My Intellectual Journey, Part III

After reading my last post in this series, you must have thought that something really dramatic had happened to jolt me out of my intellectual stupor. But that wasn’t what happened. I simply read a book that made me realize what had been missing from my life.

The book I’m talking about was John Fowles’s The Collector. This book has a very nasty reputation nowadays because two serial killers used it as an inspiration to abduct, rape, torture and kill their female victims. It is needless to say that this could have never been the author’s intention. A sick mind can read any kind of diseased nastiness even into the most wonderful work of fiction in the world. I reread Fowles’s novel recently and, of course, I have a very different response to it today as a scholar of literature and a feminist than I did in 1997 when I first read it.

Then, however, it was a revelation. Miranda, the novel’s protagonist, is a young woman of the same age I was when I read the book. But she was very different from how I was. She read good books, was an artist, was interested in politics, and cared very little about brand-name clothes and expensive hair-brushes. (She was also from a very well-off British family and could afford not to care about such things. That wasn’t something I was equipped to realize when I was 21, though.)

When I read the novel I felt completely stunned. I realized it was possible to care about something bigger than making money to buy stuff. In my diary, I recorded my shocking discovery and vowed to become like Miranda. I decided to find a completely new (to me) venue of intellectual development and excel in it. Hispanic Studies sounded exotic enough to serve as that new venue.

Truth be told, I am not sorry that I had this experience. I feel that it is a great thing to discover so early in life that a beautiful huge condo, a nice country house, an expensive car, the latest gadgets (which at that time were computers and CD-players), brand-name clothes, fur-coats and exotic hair-brushes (I have a little bit of a fixation on hair-brushes, as you might have noticed) do not and cannot make anybody happy. Some people arrive at this insight a lot later in life, or maybe don;t even arrive at it at all.

(To be continued. . .)

11 thoughts on “My Intellectual Journey, Part III”

  1. “I feel that it is a great thing to discover so early in life that a beautiful huge condo, a nice country house, an expensive car, the latest gadgets (which at that time were computers and CD-players), brand-name clothes, fur-coats and exotic hair-brushes (I have a little bit of a fixation on hair-brushes, as you might have noticed)”

    I’m confused. You were 20, supporting yourself and a dead beat husband while going to school and working and had no family money and you had all these things? Unless I misread the comment, but you did mention earlier that you had a large apartment that your friends admired and the lifestyle of someone in their 40s. Even a very well-paid job would not (without years of saving) even begin to get a 20-year-old all those things in the US. Even if they were not going to school. Something is not adding up.

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    1. That wasn’t in the US, though. It was in Ukraine. I only moved to Canada when I was 22 and to the US when I was 27. Obviously, I lost a lot in my financial status as a result of emigrating.

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    1. This was a time of great change. Honestly, people who didn’t make loads of money during that era were those who felt that trying was beneath them. I had a highly marketable skill that was unique in the huge city where I lived: my knowledge of English. Suddenly, the borders opened and everybody needed to learn the language, have documents translated, etc. Of course, I had to work insane hours with no weekends for years. But money was there to be made. Loads of it.

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      1. Hmm, okay, but the goods and residences must also have been relatively cheap. I made good money for a while, and knew people who made a lot more, but there was no overnight life of luxury, especially with another person to support. Of course this was New York…but aren’t the places where a lot of money can be made usually the most expensive if you want to live well?

        The only parallel I can think of is the case of a few young people I knew during the dotcom heyday who did manage to live high on the hog for a while and they didn’t all necessarily start out with money. So maybe it is as you say; during certain “times of great change” this can be done. Still, I’d be curious to see the actual figures 😀 😀

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  2. Miranda, the novel’s protagonist, is a young woman of the same age I was when I read the book.

    Very nice. I heard a rumor that you’re not yet 41:

    And if you believe that younger people are immature, I have to tell you that I hope I achieve this blogger’s level of maturity by the age of 41.

    FWIW, I’m in the habit of recommending that everyone read Sartre’s Age of Reason before hitting the big four-one. In any case, I will read The Collector within a coupla months.

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