It’s rare that I start a book and fall madly in love with it only to find myself skimming and skimming through applicable sections when the book is going well. But, life is full of surprises, although past experiences with Simone du Beauvoir may make this reaction inevitable.
Since one of my two majors is French Studies, it makes sense that I’ve read some of her stuff before, and before I start this I mentioned a friend I hopefully I’ll find it too “academic”. But, I was a bit confused when it came to me “hanging” her post. It’s not that I’m forced to quickly read Memoirs of a Good Daughter, but more than that, she’s one of the most unreliable storytellers on the planet.
Please don’t get me wrong: I love and generally agree with her point of view on everything. I find it especially fascinating to be pushed into a French woman’s view of America rather than vice versa, which is much easier to find. And, having a deep, utter cliche love for France, French culture, food, women, and so on, I think I might be more willing to read the musings of a French woman.
That being said: my feelings of discomfort/tiredness towards the novel emerged precisely because of that – du Beauvoir presents SELF as anything but “a French woman.” She is intelligent, independent, a philosopher, seeing cultures through “the eyes of a sociologist.” However, she was clearly more informed than most, especially most women at the time, but to be honest. Where did du Beauvoir’s astute observations come from? Book? Periodicals? Word of mouth? I found the lack of source really tried hard.
When I started the book, I took her observations at face value and declared that they were not only feeble but profound. As the book went on, however, I began to really ponder the whole issue. She has been here for four months. Four months.
Don’t get yourself into this because I’m obviously minor in the grand scheme of things, but I’ve lived in France, both in the south of France and in Paris, for over eight months. I learned the Paris supermarkets, when I left I could speak to the store clerks, waiters, flight attendants and the police in coherent French. I read Balzac, Beaudlaire and yes, even Inesqueo… took classes, ate crepes, traveled by bus (and, hey, I’m American and I took the bus. I’m not poor and I use the urban bus system I did here, in New York, LA and even with my nanny and babysitter as a child.
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