Monday, February 23, 2015

The Reader Became the Book

Having troubling inclinations to read the blogs of known skeptics and professors of skepticism - the sort who say faith is not only not a virtue, but a vice; and any attempts to say that faith doesn't mean "blind faith" are for naught. The blindness is, for Skeptic-sensei, the heart of the matter.

All very troubling. And uninteresting for you, my reader. Maybe you agree with Dr. S. If you do, nothing I can say will change it. There's no point debating about most things.

Instead, I'll talk about something interesting I learned about myself.

Today, Geoff Brock asked us how we read books. Like, the actual physical process. I elaborated first, because I am a loudmouth. When I read a book, if I can, I'd rather listen to the audiobook while laying down with my eyes closed and trying to imagine what is being described. This, Geoff said, was not ideal - it was too passive. The book teaches you how to read itself, and you have to be paying attention to it. Geoff goes back and makes a bunch of notes and cross references.

Now, what I did was quote the man himself, having once said that a poem (which here I extrapolated to the novel) is like a machine that creates an emotional response in the reader. I said that I felt this sort of back and forth reading was gumming up that machine - if I had been cleverer, I would have said it was like constantly shifting the gears back and forth. He objected that it was in fact the opposite, that this sort of reflective reading was what was needed to have an understanding of the text. I didn't say much after this, because I had already interrupted the man once and didn't want to dominate the class discussion, which I know I can do at times. But I think this is where the difference lies. The difference between understanding and emotion.

Now, outside out our differences in appreciating the audio part, which Geoff didn't care for, guess seemed to believe that a sort of reflexive reading, writing notes in the margins and looking back at earlier passages, should be the primary reading - I think he even said, something like an audiobook could be something you enjoyed after a reflexive reading as a secondary reading. But my view is that the primary reading is created in the impression, the emotional content produced in the reader's own mind by the book. It is not a passive process, as I think Geoff surmised, but one in which the reader and book have a meeting of the minds. I think Wallace Stevens had this sort of thing in mind with "The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm and Still":

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

I was long familiar with this poem from the anthology The Voice That Is Great Within Us, which formed my introduction to poetry. But this sort of significance was first noted to me by the professor of my teaching reading class as an undergrad at Grand Valley State University - as a representation of the philosophy of Reader Response Criticism, which hold that the "text" of a work is something the reader constructs as they experience it.

Even then, I was opposed to  the view - the New Criticism, focusing on the text itself, had the right idea, but had been unjustly displaced by critics fixated on identity politics. But I have thought lately, that maybe I am more sympathetic with this view on some level than I thought. When I went to France, I didn't take any pictures. It seemed like a hassle that would impede me from actually enjoying the experience of seeing those things in the moment. The impressions on my heart were what really mattered, not a literally representation on film. I suppose the idea is similar.

I should add - I don't think Geoff is wrong. I think it might ultimately be a matter of personal preference.  Maybe I'll think more on it at a later date.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Something about a dream

We let her die.

She had been an annoyance for so long. Whenever she wasn’t in bed she was mad about something. Usually it was that the house wasn’t clean enough. She would yell. She and Dad would fight and we fight her and fight each other.

Over the years, it came to seem that it was better she stay in bed.

I still remember how I felt before it happened. She had been in the hospital for several weeks – was it for depression or she had been abusing some new painkiller, I wasn’t sure. In that last year in particular when I was on the cusp of graduating, of finally being shot of her, something I can remember explicitly wishing for as far back as 8th grade, it seemed almost like she wasn’t even there even when she was. I don’t think she spent that much time in the hospital that year outside of that time, but it had felt that way. It was like she had packed up and taken all the stress she caused us with her.

We all really let her die. We didn’t care about her enough. It was all of us. We are all guilty, except for the youngest two. No one had even gone into her room until like 12:00.

It’s not your fault. You were the least to blame. You were the only one who went in there. I don’t know the reason, but none of the rest of us did, until it was too late.

She was so sick – why weren’t we checking on her until that late? Why didn’t we love her more? Why did we let her pain become nothing more than annoyance? It was more than just that we were young. We didn’t do what we should have. Me most of all, because I was the oldest.

I let her down and she died. I told her I loved her every night, but it was for the wrong reason, it was for myself, not for her. I was so selfish. She wasn’t perfect, she could be awful sometimes, but I was so selfish. We all were. But I was so stupid, because I thought I wasn't.

 In my dreams she is usually still alive, but the other night, she was gone somehow. She will probably come back in time. But in my dream I was yelling at the rest of you, when I should have been yelling at myself.

I wasn’t a good enough person. If she has to be gone from my dreams, at least don’t let me kid myself there. She died because of me as much as anyone.

I'm so sorry.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Something That Happened a Long Time Ago

I am not going to link this post on my Facebook or anywhere else. It is one of those things you want to talk about but you don't know to whom. Something you couldn't even take to a confessor because it's not clear a "sin" per se is what is being confessed.

When I was a junior in high school, one evening after a brisk walk and what I thought was a fit of inspiration, I wrote in one sitting a short story that I have for many years sat in bed wishing I had not. It's not simply that it was a bad story in terms of prose - I'm sure it was, as my prose has never been my strong suit. It was that I gave it to a teacher of mine, who I am to this day friendly with and who gave me plenty of encouragement in my writing, Mrs. J-- I'll call her, and the content of that story, as I came to realize the further I got into teaching myself, was so inappropriate a thing for any student to give to a teacher, literary mentor or not, that I thank my stars I was not called into the school councilors office the next day. I cannot possibly publicly confess what this content was - I will only say that it was in conception supposed to be something like Eliot's Sweeney poems, particularly this one, but conveyed in much more vulgar prose dialogue. 

I took my writing very seriously at that point, and it had come into my head that in literature, nothing should be forbidden. This isn't to say I was advocating moral nihilism at the time - on the contrary, the moral of the story was extremely Puritanical, and it was meant to be a story that conveyed a moral through what I thought was "satire". It is a very strange thing, satire, because it seems for the novice writer the easiest thing in the world - you depict something you hate in an exaggerated way, and are vindicated by righteous laughter. But good satire, and I have come to realize that there is in fact very little of it and much of what is taken for satire is merely expansive sarcasm, good satire is actually very hard to do because you actually have to understand how that thing is actually hateful in the first place.

There is no moral of this story, except for me personally. I think the only way I can every fully purge myself of the shame and horror of having written that story is to become a respected writer and win some big literary prize - or maybe even a little one, just something. I need to be able to look back and say, that was the silly juvenalia of a writer, something all writers have, rather than something uniquely, unendurably, and uniquely shameful.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Heart of a Dog

Read Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov (who I am embarrassed to admit I had never heard of before) for my European Novella class. Not the sort of thing I would usually read - its a sort of scifi satire of Soviet life in the 20's in which a professor, Phillip Phillopovich (I think that's how it was spelled) implants the pituitary gland of a dead man into the brain of a stray dog who proceeds to become human. The satire part is that the dog-man, named Sharikov, takes on the worst qualities of his dog self (attacking cats on sight, being aggressive toward most people) and the worst qualities of the human, a drunkard who had recently been in prison before his death in a bar fight - and these qualities make him quite well suited to the Soviet system of the time. He is eventually able to find employment as a cat-strangler (strays, of course) which are then made into cheap coats. Other Soviet officials are, quite correctly I imagine, depicted as cloying idiots with nothing better to do than sniff out anything that might be "counterrevolutionary".

So - is the book any good? Well, I liked it better than The Immoralist, I think, but that's not saying much. The main problem is that Sharikov's dog-self is much more interesting and sympathetic as a character than his human self - and also more interesting than any of the other characters - but he is cut out so the satire can begin about mid-way through the 121-page book. His man-self, as I think the Professor says, is basically a different person - insolent, crude, but more damningly, just not very enjoyable to read about. There is a rather long passage in which Sharikov has a row with the cat of a some old woman trying to get a look at him and ends up locking himself in the bathroom, breaking a pipe and flooding the professor's office (he's also a physician - this is an important plot point, because there is a scheming official who hates the Professor for his dislike of the Proletariat, but because the Prof. has many important officials as patients, he is untouchable). Anyway, the whole scene is supposed to illustrate just how much of a nuisance and an imbecile Sharikov is, but it just drags on and on, to the point my eyes started to glaze over. I don't know, though, how I would have handled it - obviously, his boorishness is the point - I just wish it was a more interesting boorishness.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Darwin Awards: Homo Hyaena Homini

Time for some easy moral indignation.

I've been reading a lot about the Problem of Evil - the idea that the existence of evil is proof against the existence of God - a lot for the last several months. I had previously neglected it compared to other arguments, because even if that argument is successful, it doesn't go to show there isn't a necessary existence that isn't the universe itself, and just getting that far was enough of a challenge, as I thought. The strange thing is that even though I became much more aware of the seriousness of the problem, my answer to its question - a quaint sort of Augustinian theodicy, which, according to Nick Trakakis (whom I've corresponded with and who is quite a friendly guy) at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the Evidential Problem of Evil is "...given the doubtful historicity of Adam and Eve, and given the problem of harmonizing the Fall with evolutionary theory, such an account of the origin of evil cannot reasonably held to be plausible". So, it's just implausible. But, implausibility and all, I still prefer it to Skeptical Theism (which I know sounds contradictory, and which you will just have to read about in the link if you want to know about).

Now, getting back on track - for a lot of people, the fact that horrendous evil like this exists in the world is proof enough there is no all-loving God. But in a bizarre twist, there exist things like The Darwin Awards, an appalling celebration of the Province of natural selection in weeding out people who die because of making the sort of stupid mistakes that most people occasionally make and not die from.

I think this Amazon reviewer nails it:

"A typical story tells of an abusive boyfriend (guffaw) who goes to jail for beating his girlfriend (chortle). She begs the judge to release him because she can't afford the rent (hee hee). He kills her and burns her body (giggle), and then blows himself up trying to burn the house down. Haw Haw haw! If you like that you'll love the book."

There are times when I want to vent moral indignation about things on a blog like this, and so far I haven't, because I don't want to espouse, even accidentally, any unpopular political sentiments. The academy is a politically charged arena, and I think it's stupid to make those sort of blog posts to be read by people the writer knows will agree. But here, at least, is something I hate that I don't think has any political dimension anyone could object to: the creator of these awards, Wendy Northcutt, is an appalling person, a hyena laughing at the tragic deaths of people who were somebody's son or daughter. I'm far more embarrassed by having someone like her in the same species as me than any of the people she and her readers get their kicks laughing at.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Still more on disbelief

I don't know why I am making a second entry in the same day. I have papers to grade and I need to read Death in Venice, both for Monday. But I've just been watching anime all afternoon, not to mention that I only got up at 1:30 I think.

I want to hopefully bring a close to this consideration of that sentence "God's existence is too good to be true." I talked before about Hume, and about probability. About the idea that, as long as you can't be completely certain of a thing, you can always doubt it and it can always drive you mad.

I could imagine some skeptic objecting, Ah, this simply isn't the case Kevin. You don't very often meet irreligious people who have an equivalent anxiety that God might exist and they might be damning themselves. Oh, there might be some like that, Kevin, but we both know the proportions are not equal. The truth is, this skeptic holds, that the arguments in favor of God are simply so weak that an intelligent person - and the skeptic here acknowledges my intelligence - can't overlook them, at least subconsciously.

I don't know about that, Skeptic-kun. Like I have said, I don't tend to debate anything here - but I can tell you that I am more troubled by the thought "Its too good to be true" then the idea that there can be a completely inexplicable infinite regress, and that the universe is an example of such. I am not, again, debating the point. I am only saying, I am not psychologically bothered by it to the extent that I am with the the too-good-to-be-true argument. Nor am I saying that the possibility of an actual infinite regress doesn't actually bother me, just that the worry is lesser - but this could just as well be because I am irrational or unable to evaluate arguments correctly. But by the very fact that those arguments are arguments, and have the structure of an argument, they don't back the same punch as the too-good-to-be-true argue, which is essentially a troll - which are always more effective deep down than an argument can be.

Let me take another example that I can tell you I have enjoyed a full year of peace through - The Miracle of the Sun. You can look up Fatima if you like reader - I am not even talking so much about Fatima itself, because there isn't that much one can verify, as I found, if one doesn't read Portuguese. What I did find, in a book on the sociology of religion I don't care to look up again, but it is on Google books for those interested, was the report of of Avelino de Almedia. Before whatever happened in Fatima, he wrote a rather scathing and cynical appraisal of the situation, and that it was I found translated in the book. But as you can see in the Wikipedia article, he (apparently) saw something. It took awhile for it to sink it, but eventually, the thought dawned on me that I knew many people who used the same tone as Almeida had in the original article, and I can't imagine any of them writing the things he wrote after the fact if the whole thing had simply been the result of a mass hallucination. Soon after this, I had peace for almost a year.

But it is easy to forget that peace. I eventually forgot where that peace had come from in the first place, except that I made a concerted effort to avoid atheist blogs when they popped up on Google search results. I had also convinced myself that as long as I kept myself occupied, usually with a vidya game, the shadow of doubt would stay away from me. But a few months ago, when I couldn't really afford any games and there weren't really any I wanted to play, at a time when I had been having stomach problems, I lay awake during the middle of the night and thought "Why do I even believe in God?" And any answer I could come up with was met with "Ah, but isn't that just wishful thinking?" Just that little thought was enough to destroy my peace. Even now, the fact I am writing this shows my peace has not been entirely restored.

What this is showing is simply that that thought, too-good-to-be-true, is the most pernicious I know of. I can think of. It doesn't just do me psychological harm in the religious realm, but in the mundane as well. As the example I gave before might suggest, I have never had the courage to persist in trying to establish a relationship with the opposite sex. After two rejections in high school, I simply lost interest, and any feelings that might have stirred in me in the interim were snuffed out.

I don't know if I have said everything I wanted to say, but I am sick of writing at the moment. I shall, at least, try to hold off until tomorrow if the mood strikes me.

Follow up from last night

So I got to thinking of this interview with atheist philosophy of religion guy (I'd call him a philosopher of religion, but he might take offense) Stephen Maitzen. The quote is actually from the blog-writer, not Maitzen, so I won't discuss the man himself to much. Any way, it goes:

"And I know from my own personal experience I mean when I lost faith in god I was begging god to respond because I didn’t want to lose my faith. And I know when I was travelling one of my friends was really struggling with the same thing. She said, for years I’ve been calling out to god and just please speak to me I want to know who you are and she just got nothing. I remember one night she just wept and I just can’t imagine a loving god who wants to relate to the human beings that he created to relate to refusing the desperate cries of people who really want to know him. I think it makes a lot more sense that he’s just not there"

Part of me thought that my example of the boy longing for a girl he finds it hopelessly optimistic to think likes him in return resembled the pathetic-ness of this sort off scene, which I'll admit isn't far from something I experienced when I was, like 20. I don't want to make it seem, though, that I couldn't have had this kind of breakdown at any other time, it's more that I turn those feelings inward so they manifest as stomach pain rather than tears.

But anyway - divine hiddenness isn't relevant here, because I'm not talking about what God should or shouldn't do if He exists and what we should infer or not on the basis of what He doesn't do that we think he should. I'm not a theologian or a philosopher, and I don't think there's any point in debating most things of this nature. Instead, as I said, I'm trying to make a psychological point - one about pessimism and optimism, and more particularly, about anxiety.

Take what Hume says about whether the sun will rise tomorrow:

"Matters of fact, which are the second objects of human reason, are not ascertained in the same manner; nor is our evidence of their truth, however great, of a like nature with the foregoing. The contrary of every matter of fact is still possible, because it can never imply a contradiction, and is conceived by the mind with the same facility and distinctness, as if ever so conformable to reality. That the sun will not rise tomorrow is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction, than the affirmation, that it will rise. We should in vain, therefore, attempt to demonstrate its falsehood. Were it demonstratively false, it would imply a contradiction, and could never be distinctly conceived by the mind. (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding)"

What Hume really means here is to dismiss most metaphysical thinking - he isn't saying we shouldn't rely on the sun rising tomorrow; rather, the mere fact that it isn't impossible that the sun will not rise doesn't mean we should trouble ourselves to prove it is so. In the same way, for Hume, just because miracles are not impossible doesn't mean we should take them seriously - it is enough that they are extremely improbable (for Hume, in part because they are reported by people who are not white European men).

But anyway, it really is possible that the sun should not rise tomorrow. The Earth may be blown up by a meteor tonight. It is unlikely, it is possible. This is where I mean to bring in pessimism - for a pessimism of sufficient extremes, the mere possibility of such a thing will manifest in anxiety. People are not always rational, and the underbelly of the mind is certainly not rational. If it seems too good to be true that the world should endure another day, part of you will believe it won't.

Now, I am not trying to make a statement about the arguments in favor of God's existence or not - again, I think there is no point in discussing that sort of thing. What I am saying is that even if it could be supposed that one found such arguments rationally persuasive, even if it were only by a kind of delusion or error of judgment, stronger subconscious rebuttal to them than any skeptic can provide is already pre-made in the mind - the fact that they argue for something very good, and for some, good things seem impossible regardless of how much or little sense they seem to make.

Friday, February 6, 2015


I've mentioned before that I have struggled with my beliefs as a Catholic for a long time (since I was a teenager) but I haven't given them up yet. Which is often strange to me, because if I was someone else and read my personal history, I think I would be the sort of person who frequently becomes quite irreligious. That is, I'm in an academic field, most of the people I associate with in real life don't share my beliefs, and my own behavior frequently does not live up to my beliefs - which isn't just to say, I'm almost always late for Mass - I am - but there are other things as well.

I read a lot about atheism. I am obsessed with it to an extent. I can't see the name of a celebrity without feeling the urge to look up their beliefs, no matter how obscure (i.e. Tiffany Amber Thiessen or Gilbert Gottfried). I don't know why I do this - to insulate myself against atheists perhaps? I doubt that, since I always assume my fellow grad students are not believers, and usually I'm right. With them, though, I wouldn't want to know under any circumstances. I hold them manly of them too dearly, and deep in my heart I can always say, "I don't know for sure that they think I am a superstitious fool for believing what I do" - though, in truth, I am sure that even those of them who are nonbelievers and know I am one view that fact, when presented with it, with indulgence. We are in creative writing, after all, not evolutionary psychology.

I sometimes wonder why I can't put doubt aside or put faith aside for good. I have managed to do the former, in a way, for as much as a year and a half when I was substituting, but I think that is in large part because I had no chance for extensive personal reflection, as that job drained me of all mental energy. But anyway, I think I know the reason I cannot put doubt aside for good. I am not talking about an intellectual reason - I've learned there is no point, really, writing about the intellectual side of belief unless you are very well read in both the literature of your opponents and your supporters, and also have the "stomach" for it, and I have neither, only the limited knowledge and stomach that obsession gives one. I'm talking about a psychological reason. It is embodied in this sentence:

Christianity, and religion in general, is too good to be true.

I think this is what drives the kind of unbreakable atheism that arises in those who become atheists at 12 and go on to write atheist blogs at 17 - and then continue them indefinitely. Now, there are some atheists who would probably argue that they would find it a detestable thing to find out the God of the Old Testament was in fact real and the real and living God, and so they would say that it could not possibly be a good thing. But you can always reformulate an image of God that would be palatable to them - that is, a God who used evolution to create life so that people would not be forced to accept the truth of the Bible upon finding carbon dating confirmed it exactly, a God who will still save the virtuous atheist and not fault his lack of faith overmuch, who was heavily misinterpreted by his followers, and so on and so forth. I think this is the God that atheists talk about when they are asked what they will say to God if it turns out they are wrong and will quip that they lacked sufficient information for belief.

But this God is simply too good to be true, from a psychological perspective. Any boy who has ever been in love with a girl and considered the possibility she might love him back knows this doubt, and it is for many people - like me - the one doubt that nothing but a confession from the beloved could ever truly dispel.

Right now, I am filled with an appalling urge to rewatch a speech wherein Richard Dawkins was asked "What if you're wrong?" because I can't remember the exact answer. I know it is something like "I'm not wrong" but my obsession makes me want to know for sure. So I am going to quell that obsession by ending this entry, incomplete as it is, here.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sleep, Philosophy, etc.

I have a poor sleep schedule. One night, I will sleep maybe 3-4 hours, then the next day, I either sleep during the day or for 10-11 and end up feeling groggy and awful. It is especially bad was I sit down to play a game, as I have been this week, and start yawning even though I think (though naive introspection may be deceiving) that I'm having fun.

I feel sort of bad because today, during my Shakespeare class with Dr. Candido, who is such a lovely and interesting man, I somehow started reading this article on philosophy of religion alleging that the preponderance of the religious in philosophy of religion can, according to this blog post/article it was reporting on, be explained by selection bias, not expertise. That is, philosophers of religion are more religious not because they have a better understanding of the arguments of the field, but because they are more biased in its favor. This was all inferred from a study Helen De Cruz is assembling, and apparently the inference is based on the fact that this study found 11.8% of those who entered the became agnostics or atheists, whereas only 8.2%. A comment, Joel, pointed out what I think is a serious flaw in this inference:

"This inference seems to me unwarranted. There are more theists to begin with, so there’s a larger pool to convert to atheism/agnosticism. If 21% of philosophers of religion are atheists/agnostics and 58% are Christian theists, then 11.8% moving towards atheism/agnosticism is roughly 1/5 of Christians becoming atheists/agnostics, whereas 8.1% revising to theism is over 1/3 of atheists/agnostics becoming theists."

Also, the blog post says:

A survey conducted among philosophers in 2009 shed some light on this question. Of the 3226 philosophers who took the survey, 72.8% were atheists and only 14.6% theists. (The remaining 12.6% chose another option.) This is especially interesting when contrasted with the percentage of atheists among the global population: a paltry 2.01% in 2010.

But this is incorrect: the 72.8% percent is for the 933 target faculty they used for the survey - atheists are still at 66.2% in the full survey, which includes other staff, undergraduates and graduate students, but it's still not accurate as stated. I can't help but feel if this sort of discrepancy occurred in an article trying to defend the philosophy of religion, it would be immediately seized on as an example of the sort of bias this article is accusing it of.

But whatever, I am not a philosopher, but a (sort of) poet. This means that, in spite of what apparently seems to be the norm with philosophy grad students, I don't have to post under names like "Anonymous Until I Get Tenure" - the fact you have to do that sort of this is kind of scary, but I guess that's how it works in contentious fields. Though I would not, I suppose post anything overly critical of any living poets who could one day get me a job. But that still leaves me lots of room for be a hater.

Yet, if blowhards like Brian Leiter (I'll not link to the blog of the sort of scoundrel that man is) can opine on poetry, I don't see any problem in engaging in some amateur philosophy now and again.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Immoralist, etc.

I didn't watch the Super Bowl. I don't particularly care about football, though I've taken a liking to the Arkansas team since I started tutoring the athletes here and working as a bag checker at the games. I kind of stopped caring when the Lions (I'm from Michigan) lost, though its not like I watched the game. I do listen to a lot of sports radio, though, because I'd much rather listen to some kind of talk radio than music, and the NPR station here plays a lot of classical music instead of stuff like The Diane Rehm Show. I'm still kind of bummed they canceled Talk of the Nation - I called once when when they were doing a show on the the Great Adderall Shortage of 2011.

So, the Immoralist: didn't end up the living to what I had been expecting. Gide was, by his own admission it would seem, a pedophile - in a published diary from I believe the 20's, he outright describes his sexual experiences with different young Arab boys. Apparently, he thought of his practices as an extension of benevolent Greek pederasty that elevates the "beloved" though the "lover" serving as a sort of mentor - or at least, he doesn't seem to have admitted to having raped these boys, though of course, one today would say that there was no way for said boys to consent to  such a thing, even if they initiated it (I tend to agree with this), so maybe we can't put Gide in the same category as, say, Jerry Sandusky.

Anyway, the point is - I was expecting some real debauchery at some point. There isn't really much story to the novel(la) at all, just the MC Michel getting sick, feeling better, getting bored, his wife getting sick and finally dying. Along the way he has some sort of conversion would it be? You know how some people go to the gym with almost religious fervor? He gets sort of like that I guess. He becomes something of a sensualist. But the thing is, from the summaries I read, I thought there would at some point be more than just an insinuation of pederastic attraction on his part, that he would abandon his dying wife to diddle little boys - if not, why was the title of the book The Immoralist? But it never happens. All of Michel's "immoralism" is interior: with the exception of what amounts to a prank he plays on the caretaker of his own farm, occasional neglect of Marceline (his wife) which is always followed by him explaining how he thereafter stayed at her bedside for weeks, and holding some unconventional opinions about the Goths, Michel's considers himself in total rebellion from society because he enjoys looking at nature-y stuff and hanging out with lower class people.

Now, there are parts where he comes off as an ass. Being sick made him only want to be around healthful people, to the point that illness and lack of vitality in people disgust him. There are other bad qualities in him too, to be sure - but I was expecting something akin to Lolita, to which the book has been compared, and it never happened. I'm not disappointed because I wanted some sensationalism I never got - it's just that Michel's whole character arc is almost entirely in his own head. I think this piece in The Guardian has some good points about the issue.

What else? Still have some quizzes to grade. And still planning to play a bit more MGS: PW tonight.