Sep. 16th, 2017

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Car insurance people send me a letter: Your monthly rates age going up ten bucks.

I peruse the 0.1 font print at the very bottom of the letter. It tells me my Defensive Driving Class discount has expired.

Well-l-l-l. It’s easy enough to take another Defensive Driving Class and to take it before the car insurance payment comes due.

But the whole thing just pisses me off massively. I feel like an antelope on the Serengeti plain surrounded by jackals. How hard would it have been for the car insurance people to send me a letter: Be advised that your discount is set to expire… ?

I am a sitting duck surrounded by predatory corporations that see me as prey. That want to wring every last cent out of me.

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In other news, I’ve been rereading Brideshead Revisited – yes, you’re missing a book, mystery pal! – and thinking that Evelyn Waugh and Scott Fitzgerald shared common neuroses. Both fascinated by money – not for anything that money can buy but for its mysterious mana; both obsessed with mutability and loss. Both novels are a search for timelessness. Both novels acknowledge that timelessness does not exist.

I am thinking some grad student in English literature could get a very nice PhD thesis out of contrasting Brideshead Revisited with The Great Gatsby – assuming there still are grad students five years hence and that somebody hasn’t already done it.

In the pantheon of Great Writers, Fitzgerald is generally acceded the higher perch.

Part of that, I think, is the dog-preaching effect that Samuel Johnson mentions. (Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.) Fitzgerald is an American, yet he has a flawless command of canonical, vernacular-free English.

They were beset by many of the same, uh, life challenges. Fitzgerald’s life, became a total train wreck; but while Waugh’s life as a young man was picaresque to say the least, after he hit 30, he became so stable, you might describe him as stodgy.

Both social climbers: Waugh ingratiated himself with the upper classes by developing a very nasty sense of humor. Fitzgerald preferred to stay the aggrieved outsider.

Both drinkers: Fitzgerald became a drunk. Waugh, it would seem, drank an equivalent amount but did not become a drunk.

Disastrous early loves: Fitzgerald never severed the emotional rope that bound him to Zelda. Waugh shed She-Evelyn without a second’s hesitation and married again the year after his divorce. That marriage took.

Both harbored same-sex crushes: Fitzgerald repressed his homosexual desires. Waugh had numerous male lovers at Oxford, but this seemed to have been a developmental phase.

I suppose one could sum it all up by saying Fitzgerald was hopelessly sentimental, but Waugh was not. Maybe, that’s where Waugh’s Catholicism came in. Maybe if you institutionalize your yearning for redemption, you don’t have to act on it.

###

I prefer Brideshead to Gatsby. The language in both novels is comparably sumptuous and lovely, but Brideshead has more connective tissue. Also, of course, it’s got religion – lots and lots and lots of religion! And I like religion.

Plus Brideshead gives the rich an out: When I was a girl, Lady Marchmain tells Charles Ryder, we were comparatively poor, but still much richer than most of the world, and when I married I became very rich. It used to worry me, and I thought it wrong to have so many beautiful things when others had nothing. Now I realize that it is possible for the rich to sin by coveting the privileges of the poor.

BadaBOOM.

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