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. . .)