Originally uploaded by Luca Nonato
I am finished with Desperate Characters by Paula Fox.
I hated it.
It’s just perfect in portraying the pathetic anxiety of the middle class of the Seventies facing social chaos and what remains of the wilderness.
I hated it because I hate having to pity every single human character of a story, without being offered any hope in humanity. I remember very well the European version of such desperate characters, that is to say most of the adults in my childhood during the Seventies. Maybe their obsession with the scary wilderness was a lessened by a long history of civilization, maybe they had less money, compared to the American Bentwoods. But they would still say things like don’t touch the dog otherwise you will get rabies and they’ll have to give you fifteen shots in the belly (getting rabies from a cat was nearly impossible even during the Seventies in the Italian countryside, but there was still a remote chance to get it from a dog, good for scaring kids). They would perform ridiculous magic rituals at home before (and sometimes instead of) going to the doctor after a twist of the ankle. They would endure unnecessary physical pain convinced of deserving it for some reason. They would force animals to be stray and then would complain about them and would kill them without noticing any connection.
Of course I know that this book is meant to be metaphoric and of course I know I am supposed to sympathize with unhappily married middle-aged people, particularly when they have no children. Well, you can call me frivolous, uncaring and cold. But it’s so irritating, having to listen once again to a woman talking and acting nonsense about stray cats and rabies and kill shelters. My dear, you’d better put some Betadine on that bite and worry about your marriage.
Again, please don’t tell Jonathan Franzen.