PFT Book Club: An introduction and a Review (#3): Vile Bodies

vilebodies [Maintenance: Still tweaking the blog and still a bit rough, hopefully the tweaking will be done in a day or two.]

Many moons ago, when Justin and I were dating, we got on this kick to read the entirety of the Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels, of which we completed a scant few. Somewhere in my packing is the original list that I printed out nearly a decade ago. And over the years and many hours of classtime later, I am no closer to finishing the list now then I was then. So when Justin and I got back into contact a few months ago, we struck up our original deal to do a bookclub, but this time, the rules were going to be different. We decided to call ourselves the “Pretentious Fuck Twit Book Club” or PFT Book Club for short.

Each month1, one of us would make a selection from our bookshelves, the other would have to buy/loan a copy out and we’d read and discuss the works. The point of this bookclub was several fold:

  1.  To expand our reading tastes into things we may not normally read
  2. To plow through our bookshelves and read the books that we’ve been meaning to read for ages
  3. To find the most pretentious work available as our selections2

The first selection, for the months of June/July was Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. This I selected because of it’s relationship to Jane Austen (supposedly) and its relevancy to British literature (debauchery at its finest!). Justin finished the book, I only got 200 pages in and was subsequently bored to tears, so we called this one good.

Justin’s selection, which we finished in under a few weeks (which was to be August’s selection) was God Knows by Joseph Heller. This one I adored — funny, satirical, sexy, and clearly Heller was a huge influence on Christopher Moore for his book, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. Reading God Knows has piqued my interest in reading more Heller, primarily Catch-22, which I’ve never read.

Now, I have a B.A. in English, a M.A. in Humanities, I work in a bookstore and I’m going to be starting my M.L.I.S. degree in a few weeks — so one could reasonably say that I’m well read. One could say that and one, for the most part, could be awfully wrong. Despite my training and my interests, for an English major, there is scads of classic and contemporary authors that I have not read: Hesse, Dostoevsky, Pynchon, Vonnegut, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Wodehouse to name but a few, and for the next selection of PFT Book Club, Evelyn Waugh.

Waugh is one of those authors whom I keep coming to again and again as someone I should be reading and just never got around to actually doing so. I choose Vile Bodies because it is one of his lesser known but vaguely famous works, there is an awesome movie adaptation of the novel by Stephen Fry and the premise sounded right up my alley.

Vile Bodies, written in 1930, is Waugh’s tribute and satire of the London smart set near the end of the Roaring ’20s, of a generation that was glimpsed so briefly and yet was so influential on so many other works that were penned during the period and after. The story revolves around Adam Fenwick-Symes (a penniless writer) and Nina Blount (daughter of an eccentric aristocrat) as they become engaged and un-engaged depending on the status of Adam’s fortune, which literally changes by the minute.

Rousing out the cast are the friends and acquaintances of Adam and Nina, whose own lives change and upheaval are all taken with sighs of disinterest and complete boredom. But the twist in the book is the facade of their lives and the breaking down on their door by sheer reality — they have become spinning tops of a generation that could (and would not) last only to have the reality of the real world come crashing in upon them. As the characters begin to die off, literally almost one by one, and as others go on to other perhaps more grown-up lifestyles, Adam and Nina find themselves almost stranded, alone, in a world that they were once ruled as king and queen.

When their own world starts to impolde, so the the outside world when another world war calls Adam up to action. The story starts and ends in medias res, and it is for that reason alone that the novel feels incomplete. You get a sense of the period and the culture of the time, of the reality verses the inner workings of the world that beholdens Nina and Adam but I didn’t feel like the story was actually resolved.

However, in lieu of that, Waugh was a master as creating secondary (and tertiary) characters that were fleshed out and held their own in terms of personality and lifestyles, and could have stood alone outside of Nina and Adam, on their own terms. You want to believe that there is more to their lives than just parties, drinking, gossip and debauchery and even when there isn’t – you don’t seemingly care, just as they don’t seemingly care. You’re intrigued by the type of world they inhibit, you want what they want but you seemed aghast to realise that what they want seems so very shallow, but because of who they are and what they do (nothing), that seemingly justifies their very existance. But it’s more about money and standing, peer relations and marriages, it’s a way of life.

The public then was just as fascinated then with the hobnobbings of the upper crust as we are today of the goings and comings of royalty and celebs. Waugh was not the first to lampoon the social set he grew up and mingled with, nor will he be the last. But if you’re looking for something that became the defacto standard of that lampooning that would influence generations after him, he is your man.

Would also recommend the following if your interest in Waugh is piqued: Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin and Snobs by Julian Fellows.


1. We said “month,” but after Tom Jones, we’ve been plowing through our selection every week or so, so we’re are incredibly ahead of schedule.
2. Most of my stuff is still packed and at the rate we’ve been going, we’re pulling future selections from stuff that neither of us own and want to tackle.

Those librarians, they sure do know how to party

[Maintenance note: I’ve just updated WordPress and my blog theme to the latest and greatest and am still debugging the hell out of it. Things should be back to normal in a day or two.]

Things for the last month or so have been fairly dramarific and full of chaos. I emotionally and verbally discharged all of that pent up rage and aggression over on my livejournal for a bit, realized I had to but a squelch on that behaviour right quick and locked up seven years of LiveJournal entries to friends-only. This decision was long in coming, something I’ve been debating about for years really, because I’ve been writing online for so long and so prolifically that I would constantly argue with myself (and others) that this is who I am — I’m the one who has no problems airing her business in public. So to me, shutting the world out from my thoughts, no matter how repugnant, vile or vindictive they may have been at the time, seemed just totally dishonest. It felt like I was hiding bits and pieces of myself when dammit, you should take all or nothing. I am Lisa, hear me roar.

But it wasn’t the current drama with the ex-bastard, my online temper tantrums in regards to that or the fact that every, single thing about the last seven years on livejournal nor the five years before that on modgirl.net that I’ve spent meticously documenting every facet of my life that was bothering me. My past is my past and I can never change that — but it was my future that suddenly seemed so bright and full of promise that I had to damage control everything possible to make the best me there is out to be.

I’ve spent the last several days in Detroit attending lib school orientation at Wayne State and knew, before I went, that I had to present myself as the best self possible. For years I’ve always underplayed my awsomeness in that I never really set out to achieve all the things I could achieve, rather, I just skulked along and did what I thought was best for the situation and just kept plodding along. I never really set out to want something really badly because if I didn’t get it, failure would disarm me even more. I kept myself locked up in this totally ridiculous situation that I set out to do the bare minimum as humanly possible and skate along until something found me. And while it did, it was never really enough.

It never really is.

Armed with this information, I was determined to stop repeating bad habits and was determined to own Wayne State by the time I graduate. In order to do that, the first thing I had to do was knock off the silly shell of “shyness” that I constantly covet and steeled myself to grab every possibility and opportunity as humanly possible. I was going to fuck with the eagles, dammit and learn how to fly.

My excitement was palpable when I drove into the parking lot at Wayne. I announced, giddy, that I was here for the lib school orientation and I was SOO excited to be here. The steely security guard cracked a smile and announced, “We are excited to have you here. Welcome to the University.” (You could hear the captial “U” in university.)

For the next two days, I put myself out there. I became the gregarious person that everyone who knows me knows me to be and I started making friends, contacts, networked and introduced myself all over the place. The profs enthusiasm for the program was contagious and the more they talked up the hard work and the program, the more rearing I was ready to go. It was the first institution, ever, that made me feel like I really belonged there. That I was a part of something really awesome and terrific and new. I’ve got a stack of business cards, emails and phone numbers and the like of new people who are as excited about me as I am excited about them. I can’t WAIT for school to begin in the next two weeks.

Things are changing and I’m so totally excited about the change. I’ve got a gazillion plans, natch, and I can’t wait for all of this to begin.

I’m so going to totally own Wayne when I’m done, they have no idea. 😉

Friends don’t let friends waste wine when there’s stories to sell

What you need to know is that it took every freakin’ ounce of my being to not drive ~200 miles today to remove your cock with a rusty spork, throw a smoldering cigarette into the open wound and then hang said penis off to dry from the balcony while I merrily drove home.

And I’ll explain this to you one more time since you clearly didn’t get it the first time: Your problems are everyone’s problems. Even on a platonic level, your actions involve everyone around you, not just yourself. You have never quite grasped, as every other normal human has, that their actions reverberate to those around them, involved or not. And your problems trickled over into my life when I was involved, regardless of what capacity. Your issues have effected not just me, but your family and your friends. The psychological, emotional, verbal and physical hurt you inflicted has cost me time, money (spent on therapy), self-doubt, lack of self-worth, and even to some extent sexual crisis. This is to name but a few. You have no idea how much pain and suffering you have inflicted because you have no conscience. Your big outpouring a few months ago on how terribly sorry you were to have hurt me, you were going to spend a lifetime making it up to me, you were going to get your shit together and you had never meant to be like this, add, rinse, repeat. You may have meant it, at the time, but what has become clear in the recent months is that your words mean nothing. It was a facade because someone (me) told you that you had to make amends for the hurt, pain and suffering you had caused. And I also told you that I could not tell you when or how or where this amendment was going to take place and I was suddenly to believe that you were getting your shit straight only a few months later? Clearly, I am naive, gullible and way to quick to believe that everyone can change that quick.

You believed it to be sincere because you wanted or needed it to be sincere. I told you what you needed to do and that’s what you did. It’s how you run your life. Someone dictates that you need to do X in Y circumstance and that is what you do. Every. Single. Time. You cannot make your own decisions without running to 15 different people to tell you what to do. It’s sickening.

You know why I hung out with you this summer? Because I believed in you. I believed that underneath the hurt, the pain, the abuse and every other cliche was a good man. That ultimately, standing by you and supporting you, as I promised I would to the very end, would be its own reward.

And this is why I’m pissed. I’m so beyond pissed right now that it has taken every once of will power and restraint to not murder you, you fucking bastard.

What I want you to ultimately know is that I’m pissed because you made a mockery of me, my friendship and of my love. You turned what could have been a pleasant memory of a something into nothing more than a horror film that I can’t stop watching. Especially so since you still have NO idea what the fuck you did. It took every once of my strength that day to not lean over and strangle the crap out of you. Or knock some sense into your head.

And to add insult to injury to tell me that you were “thinking” that perhaps in 3 weeks, 3 months, or 3 years that you were going to start dating again and that I had better be happy for you and if I wasn’t, then so what? And to even add more salt to the wound, to then suggest your surprise that I wasn’t currently dating someone? WHAT SELF-ABSORPTION IS THIS? Please tell me. No wait, I’ll tell you. Clearly, you do not know me, to have gone through what I did with you for nearly ~2 years with you, standing by you, loving you, encouraging you to be a better man, to get on the right path to life and then to have you, hahaha, tell me that I needed to be happy for you to go frolic with someone else? I love(d) you and when you love someone, you don’t let them down, you don’t let them go and you stand by their side through thick and thin. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Really, this is a joke right? You think I could easily transfer all that emotion, energy, desire and love to someone else because we were no longer together? What am I? The whore of Babylon? Seriously! Do you think emotions run that quick and that shallow that I could transfer what I felt for you onto someone else? That sir, took the fucking cake.

And I’ll tell you why I’m not in a relationship with someone else: After finding out about your costly porn addiction, the mere act of having sexual intercourse with anyone makes me nauseated. I may talk about sex, I may flirt, I may proposition but the actual thinking about having sex with someone other than myself makes me queasy. It took me FOUR MONTHS to even feel normal to masturbate again. So do not tell me, fucker, that your problems do not effect anyone else.

1 in 3 women are or were in an abusive relationship.
1 in 3.

You may not have beaten me to a bloody pulp but what you did was just as bad and the effects are just as lasting. The lying, the manipulation, the crying game when you were out of control, the begging for forgiveness, the deception, the duplicitous of your actions. Everything.

I thought that being jailed AND found guilty of assault against your ex, nearly killing me LAST WEEK in the car due to your uncontrollable road rage/anger issues, getting us evicted from a local grocery store for picking a fist fight last summer, the fact that you’ve lost friends and burned relationships all because you are so out of fucking control would be the wake-up call. Clearly, I was wrong.

You. Do. Not. Get. It.

You are out of fucking control and you need some serious fucking help. Moving ~200 miles away and burning your bridges with me is not going to solve your fucking problems.

I’m well aware that the picture painted from you to your friends, family and anyone else is that I am the woman scorned. I am the manipulative, duplicitous hussy who was after your money (hahahahahaha. That’s a good one.), who treated you badly and connived and manipulated my way into your heart and your family. I know this. I know how this will run. And I also know that I cannot warn any future women you date, that I cannot tell them your history and that I can’t, by the act of sisterhood, convince people to string you from your fucking balls and remove your penis.

It’s unfortunate, but, I can’t.

You fucked up. You fucked up so goddamn hard and so fucking often with me that I cannot imagine, in a million fucking years, how I could ever let you back into my life again. I’m sure one day I’ll find forgiveness, towards you, but you sir are to never darken my doorstep again. Ever.
I thought I had worked on forgiving you, but, clearly with the rage that I feel towards you right now that isn’t happening anytime soon.

You cannot make it with “anyone,” because you cannot make it with yourself.

I’ve deliberately removed your name from this post, after thinking long and hard, because I really want to come out of this with my dignity and grace intact. I am me, you almost sucked me dry, but you didn’t.  But everyone knows who I’m talking about. And I have no fucking qualms about airing your dirty little secrets because well, I didn’t name YOU did I? Because clearly, I could be talking about anyone.  And you can’t get me for slander or libel because your arrest record is public record and I have either character witnesses or surprise, surprise, records culled from public places where other acts of violence took place. Since your name is not mentioned here, you would have to prove beyond all shadow of doubt that I am naming you specifically (which I’m not) and that I’m harming you professionally or personally in some way that detracts from professional or personal dealings.

And the $500 (for grad school apps and the such) I owe you? You’ll be getting that, as I promised as I would, when the disbursement kicks in a month or two. And I’m doing that so that my conscience is clear, that I followed through with my promise and I am not beholden to you anymore for ANY. THING.

For almost 2 years I lived in a smoke screen, lying to people about how “happy” I was with you, because clearly I did not know any better and that I truly “loved” you and this was just a blip! I can make him happy, I can make him overcome his demons, my love will be shining through! Fuck. That. I’m no longer to going to lie, use subterfuge, and deceit to cover YOUR problems and issues which became MY problems and issues.  And I have to come to terms with the fact that I was in an abusive relationship that I will be cursing your fucking name when I start seeking therapy at battered womens crisis center. Thank you, for that. I’m sure I’ll really fucking enjoy it.

You are not a “good” man underneath.
Your family, knowing your problems (because OH! They know! He once was violent towards me AND his parents! How lovely was that!), shied you from reality of your situation and cover your tracks with money and false promises.
I do not love you anymore. (Man, that was easy.)
I no longer believe in you.
I do not support you.
May your “soul” rot in fucking everlasting hell, you motherfucking asshole.

It’s finished.

P.S. And I don’t know when you’ll read this, it may be three hours, three weeks, three months or hell, even three years. But I’m totally okay with that, because it means I no longer have to actually deal with YOU because since clearly you did not listen to me the first time, all those months ago when I wrote something nearly similar, to get you to even CONSIDER your complete fucktardness, then airing everything in public? I’m so totally okay with that. You have no fucking idea. I am no longer protecting you. You can kiss my luscious ass goodbye.