I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future
I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was — I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost. I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future.
Do you know who you are?
On October first, this day in 1856, the Revue de Paris published the first installment Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, but that’s not where I am. In my mind I’m on the road somewhere, musing about October, 2009. This is the month when I turn 50.
It’s ironic that I’d be looking inside, when I could be commemorating Bovary. Why? First, Bovary is one of the Great Books, and a wise, timely choice for today’s post. Next, Bovary‘s characters are dedicated to what they can’t or don’t have, which seems perfect for midlife wanderings. Still, I don’t want to go there. On one hand, Bovary‘s characters reach for their passions. On the other, where’s the satisfaction, when passions end up to be romantic delusions?
Escaping Bovary‘s romp through the self-involved bourgeois culture of the time has lead me to contemplating what satisfaction looks like for me, at 50 and beyond. Flaubert might get a smile out of this. I know I am, but is that really irony?
Maybe the irony is that escaping Bovary took me to On the Road, Jack Kerouac’s
romp journey through a brand of decadent poetic self-examination that was popular in my childhood. And so it goes – the human journey. 🙂
Long live the revolution!