It started when I read Salinger. I didn’t know how to describe it then, I was in high school, like most everyone is when they read The Catcher In The Rye. I couldn’t describe why, but I didn’t like it.
It rubbed me the wrong way, all that internal angst, all that, “the world is on my shoulders and no one sees,” and “no other person has ever felt this ever,” just made me angry, not like I was understood at all. In college, I learned to voice it and it’s a term that I’ve used explain my dislike for a certain branch of light literary fiction, “I have no patience for adolescent male jackassery.”
Call Me By Your Name is beautifully written, and genuinely wrought with feeling. It’s also full to the gills with adolescent male jackassery. It’s queer jackassery, and very European, so it’s different, but I see you Elio, I see your longing sighs and over dramatic explanations of your lust, and I sigh and think, “we get it.”
Maybe I’m too Irish-American, too New England, too middle class. Maybe I’m too proud of myself for crawling out of my own butt to see the sun and the wonder of the world around me outside of my bubble of depression and “deep feeling.” But I can only take so much of lounging around talking about ennui and lust before I have to put my kindle down, make a cup of tea and do something.
Call Me By Your Name is a beautiful book, that I know spoke to many people, and the film more so (I’m seeing it next week with Crystan, so not by my Oscar deadline, sadly), but seriously, y’all, it’s not my thing, I’ve known it wasn’t my thing since I was seventeen and I need to stop trying to make it my thing, because intelligent people who I respect happen to hold it as theirs.
I’m not a lit student anymore, though I miss elements of that (and frankly, Elio and Oliver making jokes about the classic together absolutely killed me, I miss that sort of thing.) there are good reasons I didn’t go into academia, but I deeply miss having that base line of understanding with the people I talk to daily. I miss reading the same books and arguing about what they say.
That’s the magic that this book gave me, it was just hard to get through because it engaged in so many of my least favorite writing tricks. And I am looking forward to the movie, because this is the kind of story that I digest much better in film, probably because I have to be less immersed in it.
Up next is Middlemarch by George Elliot for The Epics Project! It was supposed to be David Copperfield but then I realized that for Women’s History Month, I should read something written by a woman!