished the "Man in the Wooden Hat"--second in the Jane Gardam Old Filth trilogy ("Old Filth" being the nickname of the amiable protagonist:Failed In London;Try Hong Kong)--I am struck by the sadness of these three depicted lives that were intertwined in so many unacknowledged ways. 

Gardam's idea of portraying in three separate novels the same people from the perspective of each of member of the ménage à trois is mysteriously revealing. It shows how much can be going on inside the head of a couple who spend their life together without really knowing how much the other actually knew about their interior life, and presuming that they knew nothing. Yet each partner presumes to have understood the other completely.

The three books depict a different image of love--one based on loyalty and the dignity of keeping up appearances. There is also a character who is a troll-like incarnation of a Superego. We witness in Old Filth himself the permanent marks of a neglected childhood and of the right mentor.

This Jane Gardam trilogy shows the arc of a life--how even important memories can become lost or distorted by old age;how, once a life is over, how little actually endures:the reputation, the magic hat, the watch, the stammer, the venereal disease, the pearls, the guilt.

I think it would be especially easy for a Baby Boomer to link the situations in these Gardam books to her own feelings of estrangement, of life winding down and how and where to spend it with the fewest regrets: retire? What will be the disposition of so much of the stuff we have acquired and treasured? Which connections to keep?

New Year 2015 is not far away. As I think of so many losses actual and imminent, it's hard to say what this year's version of "carrying on" will be. To be continued...

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