In chapter three remember

24 November 2008

Yester-day, I finished reading The Pig Did It, by Joseph Caldwell. Although it has some genuinely amusing movements and clever notions, it was on the whole a disappointment.

The book rests upon the author's recognition of how an obsessive desire to be loved by some particular person is often mistaken for romantic love of that person, but really is no such thing. However, the author, in turn, appears to have confused that recognition for a positive understanding of love, whereäs he displays no such thing, in a book which is about love.

In an interview, Caldwell said

Stories really reveal… people. I mean, even if you're telling a tale, uh, what you do is that it tells about people, and people can identify with other people. Y'know, they can say Oh yes, I have feelings like that, Oh yes, I'm capable of that, Oh yes, I've done that, or Oh yes, I wish I'd done that, and that's what, uh, keeps somebody reading, because they're… when we read, we're really reading about ourselves. …to a great degree. …if it's any good at all. Because we recognize, in the characters, aspects of ourselves that are set down, possibly, or one hopes, with a, uh, perhaps a clarity or with an interest that hadn't occurred to the reader about himself, before that.
I think that he's at the least largely correct here. Well, the central character is, by-and-large, an ineffectual ninny. It's a bit of a stretch to imagine the reader saying Oh yes, I wish I'd done that!, and those who are saying Oh yes, I'm capable of that! or Oh yes, I've done that! either imagine themselves to be ineffectual ninnies or lack even the efficacy to recognize a ninny.

Returning to the matter of love, another character ultimately falls in love with this protagonist, but there's no explanation as to why. He does a poor job of most of the tasks to which he has been appointed, literally stinks most or all of the time that he is in her presence, and treats her system of values as bizarre (which, indeed, it seems to be).

For his part, he has been falling for her, even as he wrestles with concern that she might have committed a homicide, which homicide might have been some act of jealous rage. A moral of the story seems to be that when one gives one's heart to another — to any other — one accepts a risk that this other person might in fact be a murderer. Well, true; but ordinarily that giving of one's heart is based on so firm a presumption that the other person is not some wanton killer that the presumption, like that of the ground not swallowing one up, isn't even conscious; and without that presumption one wouldn't fall in love.

Love indeed isn't the same thing as a desire to be loved; but it also isn't some intrinsically mysterious attraction. It's nearly tautological that love is about personal attributes that one values, though one may not recognize oneself holding those values and imputing those attributes to an object of one's affections, and though one may be terribly mistaken in that imputation.

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3 Responses to In chapter three remember

  • Most people are ineffectual, perhaps so much so that they fail to identify it in others and instead recognize the similarity without identifying it.

    I find the attraction between many people remains largely mysterious to me, and somehow I doubt that they themselves would be capable of articulating an explanation that wouldn't be just as opaque. There are many examples of couples composed of people who simply shouldn't be inflicting themselves on one another. Though perhaps the argument to be made here is that in those cases "love" is not the key element, but instead something more like self-loathing is at work.

  • BigTigerMonkey says:

    I took 'er home to my place
    Watching ev'ry move on her face
    She said "Look, what's your game?
    are you tryin' to put me in shame?"
    I said "Slow baby, don't go so fast,
    don't you think that lo-ve can last?
    She said " Love? Lord above!
    Now you're tryin' to trick me in love!"

    But it's all right now (the love doctor didn't need to imputate).

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