My favourite neighbour called me last Saturday after reading the luxury issue to point out that books are not a luxury. He said I shouldn’t encourage people to buy leather-bound versions of rare books just to line their libraries. I hope you don’t do that?
Philip Roth: Inspiration Newark.
As far as the husband and I are concerned, books are our only luxury, and a key necessity. There are teetering piles all over the house. Recently, we bought another book cupboard to store some of our beauties but now drunken stacks tower over it too. You’ll soon be swallowed by your books, my mother-in-law once predicted.
Of course, there’s no time to read. Many of our books wait patiently until it’s their turn to be held, page after page. Plus I’m biased towards older white male authors who were born in places such as Newark and New York, so it took me a while to pick up my copy of Anita Shreve’s The Weight of Water, purchased a few years ago.
Reading it reminded me that, sometimes, the pleasure of a great new film is no match even for a book that’s been around for more than a decade. A good book always reveals a few secrets of life. Shreve’s book is about adultery, a subject that’s been in the news courtesy Eliot Spitzer (don’t miss Shoba Narayan’s take on it next week).
In a few pages, Shreve sets up an intimate portrait of two couples (one married, one near the end of a short affair) on a boat trip. The men are brothers and, as is wont to happen in small spaces that involve prolonged periods of physical proximity to an attractive other, the wires get crossed. One of the women is researching a crime of passion that took place on a remote island more than 100 years ago. Shreve goes back and forth between the women in these two dramatically different times to show us how some things never change.
Only a woman could have come up with this tale.
“I swear I think marriage is the most mysterious covenant in the universe. I’m convinced that no two are alike. More than that, I’m convinced that no marriage is like it was just the day before. Time is the significant dimension — even more significant than love,” one female character says.
For most men, infidelity is about variety in that time dimension. Different body parts. A quick, fuss-free transaction. An adventurous partner. Visual stimulation. And women?
Women are dangerous. They have mastered the art of hiding their thoughts.
Women can create sexual sonatas in their heads while they are chopping vegetables. I’m not saying that women don’t have lovers. But women don’t always need lovers. They are happiest with their imaginary lovers.
PS: Enjoy this issue while I try to convince the husband that I don’t have an imaginary lover.
Write to email@example.com