Thursday, September 27

I don't know if my morals are screwy or what, but it really exasperated me when Eugene decided that he was going to do the right thing, as it were, on p. 232. I think I even said aloud, "Take it, you idiot!" I am continually surprised that Eugene seems to be able to keep more of his scruples than protagonists in some other stories--like, say, "Great Expectations." I like the fact that Eugene tends to be more gray than black-and-white. He was a complete bastard to woo Victorine when he knew how much she wanted him, but I think it was right that he broke it off as soon as she got her money, rather than keeping her on the back burner in case things didn't work out with Delphine, (which may change). He is definitely more interesting to me as a person who is still giving and kind to others (Old Goriot, his sisters) and who still has a conscience despite the fact that he's so focused on money and status, (again, this may change).
I think it would have been really easy, (and didactic—not to mention boring), to make Eugene become completely morally bankrupt as soon as he got some nice clothes or a little bit of notice by the crème de la crème of Parisian society. Some people would probably argue with me, but to me it doesn’t seem like he’s changed much from when he didn’t have any money. He was ambitious then, he’s ambitious now. Then, he studied incessantly and attended law school because his law degree was going to be the means for him to make his way in the world. Now, he studies the manners of the class he wants to emulate, and attends lessons in their drawing rooms and opera boxes.
But are Eugene and Delphine really in love? Their relationship just plagues me with questions. Is Eugene only interested in her because of obligation or pity that he feels towards Old Goriot? Is Old Goriot really just a spectacular puppet-master manipulating Eugene? There is definitely some of both going on. Does Eugene actually feel love for Delphine? I know there was some part earlier in the novel where it said, “He feel more deeply in love with her every day,” but this was shortly after he decided to take up with her because she was his best chance at advancing in society. I think his judgment is a little too clouded by money and status for him to truly love her, in the Renzo and Lucia sense. Although it could be that he only got into it for the social benefit at first, but he ended up falling in love with her for real. And the same with her; does she just want to be with him because he’s young, kind, malleable, moldable, the opposite of her husband? And who the hell am I to judge what “true” love is, anyway? It just seems to me to be very convenient that these two hooked up for convenience’s sake, and “poof!” now they are in love. It’s just so hard for me to believe people can really be in love under the circumstances, awash in the superficiality of Parisian society. The fact that the two haven’t consummated their relationship is something that I could use to argue either the idea of love-by-convenience for them, or that they are truly in love and are waiting for that special moment.
Also, there’s something to be said about the idea of wanting what you can’t have. At the beginning of the story, Eugene was mad for Madame de Restaud, whom he could not have, and that is what drove his ambition. Has he found some way to overcome that part of human nature that makes us prefer what we can’t have over that which we can have easily, (now I am like those authoritative 19th century narrators—but it is so true!), and if so, will he share that secret please? Are we to believe that he has overcome this and will happily settle with Delphine?
Will Eugene show up at de Restaud’s door years from now, making grandiose overtures to her, breaking Delphine’s heart and causing the elderly Goriot to kill him with his own last breath? Will Papa Taillefer call out Eugene in a duel for breaking his daughter’s heart and kill either Eugene or Old Goriot? Will Goriot be revealed as some sort of dastardly mastermind after ruining Eugene? Will Vautrin escape and seek revenge on Goriot for informing the police about him in the first place (which is where, we find out, Goriot got the money to purchase Eugene’s fancy new digs)? So many questions!

Wednesday, September 26

The Reporter from Hollywood

(This was an English assignment. We were required to make up our own character introduction in the manner of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales)

One Pilgrim was a man fresh out of his teens
who possessed extravagant taste in jeans.
No expense was spared acquiring that exquisite cut
which most expressively encased his exceptional butt—
for there wasn’t much that he loved more
than getting his cheeks squoze until they were sore.

To boast a fair derriere was his ace
considering that he had an unmemorable face!
The composition of his features made such an impression
that had Secret Agent been his chosen profession
it would have served him well,
because—hell!—(you’ll pardon my digression);
anybody who met him would be hard-pressed thereafter
to recall whether or not he looked quick to laughter,
or sharp of tooth, or square of jaw—
whether the skin ‘round his nose looked reddish or raw.
Had he eyes green and sly or soulful and black—
limpid pools like the sky or red-rimmed from smack?
Was he powerful or pallid, obese or just right?
Was he sexy and dashing—did he look like a knight?
Was his stride somewhat hinky?
Were his eyes too close-set? His nose a bit dinky?
Alack-a-day! Who are we to know
whether he looked as from Heaven or from down below!
(A rumor went ‘round, three years back—maybe four—
his own mom called him “Masher!” when he surprised her at a store).
I wonder: “Were his eyebrows joined as though musing a riddle,
bisecting his face where they met in the middle?”
One could ruin days ruminating on such stuff!

“But wait!” you ask, “What did this dandy do?”
Hush your mouth, little sawcebox, and I shall tell you!
From an esteemed journalism school he’d earned his degree
and now a reporter was he for the network of E!
The name he went by was Greg Orree.
The intricacies of Hollywood he studied carefully
because how can world events or D.C. dullness compare with showbiz—
would you rather have a man at a podium or an eyeful of Paris (Hilton, that is)?

Mr. Greg Orree owned book upon book
dissecting and labeling every possible look
or turn of phrase or nod of head
known to betray whom was sleeping in whom else’s bed.
Among his fellow correspondents he found nary a peer,
(actor wannabes who wouldn’t know a Hamlet from a King Lear),
not one of them could discern a slight from a spurn—
which in this business was a very necessary difference to learn!
(Celebrities are congenitally capricious creatures,
one needs a sixth sense to read their voices and features
and deduce when a curse is implied by a sigh,
or whether “Hello” means “Piss off” or “Hi!”).

The employees of E! thought Greg a real peach.
They took turns imitating his swagger and his speech,
‘cause as notorious as his need to be invitingly knickered
was the quirk at which these colleagues quietly snickered:
“Get the just of it,” had become his well-known catch-phrase
yet they were taxed to remember the most hackneyed clichés.
(Poor Greg was innocent of his pet malapropism,
for “gist” he confused with that crude substance, jism).

Truth be told, they were jealous, and here is the reason:
Orree was the most sought-after man in town come Awards Season!
In the off-season, too, invites to his mailbox flew,
he came to work often in frocks from last evening’s do.
From his lips fell reviews of each night’s best-dressed,
stories of sloshed starlets he’d managed to molest,
fairy tale weddings with fountains of champagne,
and epic gambling bashes with mountains of cocaine.

Last Christmas he’d spent at George Clooney’s house in Italy,
and the Lake Como terrain he’d photographed most prettily.
These photos ensured his workmates’ ill will did not waiver
when he used them for his office computer’s screen saver.
Anecdotes about Christmas with George had he plenty—
he would be Godfather to Brangelina child number twenty!
And Malibu beach parties? Man, he’d seen dozens—
at one his booty was grabbed by three of LiLo’s cousins!
Ah, if only that tush could but speak,
it would have its own talk show each night of the week!

Tuesday, September 18

Don Abbondio is funny, but his actions, or rather, inactions, are extremely frustrating. He is such a helpless idiot! If I were Perpetua or Agnese, I would have pushed him off the cliffs surrounding The Unnamed's castle during one of his frantic searches for an escape route, (except that Perpetua and Agnese, being industrious sorts of non-whiny people, would have been doing something useful with their time instead of bearing witness to Don Abbondio’s exasperating antics). His selfishness puts others in danger, but he is so wrapped up in himself that he doesn't notice or doesn't care. My favorite Don Abbondioism has to be, "What people there are in this place/world!"
I see the scene where they're leaving his house as a comic one: Perpetua, all business, picks up valuable items from around the house, piling them in a central location, such as the kitchen table. Don Abbondio, his pudgy face red with fear and self-interest, scuttles about behind her, picking up each item as she deposits it and, after staring at it for a bit without recognition, places it back on a shelf or table which was not its original home. At the same time he’s wringing his hands and shrieking profundities such as, "Heaven help me! What can we do? Where can we go?" He stops every few moments to tear his hair, run to the window, and shout at passers-by, "Can it really be that no one will help me? Do you really want to leave me to the mercy of those swine? What people there are in this place! What hard hearts! Each of them thinks of himself, and not one of them thinks of me!"
All he wants to do is run around panicking in order to avoid making a decision—it could be that making a decision is more terrifying for him than the possibility of falling into the clutches of the German soldiers. He's the type who could wait in line at Starbucks, (or your friendly independent coffeehouse, if you prefer), for 10 minutes, with the menu in front of him all the while in perfectly legible lettering. When he gets up to the counter, he doesn't know what he wants, because the whole time he's been waiting in line, instead of making up his mind, he's been worrying about the 7-year-old standing outside the shop with her mother. Though they are nowhere near his car, he’s terrified that the child will somehow manage to throw up on it.
Perhaps at the same time, he's been having a very loud conversation on his cell phone, shouting to the person on the other end things like, "But when did Marty say he's going to get there? But are you sure he'll really be there when he says he will? But are you sure? What about the roast? Are you sure he wouldn't like chicken better? He eats beef but he won't eat chicken?! I've never heard of such a thing! What people there are in this--I have to go! No! No, my—will you shut up a minute? I have to order now! What? I'm at Starbucks. STAR-BUCKS! I have to go! No!" and mutters to himself for another few minutes before starting his indecisive go-round with the barista, "What's an Americano? Oh, that sounds terrible! What about a Cap…cap…how on earth am I supposed to know how to pronounce these things? You need an encyclopedia just to get a drink in here! A what? A latte? No, no, young lady, I can't have milk! No dairy! A black coffee? That still means the same thing it used to—once upon a time? Well, yes! That's what I wanted—I don’t want any of this fancy stuff! I didn't think a guy could get a regular cup of coffee in this world anymore! What?! Young lady, would it interest you to know that there was a time, once, when you could buy a cup of coffee for less than it cost to…"
All the while, the 20 people who have accumulated in line behind him are giving him their most evil stares, clearing their throats insistently, tapping their feet, sighing loudly, or other—ruder—things. Some of them may even be on the verge of grabbing a coffee pot and knocking him out, or plotting something more sinister involving straws…
I just don’t understand; how on earth can someone get that far in life and be so totally unaware that there are other people in the world besides him- or herself?