Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Golden Notebook Blast from the Past

In my online critique group, one of the members posted a quote from The Golden Notebook:

Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself.

  • Any human anywhere will blossom in a hundred unexpected talents and capacities simply by being given the opportunity to do so.

  • There is only one real sin and that is to persuade oneself that the second-best is anything but second best.

  • What's really terrible is to pretend that the second-rate is the first-rate. To pretend that you don't need love when you do, or you like your work when you know quite well you're capable of better.

Wow. I need to read that book again. It knocked me over when I read it in the 1980s. I wonder how I'd see it now. That was a great part to quote.

I have a story to tell you about The Golden Notebook. As I said, I read it in the 1980s. Well, some years after I read it, in 1988, I was in college, doing a school year in Italy. I went on a trip to London on one of my school breaks and had many adventures. One of my adventures there was that I met a mysterious French man named Gerard. Gerard was an impeccably dressed Parisian with curly black hair and sharp blue eyes. When we met, he explained to me and my traveling friend, Margaret, that he was a psychiatrist and had been conducting research into the subject of cannibalism.

Apparently, a grisly murder had occurred in Paris, where a husband had killed his wife and then cooked her and ate her. Ew. Well, Gerard was traveling the globe researching any similar wife or spouse eating cases and was gathering all of the information he could on the topic. Quite taken with himself, he went on at length about how cannibalism appears in fairy tales (Hansel and Gretal) and even embodies a sacred Christian ritual of holy communion. At some point, Margaret stood up, announced she was going to bed and abruptly left me alone with the guy. In spite of his morbid mind set, he was awfully cute, and I couldn't resist accepting his offer to spend the following day together in London.

Ever have one of those weird things where a word you would never normally see on a given day seems to crop up all over the place? Well, in bookstore windows, on bus advertisements, sprawling across the walls of the tube station, we found the word, Cannibalism. At each instance, Gerard would solemnly nod his head and tell me in his French accented English, "See? Et Ees everywhere."

After dinner, we decided to attend a theatre performance and found that A Winter's Tale was playing nearby. Shakespeare in London, oh, yeah. So, we rushed to the theater only to arrive a minute after the curtain rose. The theatre attendant informed us that we would have to wait until the end of the first act before we could enter and take our seats. As we stood in the empty lobby with her, I noticed that the theatre attendant had a dogeared copy of The Golden Notebook on her chair. "Oh!" I said, "You're reading The Golden Notebook. I loved that book. How are you liking it?" We chatted, as Gerard lifted the copy off of her chair and opened it to a random page. Suddenly, his eyes opened widely, his finger jabbed at the page. We both looked, and, you guessed it, he was pointing at the word, cannibalism. "Cannibalism!" Gerard exclaimed. "Es thees book about cannibalism?" I couldn't believe it. As you know, The Golden Notebook es not about cannibalism. Neither the theatre attendant nor Gerard understood why I had collapsed in hysterical laughter. Throughout the performance of A Winter's Tale, Gerard was fidgeting to get out of that theatre so that he could acquire a copy of The Golden Notebook. I'm sure he read all 700+ pages of it, looking for clues.

Ah, those days of youth. If you're gonna have a one-night-stand, make it interesting, I always say.