Monday, March 16, 2015

The Jinx and Zeno

To anyone who is not watching, or does not plan to watch The Jinx on HBO--you are missing something great.  Maybe the greatest documentary I've ever seen.  And as if it wasn't great enough on its own--and the final episode was one of the most mesmerizing and amazing things I've seen on TV--Robert Durst, its subject was arrested on Saturday, the day before the finale. 

I won't say anything about the finale, though the articles currently in all the papers that describe Durst's arrest will all probably talk about it. (My advice: watch the show from the start, and don't read the articles till after).  But it was ridiculously good.  And gripping.  And amazing--name your superlative.  Just insane.  My wife loved it even more than I did.  We joked that she was going to have to quit her job and dedicate herself to full-time Durst blogging.


A long time ago I started but didn't finish Svevo's Zeno's Conscience.  For some reason I got it down off the shelf last week and have been reattempting it.  And, for whatever reason, it now seems to work for me, in a way it didn't last time.  I'm about halfway through at this point, just at the point where his relationship with his mistress Carla is about to end.  

A funny conceit for how it ultimately seems to fall apart: Carla implores Zeno, during their assignations, to let her get a glimpse, somehow, of his wife.  (She knows Zeno loves his wife and won't leave her, and she wants to see this woman to whom Zeno is so devoted).  Finally, worn down, Zeno directs Carla to a certain street on a certain day, when, he says, his wife can be seen walking to the store.  If Carla goes and stands at a certain spot, she will see her.

But, Zeno has in fact not told Carla how to get a glimpse of his wife, but of his sister-in-law, Ada (Zeno, it should be added, has first proposed to Ada, and then to another sister, Agatha, before finally settling on his actual wife--a third sister, Augusta).  So, Carla goes to the appointed spot and waits to see "Augusta", Zeno's wife. (Really his sister-in-law).  And when she does, she is so moved at the sight of the suffering on Ada's face, so affected by her palpable sadness, that she breaks off her affair with Zeno, in order to stop causing his wife so much suffering! (Carla assumes Ada/Augusta is suffering because she knows her husband is unfaithful).

And then, even another layer of twistiness to the plot, we learn later that Ada, the morning that Carla spotted her, had in fact just that day caught her own husband, Guido, in a compromising embrace with their maid.  So that Carla was, in fact, entirely 'correct' as to the cause of what was affecting "Zeno's wife", but only wrong as to the identity of the sufferer. 

That whole web of interations stands in pretty well for the workings of the book as a whole, whose guiding prinpcial is that conventional and expeted things happen but for odd and irrational and unconventional reasons.  Short on incident, though, it can sometimes lag--since almost the entire 'story', such as it is, occurs in Zeno's mind (the ratio of 'thinking about incidents' to 'incidents themselves' stands at about four to one) it can read a little slow.  And, to audiences long familiar with Philip Roth and Woody Allen and Seinfeld all the other 'artist of neuroses' some of what surely seemed original and exciting during Svevo's own time (he lived and wrote about a century ago) now seems a bit familiar.  But worthwhile all the same.

Rented Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend.  Had been lead to expect it would be a light fun thrill-ride type movie, but I found it pretty standard stuff.  Lots of fights and explosions with no story or character to really care about.  Blah.

1 comment:

JMW said...

I loved Zeno when I read it a few years ago. You're making me want to reread it.

And I saw Guardians of the Galaxy on an airplane not too long ago. Given that things are much better when watched on an airplane, I agree that it was disappointing. I liked it, and was entertained by it, but I was on an airplane. So the B I might have given it at 30,000 feet would probably turn into a C or even a C- on land.

Haven't watched the Jinx. But know a lot about the final episode without even having read that much. Maybe I'll still watch it one day.