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Monday, June 1, 2015

Considering Other Points of View

Two quotes stood out for me in a book I read recently, one on the nature of fans, and the other on the nature of motherhood. Here is the fan quote by the opera singer character:

“Flavia shook her head repeatedly. ‘You don’t know what it’s like, Guido, to have all those people crowding around, all of them wanting something, to tell you something about themselves. They think they want to tell you how much they liked your performance, but what they really want is to make you remember them. Or like them.’ ” [Falling in Love by Donna Leon, page 192]

This makes me feel very self-conscious, since it is exactly what I was doing when my favorite author came to town and I went to hear her give a reading and sign books after. I wanted to say something so remarkable that she would instantly want to be my friend. Can you believe the arrogance!

I never stopped to think of the situation from her point of view. I am sure that all she really wanted was to get through with the line of fans as soon as possible so that she could go home or back to her hotel or wherever to get some real rest, or meet up with her real friends and have real conversation, do whatever to restore her energy for writing the next book I will love. This is not the same as a person who craves celebrity for its own sake. This is the case of someone who loves to create, and whose creation turns out to be a big hit with the public. That can be a sort of curse to the creative spirit, don’t you think? On the other hand, my author was graciousness itself. Either she was really, really good at acting, or it was genuine: she enjoyed hearing all the odd things her fans said. As a writer, perhaps that’s part of her stock in trade—observing and “collecting” people types for possible use somewhere, sometime. I will never know, because I obviously cannot think of anything so remarkable to say that the future finds my favorite author confiding any such secrets to me!

Here is the second quote from Donna Leon’s book, a little longer, but it is one that almost all women with families will identify with:

Chiara, the teenage daughter, asks what is so great about her mother getting to be home alone one evening [page 211]:

“Paola, who was facing her at the table, gave her a level, adult look. She tasted a thin wheel of zucchini, approved her own cooking, and took another bite. She set her elbow on the table and cupped her chin in her palm. ‘It means I do not have to prepare dinner, or serve, or wash the dishes after it, Chiara. It means I can have bread and cheese and a salad, or no salad, or no bread and cheese, and make myself whatever I want to eat. But more importantly, it means I can eat when I want to, and I can read while I’m eating, and then I can go back to my study and lie on the sofa and read all evening.’ When she saw Chiara get ready to speak, Paola held up her hand and continued. ‘And it means I can come in here and get myself a glass of wine or a glass of grappa or make myself a coffee or a cup of tea or just have a glass of water, and I don’t have to talk to anyone or do anything for anyone. And then I can go back to my book, and when I’m tired, I’ll go to bed and read there.’
“ ‘And that’s what you want to do?’ Chiara asked in a voice so small she could have been an ant standing under a leaf.
“In a much warmer voice, Paola said, ‘Yes, Chiara. Once in a while, that’s what I want to do.’
“With the back of her fork, Chiara mashed at a piece of carrot until it was an indistinguishable blob on her plate. Finally, in a voice that had grown a bit stronger, she asked, ‘But not always?’
“ ‘No, not always.’ ”

Is that spot on or what?! I love my family dearly, but oh! how dearly I would love one day all to myself.

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