In the book of my memory, after the first pages, which are almost blank, there is a section headed
Incipit vita nova.
Beneath this heading I find the words which it is my intention to copy into this smaller book, or if not all, at least their meaning.

Dante,La Vita Nuova

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Too Muchee!

There is so much I want to say. I just passed page 300 and I don't know where to begin.

First, Ellison's character development is astounding. We have met about twenty characters or something and each person is as developed as he or she should be, according to how much time, speech and description they are given. Many aren't given more than a few pages, and they are quite vivid, deep. Take for instance, Trueblood, the farmer who impregnated both his wife and his daughter. His story, which was heard in its entirety by one of the rich, white trustees for a black university, gave us a glimpse and all there is to know about this one man and his situation. He was living in wretched poverty, a truly desolate situation. He dreams one night that he is sleeping with a white woman and with it comes all the conflicting emotions and fear--only to wake up atop of his daughter. Now, the more wonderful (and I mean "wonder"ful in its truer sense) thing he does is allow people who are supposedly uneducated and inarticulate, to speak in the most articulate, lyrical, metaphorical manner using southern black vernacular, while inserting double entendres to delineate truths that are not acknowledged by any of the characters because they were meant for me, the reader. EX: Trueblood (even his name for Pete's sake!) is explaining the dream in which he came to have sex with a white woman: Everything in the room was white and I'm standin' there knowin' I got no business in there, but there anyhow... I tries to git out, but I don't find the door; and all around me I can smell woman...Then I looks over in a corner and sees one of them tall grandfather clocks and I hears it strinkin' and the glass door is openin' and a white lady is steppin' out of it....she looks straight at me. I don't know what to do. I wants to run, but the only door I see is the one in the clock she's standin' in... [and the clock is] gittin faster and faster all the time. I tries to say somethin', but I can't. It leaves tons of room for interpretation, doesn't it? He's trapped in a white world. He doesn't know how to get out. The only exit is "time," but "time" is moving faster and faster, out of his control, not allowing him to leave. The woman stares right at him. She's alluring him to do what white society has labeled to be abominable. It's fucking brilliant.

Ellison juxtaposes Trueblood with another character, a black physician who served in WWII and learned his trade in France. He comes home only to realize that the color of his skin will not allow him to be a learned man who contributes to society and he speaks with standard grammar and high vocabulary, as the narrator points out, like a white man. In fact, he speaks directly to the white trustee without apology and in fact is the one with the knowledge to help when the white dude passes out. I leave out the setting for the sake of time and space, which is a shame because the Golden Day scene was unreal. But with this man, the concept of invisibility is slowly starting to settle in for the reader, although not as clearly for the narrator: But for God's sake, learn to look beneath the surface... And remember you don't have to be a complete fool in order to succeed. Play the game, but don't believe in it...You're hidden right out in the open--that is, you would be if you only realized it. They wouldn't see you because they don't expect you to know anything, since they believe they've taken care of that... Everyone is telling him who he is, how to be, what he can accomplish, in this case as an invisible man. 

What I find to be most awe-some is Ellison's ability to write in such a way to provoke a kind of tension between the reader and the narrator. The narrator is innocent and naive but becoming disillusioned. Trying to figure out what to do with his life AND WHO HE IS when there aren't many options (very similar to the Bigger Thomas conflict). The reader, on the other hand, feels frustrated with how slow to learn the character is because Ellison writes in a way that makes us think we know more than the protagonist (there is a term for that), but truthfully, we don't know what is happening to him, or us. We DON'T understand how much we are swept along with our own circumstances and how people tend to define us. (I just watched Fahrenheit 9/11. Damn the last administration to pieces!!) 

It's amazing so far. Much has happened, mostly concerning disillusionment. Being naive and thinking being black doesn't matter if he tries hard enough (the American dream), he moves to New York and goes through a hurricane of awakenings. I'm at the part now where he's meeting all the white folks who are fighting for "all people" strategically. And he has no power except for what they allow him to have- which is none at all. The illusion of power when really you're just a cog.


I took a break from this post and now I'm at page 400 and I'm amazed STILL. He brings back powerful images from past pages to create parallels-- like the religious hypocrisy he experiences while in the South. The reverend from Chicago who gives a sermon at the university and yanks, rips out everyone's heartstrings with the ups and downs of his thunderous voice--convincing everyone that they are part of a great African American- no, people's movement-- turns out to be blind. He has no idea what black or white looks like. The reverend moves people with his voice and his rhetoric, but really says nothing much at all, and literally cannot see anything at all... 

AND LOOK! That's what invisible man is doing now for the Brotherhood! He even uses the same preaching style that he learned from the South to make big speeches, trying to define identity and passion for other people so they might join the movement or feel inspired, while still having no idea who he is and allowing others (or are they forcing it on him) to define who he is! He keeps referring to "putting on new clothes" and becoming someone new- even if he didn't feel it, that he would become "it"... If you act the part, you genuinely start to believe it at some point, not knowing it is hypocrisy.  He is metaphorically blind. 

It's so sad because right before he met the Brotherhood, he was just saying "What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?" (266) At this point, he thinks he is doing what he wants to do, but Ellison is dropping mad hints that this is not the case at all. Another point for "them," still zero for invisible man. 


In response to Gary, who wrote so poignantly about his struggle with whiteness, I am astounded to find a white guy who feels this way. Most "majority" people feel bad for past/present injustice, but they don't take it personally. Maybe he's on to something when he says that the struggle found him and not the other way around. 

His post also made me think of all the many which ways I could relate to this book. First as a minority who has the rest of society telling you who they think you are. I was talking about this with Mary and Mish last night- like, if you are AfAm who can't dance, people think there is something wrong with you. I remember in college, my friend Deshonda said, "I am NEVER late for class. If I'm late, I don't go. Or else I'm that black girl who walked in late. Colored People Time. Everyone notices me. If a white girl walked in late, no one would remember which one." You are defined by what "they" say you are and whether you fit that standard or you buck against it. Which reminds me of a great line in the book: "What a group of people we were, I thought. Why you could cause us great humiliation simply by confronting us with something we liked. Not all of us, but so many." I like fried rice. I bow. I like conserving my money and being cheap sometimes. Suddenly those things become stereotypical and now I have to decide. Will I be loud and proud? Or will I try to break stereotypes? But I like fried rice. 

As an Asian American, your identity to the majority is defined by the media- because American history doesn't ever recount Asian immigrant experiences except for a few things: The Chinese built the railroads, the Japanese were placed in internment camps, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Most people today wouldn't look at me and assume that I have much to do with those things, except white-American folks over the age of sixty who never fail to tell me about the Korean War. Also, we live in a black v. white, now black v. white v. latino culture, and the Asian minority (which has so many unique ethnic groups within it) become the minority of the minorities (although the Native Americans top us in diminutiveness for sure) and that means there are not even enough stereotypes to buck against. I have been called Margaret Cho AND Lucy Liu AND the girl from Gilmore Girls. How can I look like all three? White frat boys from U of Illinois never gave me the time of day in college (oh, if I had the time to share my and my friends' stories), but after we graduated and moved back to Chicago, I got hit on by them at bars: Oh, you went to U of I the same time I did! How come I never saw you? What are you? Oh, Korean. What would your parents say if you brought home a white boy? My sister married a black guy and my parents are not about it. You know, the older generation is so ignorant sometimes. How big of him! What does he want me to say to that--oh my, you're quite open-minded. What, now that you're in the real world, you walk up to a table of Asian girls, buy all of them a round of drinks and think you can get some exotic ass?  

There's not much I can be to the general public. Plus, Betty Brown wants us to change our names. Talk about identity theft.

May I say, on top of this, I'm a professing, Bible-reading Christian. As an Asian American Christian, I have no clue what the white evangelical folks are up to- I mean, I do to some degree of course. But it seems like a different world, a world where white folks live and do crazy shit like curse homosexuals and then molest little boys or ask for money on PTL and then go to jail and write a book about how Jesus didn't really like money at all. Korean churches had other shit. The adults were super-conservative and the kids were super-heretical. In Chicago, there is a joke that goes "Let's make like a Korean church and split" because so many churches were dividing because of politics. It made me hate anything that was conservative and anything that was political. FUCK THAT SHIT! 

So add that. Now I carry all the stigma of being a Christian in a white, right wing Conservative Evangelical movement with George W. and all his Bible study friends ALONG with being a geisha-seductress, math whiz who plays the violin and eats fried rice. If you can imagine that there could be still another very large dimension to my identity crisis, there is the Korean immigrant culture that is instilled in me by my parents and family friends and how I grew up.  I can't even go into what Korean culture tries to dictate when talking about identity. It would make my little brain blow up trying to communicate that in English to mostly non-Korean readers. 

I'm not trying to say, oh boo hoo poor me who grew up in such an oppressive culture. But reading this book, it makes me realize just how powerfully a majority culture can create and manipulate the norm, and how many, including members of the majority, do not fit into it. Invisible Man does a good job of showing us that we all grow up a certain way and are told to have certain beliefs and are told to be certain people. 

But like Gary, something should not sit right in all of us. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Always keep them running

Invisible Man has always been a great read for two reasons.  It reminds me of 1995 and in 1995 I made the decision to change my life (that's another story) and attempt to become a teacher and writer; in addition, I came to realize I am a race traitor.  I'm likely to explain more of this in detail while writing about Ellison's novel.  Maybe not.  It's hard to write about.

It's safe to say that I see myself in this novel and what I see I don't like.  Not that I don't like myself.  I don't like what I am encouraged to inherit on behalf of all the other folks who look like me.  Moreover, I don't like feeling guilty of being white.  For some white men, this means bitching everyday about everyone who is not white always bitching about white folks.  I am not one to whine about being called white, though.  And really that is not getting at the heart of the matter at all.  It just scractches the surface.  Yet this introduction to my complex relationship with my own whiteness begins a story I have been attempting to tell since '95 about seeing myself as helplessly tied to something I have been vehemently rejecting since I was a child.

It wasn't that I thought it was wrong to call black kids in my East Tulsa neighborhood niggers, or brown people spics, or the Vietnamese refugee families, gooks.  I  did think it was wrong; I was taught it was wrong.  This is the simple way to tell the story of race:  talking about name-calling and finger-pointing.  More significantly, what I suffered was a pain in my gut and head, a real pain that often left me lying in bed writhing in real physical pain.  What pleasure is there in treating others in such a way?  Maybe I was naive and sensitive.  But I was affected when I was a kid.  Too smart for my own community, too creative and free-thinking for school, and too emotional for my own good.  In short, while genius, a total nutcase.  (It helps to have a good sense of humor.  You're supposed to smiling.)

I'm sure to write about this a little more.  But the difference I felt was always knowably not the difference the black kids endured.  For many folks in power, knowing about injustice absolves a person from guilt.  And that absolution then serves as a pass to participate in the unjust intstitutions anyway.  What I was upset about was that I was always encouraged to say yes to something others were never going to be allowed to access.  And that bargain has always made me sick to my stomach.

I never picked the fight against white.  It chose me.  Maybe it's genetic:  or maybe to support the white power structure is unnatural--a perspective I choose to support on my more optimistic days--and unnatural because it is at the core of some of the more grotesque social and cultural realities we confront everyday without thinking about them:  realities like "Capital is self-valorizing" and "Might makes Right."

I am not perfect.  It's hard to reject the allure of self-righteousness and Right.  I find no comfort in our Original Sin.  I do find that its mark--Whiteness--and its practice--Masculinity--and its economy--Capitalism--are quite easy targets actually.  But though the facility with which we can point to the visible errors in these institutions may suit a comedian's need for a quick, efficient and intelligent or timely joke, I think we need a dedicated fight to destroy each of these institutions and revise our work and common goals.

I am not patting myself on the back or trying to be eloquent.  And I am not saying anything new.  It's hardly shocking.  You may have every right to say, "Hey, here's another white guy who has discovered injustice!  Go figure."  I understand.  But I do believe that I have been tasked with overcoming the intellectual cynicism and smirk of educational professionalism and I ought to do something about it.  It's a vow.  I suppose this is why I am an Americanist.  This drive is written over and over again throughout our short history.  Yet, we go nowhere with the knowledge that we have sinned against humanity in a most severe way.  We are racists, sexist pigs; we hate the poor, the working class; we heap unearned ambition and morality on the wealthy.  It's almost as if because we know these things we feel we have done enough.  By the way, this is a problem I feel we have inherited from Europe and what we call Continental Philosophy is rife with smart bigots who we insist we cannot overcome because their innovative thoughts are so rich and complex:  for an example read Kant.

And this is what Ellison's Invisible Man is about.  And this is why I love it.  It reminds me that I should do something.  It's only that, at times, I wonder if a guy who looks like me can do anything other than betray his race?  (And you do realize that race is an illusion.  What we are talkign about is a social construction.  The biology is different thing altogether.  But the biology is about our similar mothers.  The sociology is about the sexist pig fathers and their attempt to find, by any means necessary, hoard all the material exploits our planet has to offer.)

But this should serve as a quick introduction to my reason for picking the novel to read.  I do have a simple reason, too:  Praise has not read it.  I loved the idea of reading it with her for her first time.

Ellison has two kinds of reader:  people who love his novel and cherish it, and folks who will admit the book is great but are upset at the subject matter.  It isn't that people don't know the truth (about white power in America,) it's just that some people don't want to do anything about.  It's hard work betraying the power structure:  it has benefits for everyone.

I had fits about one thing that nearly drove me crazy--and it did leave me in a deep depression from which I emerged 6 months after undergrad graduation, in 1997, with a bottle of pills in stomach, from which all the rest of my life has sprung.  The One Thing:  I am white and though I want to transform the power structure, I have had to learn to let go.  To betray my racist, unearned inheritance...well, it's not easy.  Ellison's novel is refreshing.  It is comic.  It is shocking.  It is revelatory.

The unnamed narrator of Invisible Man is the greatest Modern male protagonist in American literature.  There are a handful of these great, male protagonists:  Isaac McCaslin, Quentin Compson, Bigger Thomas.  Look I love Melville.  A lot.  Moby Dick is a great novel.  But some things happened to the American novel in the early twentieth century:  color, expressionism, surrealism, war, genocide, and psychoanalysis.  Maybe I should use the troubled term High Modern.  I really am superfocused on 1910-1960 when it comes to film, literature, theory, and art overall.

More to come.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Invisible Man

Our next read is Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Gary has read this already, but I haven't. It's always been on my list. I read Native Son last year and it rocked my world. I remember planning one Friday of silent reading with the juniors (I never do silent reading) because I couldn't stop thinking about Bigger Thomas and I wanted to silently read. I'm super-excited about Invisible Man.

Well, I read the author's note, the prologue, which felt sort of like Breakfast of Champions--can I trust the narrator?-- and chapter one. It seems like I've already met three main characters, and in a strange way, aren't they images of each other?

*The author, burdened by the task of creation, of deliberate manipulation of a character to reflect something bigger (the "something" that gets bigger almost in concentric circles, ripples of humanity, even as he ponders it)
*The "invisible" character of old age from the prologue, the product of what the author was able to find: the freedom to laugh the laugh of the blues- then write it down
*The "visible" character of youth from chapter one, the story begins...

All parts of the much larger, scarier, more lamentable picture. OH THE VULNERABILITY OF MAN!! OH THE DEPRAVITY!

Uh, who's being dramatic?

It's just that I am blown away so far. The scene with the whiskey&cigar higher-ups (which I can still picture in NYC--the old white boys club) becoming bellicose with drink; the blonde who sold her soul--naked body but wearing a mask of makeup--and the black boy-boxers trying to hide their erections and their guilt for looking at a white woman; the panicked and savage battle royal--blindfolded--who's fighting who, physically and metaphysically?; the inner-struggle/inner-monologue of our dear protagonist who only wants to prove that he is not savage by delivering a speech about humility--

That's all I've read so far. It's too much to bear for a morning commute to the office!

More to come.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Surface Noise: Or, How He Learned to Love the Structure More than the Tale Itself

I dunno what it is about books like Essays in Love and Me.  We don't get along too well.  The writing is smart, the prose is snappy, the composition is sound, the representations ring true.  It's even genuinely witty at times.  Yet, I hate it.  And I tried hard to like this book because of a growing optimism I have experienced since meeting my fellow reader who so recently and successfully pushed me not only to finish the book but to write about it here on DagSign (result of her wonderful post.)

Remember, later on, I have said here, early on:  Alain de Botton is a talented writer.  I just happen to think this novel is a poor exercise in Form and Content.  I admit that I disagree with how he uses Plato and Nietzsche, too, among others.  But that is beside the point.  I should be able disagree with an author's ideas and still appreciate his or her work.  Well...not when there is no other content to speak of.  Maybe not then.

Those of you who know me know my hate-on is turned-on regularly by certain kinds of authors, some of whom (but not many) write wonderful verse and prose.  I experienced a seemingly never-ending series of gag-inducing readings over my years in Denver cafes and graduate school.  But that's OK: I want everybody to write and to read and to share.  I'll give anyone a chance.  I'll always find a line, a phrase, even a word to like.  It's writing afterall.  I love it.  And I love language's democratic impulse to be freely shared.  However, the cynical intellectual elitist attitude, or pose, shared by many writers has always bummed me out.  What is it they have that they don't think I have?  What do they think they know that they believe needs so badly to be shared?  I ask this, of course, recognizing that I am often confused as one of these snobs because I freely consort with them.  I even have the nerve to call myself a writer.  Can you believe it?  (Notice how I continue to believe I am not one of them.  That's proof of my optimism, he's says as he leaves the room.) 

I have chosen to live the lifestyle.  But I have reaped my share of alienation(s) by vocally distancing myself from my colleagues with snorts of disbeliefs and even very direct "I cannot believe you think what you have to offer is any better than what anybody else has to offer" statements of disbelief.  I was not nice to many of my fellow grad students who I felt acted like children and behaved as if they deserved their leisurely lives.  They often admitted that they couldn't be bothered with things like teaching, research, and study.  (Well, not Duncan; but I have a perpetual boy-crush on him.)

I can paint you a pretty good portrait of what many 26 year-old women believe a poet should dress like--ugly scarves and turtlenecks--and speak like--husky voiced renderings of each line with an ear for her startlingly cool and quirky metaphors.  (Even she can't believe how good she is.) Or, a portrait of a young man writing what he thinks is genius prose.  This is the guy who chooses to be alone, who is smarter than you and me, and who laughs at the notion that he should represent IT in any other way.  Usually, this cynical prick and that poetess find each other after her reading, drink a bottle of wine over department gossip and sleep together sometime around three in the morning when she is drunk enough to lose prudish inhibitions about being naked around anybody other than her muse and he has shut-up long enough to appear attractive.  (OK it's bile this, but it's good to get these excesses out.)

I am a perpetual critic.  I am my own worst critic:  terrified to let go of everything I write.  I work sentences for years.  I think more out of fear of letting them go--does that even make sense--than for fear of being rejected.  I will find something to hate on.  That's my point.  That's me.  But I am tender, too.  I love to pet and be pet.  I am a closet Romantic.  I actually am a big softy.  And so to get back on track with this post.  To leave hyperbole alone:  Prelude to the post about why I almost finished Alain de Botton's Essays in Love but stopped short and finally gave up this morning is over.

All I ask of an author is to leave the gimmick alone.  In this case, I mean:  we should write responsibly or with Care about the process of writing itself.  Alain de Botton's book is a novel about being in love with the idea of love and all that is generative, regenerative, and degenerative in it.  And he chooses a discourse about social and political philosophy as well as Love to set his story.  He should have something to show me he knows how his narrative and characters work within the work he quotes.  But he doesn't do the work required.  

He says what he thinks.  Let me be clear:  the gimmick is that the narrator is the man in love.  So, shit.  He's lost in love.  He wraps up everything in clever remarks that satisfy his own POV and, in the end, his own ability to make fun of himself.  (See the novel's last two paragraphs.)  I believe that The Gimmick in fiction is a device that aids in the genre's continued path to permanent anti-intellectualism.  It also aids in displaying a quirk common in many contemporary novels: authorial laziness dressed up as innovation in form.  (Man I sound like a conservative.  But I am not.  Just a let-down lover of innovation.  After all, Novels should be novel.)

Much of mainstream Western Fiction is anti-intellectual.  I have my ideas about this, and most of my ideas focus on the market and our education industry.  But the authors don't help.  I think it's unfair to blame the readers.  Authors are to blame, for example, when they boil down complex philosophical forms and content into trite dialogues that merely summarize prior significant work.  De Botton's book, for me, is fiction's equivalent of Robert Fulghum's All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  Take an idea that uniquely dwells in its topic's complexity, then flatten it into something that can be stated as if it were common sense all along, then sell it as problem solved.  Apparently solved, as in the narrator's case in this book because, don't you know, he will simply fall in love all over again.  Or, don't even bother to tell the story, to illustrate the details, rather opting for hastily sketched caricatures in order to fit the structure of the artist's vision: package the caricature as the History of the Form Itself, content included.

I suppose I can be blamed for what my fellow Koreans call Eye-Shopping.  I mean the book looked good with all it promised.  What did I expect?  My standards were low:  a story, some inside theory jokes, literary references galore, and some sex.  Isn't that what a book called Essays in Love should offer?  What I got was a book that outlined an argument about Love by referring to a lot of things the author has read in lieu of actual scenes that illustrated his argument.  In other words, the book IN Love is a book without it and sold as told by a guy who may have been in love or may not have but so it goes.  

If I could eat a pint of ice cream and not feel full of ice cream, that is how I feel after reading de Botton's novel.

I feel empty of ice cream.

[By the way, this is a problem:  confusing Philosophy with Common Sense.  Common Sense is the explicit rejection of paradox.  Paradox is what Philosophy dwells in.  Common Sense is explicitly anti-Philosophical.  And Common Sense is killing much more than philosophy these days.  It's killing intellectualism in literature.  Hey Poets!  It's just not prose, you know.  You guys have Billy Collins to cope with.  Have you been reading what he's saying about Poetry!  That guy will haunt poetry for decades after he is gone because there are hundreds if not thousands of high school teachers who will use him as a weapon against all that is intellectual in verse.  Sorry Smart High School Teachers like the one I love.  But you know it's true.]

I guess it comes down to two things for me:  1) Alain de Botton's first novel is a practice in fidelity to structure (not form) over content and 2) I just don't care about the characters.  Let's ignore 2.  I mean, maybe I just don't like folks like the narrator and Chloe.  I'll focus on 1.

I will be quick.

First, the good:  I like the structure of the novel.  Funny, huh, after I trash the book itself and question de Botton's fidelity to Social and Political Philosophy as well as to The Novel, I have the nerve to say I like the way he structured the book.  Well, I do.  Each Chapter examines love in what appears to be an ever-evolving and increasingly mature vantage point on Love vis-a-vis a walk/talk through an ever-increasingly complex vantage point on human relationships, or How We See Ourselves In-the-World.  I thought to myself looking at it:  WOW, this is the shit.

He begins with Romantic Fatalism and moves out from there to trip through: Idealization, Seduction, Authenticity, Mind & Body, Marxism, False Consciousness, Liberalism, Beauty, Everyday Language, Something Called "What do you see in her?", Skepticism and Faith, et al.  It looks fun.  Looks.

In Authenticity, de Botton writes 
6. I had to find out more about Chloe, for how could I abandon my true self unless I knew what false self to adopt.  But the patience and intelligence required to fathom someone else went far beyond the capacities of my anxious, infatuated mind.  I behaved like a reductive social psychologist, eager to press my companion into simple categories, unwilling to apply the care of a novelist to capturing the subtleties of human nature.
I marked this early paragraph with a question mark.  It's clear to me now that it holds the key to my distaste for the novel.  As I continued to read, I continued to ask myself what I was supposed to think about the narrator and his relationship to "the author."  I firmly believe that Alain de Botton is not the narrator nor do I appreciate readers who knee-jerk respond to first-person narratives by associating the narrator's beliefs and personalities and actions to the author's beliefs and so on.

But this paragraph confuses me.  Here lies an authorial excuse for not describing Chloe, a woman as a reader I wished I knew more about.  The narrator-in-love is telling me why he fails at getting to know her better:  he is infatuated with her.  Ok.  I waited, though.  And de Botton never got around to telling me about Chloe.  And he couldn't.  The structure of the book proscribes Chloe's development as a character I can care about enough to understand why the narrator might move beyond infatuation to possess her to love to be with her. (It doesn't matter anyway because SPOILER, their relationship doesn't work out.)

If what de Botton calls "the care of a novelist" is, in fact, "capturing the subtleties of human nature," then de Botton fails.  His novel fails even to catch the subtleties of the philosophers he quotes.  Even if this can be seen as a nod to the readers that "even I, the author, am failing too," then I am not satisfied because the line then becomes an excuse (a plea for an excuse) not to do the work it takes to present content that attempts to cope with human nature. 

David Foster Wallace complained about the abundance of irony in contemporary fiction.  Well, I have whined about Wallace, but maybe this novel is an example of what he was railing against.  I think de Botton is terrribly ironic.  And I mean terribly as in poorly or as in sinfully.  Is it too much to say that I find his book too cheeky even?

In Skepticism and Faith, de Botton cites Friedrich Nietzsche from Beyond Good and Evil.  Nietzsche was looking for grand attempters.  Whether or not a judgement or an attempt in life was false or true, who is willing to make the judgment regardless?  Nietzsche writes "the falseness of a judgement is not necessarily an objection to it."  The value of an undertaking is examined then.  What does it mean to attempt to love somebody if we cannot know whether or not our assessment of our lover or the circumstances in which we fell in love are/were true or not?  I think this is what de Botton is getting at with his novel.  Well, this is all fine and good to me and, quite frankly, it intellectually pleases me.  BUT where is my friggin story author man?

Anyway, on to the next novel.  I could go on but I am teaching 800 high school kids and 40 of them are waiting for me.  I want to write about a novel that will permit me to talk about the mechanics of fiction in a way that gets into the material not simply the structure.  I really am annoyed by Essays in Love.  Annoyed because I like the author and feel let down.  sniff sniff.

(i'll proofread this later.  pardon any errors.)