Marya. Mado. She’s a love orphan looking for trouble. And she drinks an awful lot. Cognac, liqueur, French lady booze. Maybe the drinking doesn’t help her mental state. The truth is, alcohol is a depressant. I remember a huge lightbulb went off for me at some point in my twenties. If alcohol is a depressant, and I was feeling depressed, perhaps the two were connected? But come on! This story is set in Paris in the 1920s. Gertrude Stein didn’t go to AA meetings. The 1920s expat writing scene in Paris . . . it’s now a Disney-fied myth. A certain director hopefully made the last and worst movie about it.
Merchant and Ivory made a film too, of Quartet. In this scene, Maggie Smith, with severe bangs, cries for a long time. If that’s not your thing, hold your click.
Ever heard of repetition compulsion? It’s a psychological term. “Repetition compulsion is a neurotic defense mechanism that attempts to rewrite childhood history, typically the troubled relationship with the opposite sex parent from one’s family of origin.”
I’m pretty sure Freud coined the term. Freud was lurking at the root of all interesting ideas when I went to college, so I knew he was important. I tried to read Civilization and Its Discontents, but I didn’t understand it. I’ve collected a bunch of his writing over the years. I try to make sense of it, occasionally. Freud’s words are like a dense forest made of chocolate cake. Delicious but undigestible. Luckily, his theories filter down to me through the philosophy of Shirley MacLaine. No, I’m kidding. I don’t read her books, but she is very lovable. Which brings me back to Freud, and sexual energy, cheerleading, the romance novel and love triangles.
This year’s women’s Ultimate Fighting Championship, Rousey vs. Nunes, took place on New Year’s Eve. I had never heard of UFC before arriving in Scottsdale, Arizona, where we were visiting my husband’s family. We went to watch the fight on Closed Circuit TV at a Hot Wings franchise. Turns out I don’t have a stomach for fights. Or Hot Wings. And the fight in my book talk is not the UFC fight. It’s so much better! (I’m not vouching for its political correctness. Strangely, it seems to have been staged for an arena full of young boys. And there are other obvious issues.)
According to retrospective literary gossip, Ford Maddox Ford is the real life inspiration for the unattainable love object in Quartet. I just now realized that Rhys chose the title Quartet because the plot follows the relationship between FOUR people. The two married couples. I completely forgot about the fourth character, Marya’s husband. She’s married too! The novel is not called Trio. This is the lovely thing about reading a book multiple times.
Dr. Freud, fix me up. Fly me away on a hot wing. To the land where nothing is ever repeated. And crying is funny.