23 December 2009

Don Juan to Be Done with That Book?

I am Byroned out. I have read philosophy; I have read secondary materials about philosophy. I have thought - actively thought - long and hard about where that philosophy finds expression in the works of Lord Byron, and what he does with it. I have been impressed by Byron's mental skills - at first I said he was smart; then I believed he was smart; but now I know he was smart. I have re-read The Giaour not once, not twice, not even nice, but as many as ten times: I now live a life where bits of The Giaour pop into my head unbidden in appropriate situations (yes, there are situations where bits of The Giaour are appropriate). I have revised my book twice, and now I'm in the process of revising it a third time. And for the first time ever, I just have had enough of Byron.

I sit around and worry about this book. Both publisher's readers have pointed out its central problem: it's a book about Byron's philosophy that doesn't really seem to enmesh itself in the philosophers or philosophical ideas that surrounded Byron. It falls down when it comes to connecting Byron to philosophy and when it comes to its readings of philosophy. And when I finish this third revision it will fall down in that area again (although to a much MUCH lesser extent). 75% of the time I consider this book a failure: I have not been allowed to do what I wanted to do (write a book about how Lord Byron developed a philosophy) because literary analysis being what it is I can't really do that (if you say, "Byron became a sceptic," people quite rightly ask, "Well, did he read Hume? I mean, maybe he just followed Hume; where does he differ from him?"); what I have done instead, which is showing Byron in light of the philosophy of his time, I have not done well. 25% of the time, however, I see things in a different light: I am not a philosopher; I have no training in philosophy; I have no real interest in it; despite this, I have managed in the course of four years to read and come to grips with a whole bunch of Enlightenment philosophy, and actually to have ideas about where it's being mirrored, and how, in some literary work. I have gone from zero to about 45 in four years, and that's no mean feat.

But let us pass on from this: if I am sick of Lord Byron, let me write about him no more here. Instead, let me chit-chat about some of the fabric of my life.

First of all, there is still snow all over the place here. I took the train into London today, and outside the windows there was an England as close to the English idyll of Christmas cards as you could wish to see. White countryside? check. Suitably blanketed livestock? check. Nestled farm buildings? check. For goodness sake, there was even low-lying fog garlanding the whole landscape!

It's a good thing the view was so nice, because the trip to London was pretty much a waste. After much hard thinking, I have decided to have my hair straightened. -- Sorry: relaxed, as the salonnières keep reminding me. -- The process I will be undergoing relaxes and smoothes the hair by adding protein to it and sealing it in. The hair is not straightened, but rather any curls are reduced to waves, the frizz is sleeked down, and you can straighten or control it in a fraction of the time it normally takes.

All my life I have burned to have smooth, sleek hair, so I am willing to pay the not-small sum of money this process costs (it lasts for three months). My trip to London was to visit a salon - apparently the only one in London - that does this (none do here in WhereIlive). This visit took five minutes, and in the course of it it turned out that not only do they charge £130 for the process (which I was willing to pay), but they also make you buy a special shampoo and conditioner, at the cost of another £30. Plus £20 to get to London again to have it all done.

Now that is a lot of money: £180, to be precise (my basic math skills have not yet deserted me!). And at today's exchange rate, £180 is worth $297. So I say to myself, why not have this process performed in the snuggly environs of my parents' house in the States? At a salon mere steps (well, tire rotations) from my parents' home, a nice woman will perform it on me for as little as $250, including free shampoo and conditioner. Not only that, but the largest drawback of the process (aside from the possibility that it may all be a rip-off, and I may not get the glossy hair of my dreams) is that you must wait four days before washing your hair after you get it done. Not that I couldn't take that (although my scalp would get very itchy), but I bet you look pretty manky after four days of not washing your hair. So how much better to have only one of those four days pass after I reappear here in WhereIlive? My parents, as I said to S. today, do not care how I look if I don't wash my hair for three days; the people on the plane will only care for eight hours, max. If I get my hair finished by 4pm East Coast time on Saturday 2 January, I can wash it again at 9pm English time on Wednesday 6 January. Which is precisely what I plan to do, as I rang and made the appointment tonight.

I was talking to S. because once I realised I was going to spend around $300 the amount looked huge - much bigger than £150. So I needed him to talk me down and tell me to do it.

Anyway, the upshot was that the trip to London was pretty much a waste of time. What did I get out of it? Two small books to give as presents,
one narrow silver ring that cost £5, and that I'd been looking for for months, one £3 olive pashmina to replace the one that vanished, and a subpar panino I could have got right here at home. Oh, AND a Krispy Kreme glazed donut that I bought to eat on the train to save the whole trip, but when I started to eat it it turned out to have raspberry jam on the inside despite being on the creme shelf, and I hate raspberry jam filling, and I'd really been looking forward to the creme. So I got a bunch of piddly stuff, a subpar panino I could have got right here at home, and an irritating donut.

Still, it wasn't all bad, because I also got to see this sign:

It's a yoghurt ad, but it made me laugh anyway. It also made me think of that Pulp song, "Do You Remember the First Time?"

It also wasn't all bad because while I was there I somehow began thinking about teeth. I have always allegedly had a bit of a hang-up about teeth in boyfriends: I have often said that I like a man to have "good teeth." But ambling down the slick streets of late-afternoon London, it occurred to me that I've only ever actually had one boyfriend with well-aligned, undamaged, white teeth, and he was the boyfriend I liked least. Aside from him, there have been small teeth (husband), teeth involving extremely cool metal wire grip (Irishboyfriend), teeth with central gap (Mr. Fallen), and strange teeth that were shorter on one side than the other. In fact, if I think not very hard about it, I realise that really excellent teeth always slightly disconcert me: they look so fake. So I must now acknowledge that when I say "good teeth," what I really mean is "not teeth of the Shane McGowan level." Or a few levels above.

And then I came home to a spectacularly messy room. For some reason, it's bestrewn with bras. Why do I seemingly have so many bras? And, perhaps more significantly, why do I leave them out, rather than putting each away before I get out a new one?

No comments: