"Pretentious" is a word I keep reading in the reviews of The Marriage Plot. Pretentious why? Pretentious means affectation, attempting to impress, unjustifiable self-importance. How is that judged? I don't like the word, I think it back-fires. People who read James Joyce, for example, no... People who claim to like James Joyce run the risk of being called pretentious. Perhaps, though, they just like James Joyce. That goes for all readers, and particularly to the classics bloggers: some people cannot imagine loving the classics, and can't therefore imagine anyone else loving the classics, therefore people who dare to claim to love literature are pretentious. Like I said: the word backfires. To claim something is pretentious says far more about he or she making the claim than it does about the subject. And I say the word "claim" not to express doubt but because bloggers are vocal. They don't just like the classics, they say it out loud. To say they are pretentious is another way of dismissing them. And, therefore, saying The Marriage Plot is pretentious is potentially dismissive. Is The Marriage Plot pretentious? Is it not just what it is? I'm not defending it: I'm ninety-nine pages in, and the key word is "unjustifiable" in this definition. It is about people (so far) that like, love, enjoy "high minded" things - literature, philosophy, theology, and they're thinking about it, discussing it, and developing their thoughts. Why is that pretentious? Surely it just is. It's the way they are and that is that.
Are they any happier for it? I'm not so far through. But one thing is bothering me: the "love hurts" aspect. "Love hurts" is a truth, apparently. It doesn't seem to be questioned. It seems to be one of those tortured assertions by those who haven't looked closer (the de-constructional element of The Marriage Plot has clearly got to me!). As it happens, love doesn't hurt. Unrequited love does, or suspected unrequited love. The end of love hurts, when it blows up, fizzles out, or is removed somehow. But actual love doesn't hurt, and that's part of the point of it. This is one aspect that bothers me about The Marriage Plot, but, like the song, it's making me want to read Barthes (and The Varieties of Religious Experience by James, which is more likely at the moment as I actually own this one). A quote from Barthes has got my back up -
Once the first avowal has been made, "I love you" has no meaning whatever.
I had a boyfriend who believed that, and for years he must have said "I love you" two or three times. I love "I loves yous". They're not just vows, they express excitement and happiness as well. No one should tell you not to say "I love you". And, who knows, maybe this book is pretentious, but as I say, I just hate the word.
Anyway, I'm going back to the book. This is a fly-by blog post and has taken me all of ten minutes to write. I do normally like to put a bit more effort in, but 1) I was moved to write something, and 2) I'm having a few issues writing at the moment. It's not coming so easily, and I miss blogging "properly" and feel that I haven't been, at least in the past few weeks. All the thoughts but not the words! Same with photography... General frustration.
And I am very much enjoying The Marriage Plot, despite what this post may suggest.