what I read on my summer vacation
Ahoy. Just back from the south of France, where I spent some quality time with my parents lounging by the pool with my nose in a book.
Just like old times!
Here's the round-up. What has everyone else been reading? Consider yourselves memed.
1. Hors-série edition of Le Point on Erotisme and Le Magazine Littéraire's issue on Désir. Great summary of both (in French) here. While trying to hide the bare-breasted cover from my parents so they didn't think I was reading French porn, I was particularly struck by LML's interview with Slavoj Zizek and his distinction between the desire to consume and the desire to desire. According to Zizek, children don't bother to eat the chocolate part of the Kinder egg; they just want the prize inside. True, semi-True, False, semi-False? Discuss.
2. Selections from The Stones of Venice in The Genius of John Ruskin.
This was more difficult to concentrate on due to the presence of two squealing British children and their mother's incessant mothering: "Allie, come 'ere, you've got your knickers on the wrong way 'round!" Ruskin, an extreme purist, believes the city began its decline in 1418 when its artists stopped making spiritually religious art and started concentrating on form and color, albeit continuing to use religious icons as an artistic vernacular. So Venice, then, has been in decline for nigh on 600 years. She looks pretty good, for all that.
3. Casanova était une femme: the letters of Sonia Rykiel and Régine Deforges. The back cover copy was intriguing: "Pourquoi, à l'heure des contacts rapides, ont-elles choisi de s'écrire plus de cent lettres? La réponse est dans leurs échanges [Why, in this age of instantaneous communication, did they decide to write each other over a hundred letters? The answer is in their exchanges]," but after reading their over a hundred letters I'm still not sure why they didn't just email. I think it has something to do with the fact that the letters were written by two women contemplating the ends of a lifetime of creativity, and encouraging each other not to worry as much about the end product as about the process, reminding each other of the fine moments in one's daily life and the importance of an all-orienting friendship, apart from one's husband and children. Really well-written: this was great for my French, and although there were a few moments this past week when I was really glum, missing my partner-person, it helped me refocus and recenter a little bit. When I finished reading I vowed to write more articulate letters to my friends.
4. The first 200 pages of Mémoires d'une jeune fille rangée, the first volume in the autobiography of Simone de Beauvoir. Once you read this volume of her formative years, you can better understand both where La Deuxième Sexe came from and how the founder of French feminism could have lived such a self-denigrating relationship with Sartre.
the view from the terrace of the hotel, Le Manoir de l'Etang in Mougins.