ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

by Simone de Beauvoir

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ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby Liz » Thu Nov 04, 2010 10:46 am

I found it at the library, printed it, and DITHOT offered to type it up for me (because I've been so busy lately).
Thanks, DITHOT. :loveshower:

This is the Harper’s article (May, 1965) where Nelson expressed his “feelings” towards Simone after she wrote A Force of Circumstance.

Tell us what you think of his review of her book.



The Question of Simone de Beauvoir
A Review by Nelson Algren


Force of Circumstance, by Simone de Beauvoir. (La Force des Choses, translated by Richard Howard.) To be published on May 18 by G. P. Putnam's Sons, $10.

Literature today is redemptive or it is an entertainment. It is written because a man or a woman has heard cries for help: or else it is like somebody standing in front of a geek show crying, "Awful sex-acts going on inside!"

No chronicler of our lives since Theodore Dreiser has combined so steadfast a passion for human justice with a dullness so asphyxiating as Mme. de Beauvoir. While other writers reproach the reader gently, she flattens his nose against the blackboard, gooses him with a twelve-inch ruler, and warns him if he doesn't start acting grown-up she's going to hold her breath till he does.

Camus was a moment in the conscience of mankind but Madame wound the watch. He opposed torture until his own countrymen practiced it, then went silent; she threw light into cells where the army practiced by night what de Gaulle denied by day. Camus deplored Man's inhumanity to Man; she named the cell where the blood had been drawn. "Have I the right to be an artist?" was Camus's idea of an issue. Her own was a medical report proving torture: an Algerian girl of the FLN, while awaiting trial in Algiers, had had a coke bottle thrust into her.

"Would Madame change 'vagina' to 'womb' in her accusation?" the editors of Le Monde requested Mme. de Beauvoir, "and delete four words?--'Djamila was a virgin'?"

No. Madame would not.

The edition was seized in Algiers but the lie was exposed. When Madame is right she is very very right.

And when she's wrong she's preposterous. Like Alice crying, "I shall be warm here as I was in the old room!" when she climbed into the looking-glass. Mme. de Beauvoir's world, that she reports with such infinite accuracy is a reflected vision; no one ever lived behind that looking-glass. Which is why all the characters of her novels, although drawn directly from life, have no life on the printed page. These people are rememberable only if one has happened to have known them; from her books one remembers not one.

No other modern writer has moved millions of women, leading submerged lives, toward lives of their own while leading her own vicariously. No other writer has exposed the myths of femininity so lucidly while guarding her own so jealously. Her humanitarianism would be irrefutable if it weren't for men and women getting in the way.

"Can there be any possible reconciliation between fidelity and freedom?" she inquired of Harper's readers last November* and answered herself in the next paragraph: Often preached, rarely practiced, complete fidelity is usually experienced by those who impose it upon themselves as a mutilation, they console themselves for it by sublimations or by drink."

This leaves a single-hearted woman with no way of remaining faithful except by staying drunk all day. It also imposes a grave risk on any woman, who values her freedom, who takes a lover: she must face it: he might prove faithful! Which would obligate her to be equally faithful. Then both would have to stay drunk all day. For what is left when one's freedom is lost?

"Fan her head!" the Red Queen, anxiously interrupted. "She'll be feverish after so much thinking."

Not one to risk her own freedom, Mme. de Beauvoir sensed she could trust Jean-Paul Sartre to be faithless. That was a shrewd move right there.

"There are many couples who conclude more or less the same pact as that of Sartre and myself," Madame says, and tells how she did it: "to maintain throughout all deviations from the main path a 'certain fidelity.' . . . If the two allies allow themselves only passing sexual liaisons, then there is no difficulty. . . Sartre and I have been more ambitious: it has been our wish to experience 'contingent loves.'..."


Put cats in the coffee and mice in the tea--
And welcome Queen Alice with thirty-times-three!


Anybody who can experience love contingently has a mind that has recently snapped. How can love be contingent? Contingent upon what? The woman is speaking as if the capacity to sustain Man's basic relationship--the physical love of woman and man--were a mutilation; while freedom consists of "maintaining through all deviations a certain fidelity"! What she means, of course, when stripped of its philosophical jargon, is that she and Sartre erected a facade of petit-bourgeois respectability behind which she could continue the search for her own femininity. What Sartre had in mind when he left town I'm sure I don't know.

Procurers are more honest than philosophers. They name this How-about-a-quickie-kid gambit as "chippying" and regard the middle-class woman who indulges herself in it with less respect than they give the fireship who shoves a shiv into a faithless lover's anatomy. The true mutilation to them, is not passion, but passionlessness; and loving too violently a lesser affliction than being able to love only contingently. Because it means she is able to live only contingently.

The horse-player who can't bear to mill about in the middle of a mob of two-dollar bettors, and so devises his own home-system which give him winners every day and obviates the necessity of going to the track, is in much less the same strange conditions as Mme. de Beauvoir. He goes to the Jockey Club file and she goes to the Bibloteque Nationale. And to both, the bettors milling about, making wrong guesses and going broke, appear mutilated.

Mme. de Beauvoir's appeal is to the woman who never got to the track: whose life somehow went away or was lived by somebody else in another town. She too has found that, once in the room behind the looking-glass, one cannot, like Alice, get back to one's old room.

Mme. de Beauvoir's early determination "to write sacrificial essays in which she strips herself bare without excuses" she has since employed with such earnestness and skill that practically everybody has now been sacrificed excepting herself.

The first to go--and it had to be--was that lively little fellow with the wriggling tail, bearing XY chromosomes to the lady-egg's door, where he never bothers to knock but shoves right in. Upon the basis of the sperm's activity and the quiescence of the ovum, Hegel felt that the sexes could be distinguished; it seemed to him that the sperm did all the work, and all the egg did was to snip off his tail. No ovum was going to get a good-conduct ribbon from Hegel just for that.

Mme. de Beauvoir awards the egg a field commission. She points out that recent experiments in parthenogenesis prove that the egg can be penetrated by an ordinary safety pin and artificially inseminated, reducing the role of the sperm to nothing more than a physiochemical reagent.

"It has been suggested that the male gamete is not necessary for reproduction," she writes, "that it acts as a mere ferment."

Thus she nips off the poor little devil's tail.

"That's the effect of living backwards," the Queen said kindly: "It always makes one a little giddy at first--"



Saigon, they say, will fall one day. With a terrible rush and a horrible roar, nation upon nation will fall into riot, totter to anarchy and plunge at last into endless night. Beaches whereon waters once met the land and the sky came down to meet both will shrink from the sea's irradiated touch. Then a low dread pall of greenish-gray will enwrap and enwind earth, forest, skyscraper, and sky in an endless orbit through endless space through endless time, in a silence without end.

Except for one small hoarse human voice burbling up from the ancestral ocean's depths--"In this matter
man's sexuality may be modified. Sartre needs peace and quiet. The dead are better adapted to the earth than the living. Bost is on the Cinema Vigilance Committee. I want to go skiing. Merleau-Ponty"--

Will she ever quit talking?


*Substantial excerpts from Force of Circumstance were published in Harper's in November and December 1964, titled "The Question of Fidelity" and "An American Rendezvous." - The Editors
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Re: ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby fansmom » Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:50 pm

Umm, I think he may have let his personal feelings toward her color his reaction to her book.
Hell hath no fury like a man scorned.

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Re: ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby nebraska » Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:54 pm

I have not read Force of Circumstance. I am 115 pages into the Mandarins and finding it a bit ponderous so far. As Nelson implies, it would be hard to identify the real life characters unless you knew them personally; fortunately I found a list on line that tells me who is supposed to represent whom. It is going to be more interesting to me now to read one of Simone's fiction books after seeing this "review", even if I am reading a different book, since the Mandarins is partly about him as well. Did he have the same angry reaction to that book?

This piece by Nelson doesn't seem so much like a book review as a way to expose Simone as a man-hating militant (nipping off the poor little sperm's tail) who is also a fool (with the references to Alice and her world). He is angry. Maybe he is even angry and terribly hurt. But the love affair is obviously over!

Sometimes I have trouble following Nelson's train of thought. I think it is something in his sentence structure. The piece is very powerfully and graphically written. In some ways, though, it seems more like a personal attack based on hurt feelings than a book review based on the merits of Simone's writing.

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Re: ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby nebraska » Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:55 pm

fansmom wrote:Umm, I think he may have let his personal feelings toward her color his reaction to her book.
Hell hath no fury like a man scorned.

:highfive:

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Re: ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby fansmom » Thu Nov 04, 2010 2:33 pm

I know that the reviews I read in the newspaper and hear on the radio sometimes say things like "Disclosure: the reviewer worked with the author for two years at the Washington Post." I'm not sure I want to imagine what the disclosure would say in the case of Simone and Nelson!

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Re: ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby fireflydances » Thu Nov 04, 2010 4:14 pm

Wow. The lady is skewered to the wall no? And I agree with fansmom:
Umm, I think he may have let his personal feelings toward her color his reaction to her book.


I really want to read it through again and come back with some specific comments he makes. Thank you Liz/DITHOT for finding a piece that gives us some definitive insight into his perspectives on Simone and the relationship.
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Re: ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Thu Nov 04, 2010 4:52 pm

I have to admit I had a hard time following what he was trying to say at times. It definitely seems more like a personal indictment than a book review. Feel free to come back and comment at any time. :cool:
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Re: ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby gemini » Thu Nov 04, 2010 5:18 pm

First I have to say again. I love this man. I laughed out loud reading this. Heavens, where to start. He covered so many things about her nature in his remarks. The good and the bad. And adding the analogy to Alice in wonderland. Priceless !

Yes. Nebraska, he had the same reaction to the Mandarins but it was Force of Circumstance that broke their relationship.

I do agree with those of you who say he was hurt by this time and a bit pissed off. I knew this from the git go in this discussion but with all I’ve learned, I am more in his corner even here. He obviously is throwing in a few puns to Second Sex, her political life, and her sex life. (And who knew better than Nelson even though it was a gradual lesson for him as her real life became known in her books.)

One thing here that is interesting is that he only read FOC which is no way as revealing of Simone’s affairs as her Letters to Sartre published after both their deaths. He would have been a lot more incensed.
Yes Fireflydances, I have to ponder some of this a bit more to really discuss it. He is a very intelligent guy and I see a lot here that reflects on other parts of her life. I’ll be back. :biggrin:

PS Thanks for finding this. I looked everywhere for it.
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Re: ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby nebraska » Thu Nov 04, 2010 5:24 pm

gemini wrote:
Yes. Nebraska, he had the same reaction to the Mandarins but it was Force of Circumstance that broke their relationship.



Well, then, knowing that should add a bit of spice to my reading! :lol:

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Re: ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby gemini » Thu Nov 04, 2010 7:27 pm

A few of my favorite lines in Algren’s review.

He ends one line with …….she is going to hold her breathe until he does. This so reminds me of her personality.

When she is right she is really right. And when she is wrong she is preposterous. Sounds about right to me.

No other writer has exposed the myths of femininity so lucidly while guarding her own so jealously.He says what was going through my head the whole time I tried to read the Second Sex.

He repeats one of Simone's quotes here that repelled me when I first read it.
Often preached, rarely practiced, complete fidelity is usually experienced by those who impose it upon themselves as a mutilation, they console themselves for it by sublimation’s or by drink. When reading her life I thought she consoled herself with drink to handle the realities of her sexual freedom and tolerating it in her partner.

And his remarks about her and Sartre’s pact. I love it.
She could trust Jean Paul Sartre to be faithless, That was a shrewd move right there.
:biglaugh:
Anyone who can experience love contingently has a mind that has recently snapped. :harhar:

Thus she snips off the poor little devil’s tail. Is that an another snip he is referring to? :-O

These 3 lines I can take as nothing but a snide remark about her sex life. Algren had been reading all the same books as I’ve been into lately. Each of these men she slept with. (She invited Ponty on a skiing trip, it seemed her favorite way of inviting a sexual rondevuuz.) She was always going skiing with Bost because Olga and Sartre didn’t like to ski.

Sartre needs peace and quiet.
Bost is on the Cinema Vigilance Committee.
I want to go skiing, Merleau Ponty.


Will she ever quit talking? I think this is because she had several books out now revealing her sexual partners and personal friends. Olga, Bost Sartre in 'She came to Stay'. Sartre, Algren, Camus, Koestler, Sorokine and a few others in the 'Mandarins'. Her bios like 'Dutiful Daughter', 'The Prime of life', 'Force of circumstance', and 'All Said and Done' reveal everyone she ever knew or met, sometimes with alias’s, sometimes not.
As I said before, All these were in Algren's lifetime so I think it is these he is referring. 'Letters to Sarter', and Sartre's 'war dairies' and 'Sarter's letters' all were published much later but were far more revealing.

Yes, Algren may have been mad but I don't think without reason.
Last edited by gemini on Fri Nov 05, 2010 1:37 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby fireflydances » Thu Nov 04, 2010 10:32 pm

OK. I hope the following makes sense!

I’ve spent two hours tonight going through Algren’s review because while it is an incredibly dense document, it says so much about his perception of this woman he once loved so deeply. Yes, written in bitterness but filled with terrible insight. You can’t help but wonder when it was that he first came to understand all this about Simone and then get the gut feeling it was early on.

I think it’s a convoluted and repetitious piece: he states the same thing different ways. There are also parts where he wanders off onto other threads that interfere with his main thesis. In any case, I got out of it two big things.

1. Her Reflected Life -- Not Lived But Watched
“Mme. de Beauvoir's world, that she reports with such infinite accuracy is a reflected vision; no one ever lived behind that looking-glass. Which is why all the characters of her novels, although drawn directly from life, have no life on the printed page. These people are rememberable only if one has happened to have known them; from her books one remembers not one.”

So Algren begins as though he is reviewing Simone’s ability as a writer, but immediately he is reviewing Simone as a human being.

I felt an immediate sense of recognition reading this. I was very taken by Algren’s reference to Alice Through the Looking Glass as a metaphor for Simone’s approach to life: as though she saw real-time life as an alternate reality, a world that is a reflection on her constructed world. Major backwards stuff – the Alice allusion is so telling. Simone definitely does give one the feeling that she stands apart from her relationships, observing and pondering but not completely present, not in the moment with her lovers. And then, wearing the hat of a reviewer again, Algren adds that this tendency to objectify makes it harder to bring her characters totally alive. At least, that’s what I get.

“No other modern writer has moved millions of women, leading submerged lives, toward lives of their own while leading her own vicariously. No other writer has exposed the myths of femininity so lucidly while guarding her own so jealously. Her humanitarianism would be irrefutable if it weren't for men and women getting in the way.”

Vicariously (from the dictionary): felt or enjoyed through imagined participation in the experience of others

Two things here. The notion that she is living vicariously follows on Algren’s earlier remark about “reflected vision” -- she is acting ‘as if’ in situations. So does it follow that he felt she didn’t so much ‘love’ as act ‘as if she loved’? And then, “guarding her own myth” Again, living a consciously constructed life, carefully tending her image.

2. The Reality of Love Versus the Absurdity of a Freedom that Requires Contingent Love or How Contingent Love Means Contingent Life, we come full circle

Algren now expands his critique to examine how this ‘reflected life” condemns Simone. He begins this thesis by taking Simone’s words to readers and exposing the absurdity of her vision of life.

"Can there be any possible reconciliation between fidelity and freedom?" she inquired of Harper's readers last November* and answered herself in the next paragraph: Often preached, rarely practiced, complete fidelity is usually experienced by those who impose it upon themselves as a mutilation, they console themselves for it by sublimations or by drink."

“This leaves a single-hearted woman with no way of remaining faithful except by staying drunk all day. It also imposes a grave risk on any woman, who values her freedom, who takes a lover: she must face it: he might prove faithful! Which would obligate her to be equally faithful. Then both would have to stay drunk all day. For what is left when one's freedom is lost?

"Fan her head!" the Red Queen, anxiously interrupted. "She'll be feverish after so much thinking……………….. (and several paragraphs later) “Anybody who can experience love contingently has a mind that has recently snapped. How can love be contingent? Contingent upon what? The woman is speaking as if the capacity to sustain Man's basic relationship--the physical love of woman and man--were a mutilation; while freedom consists of "maintaining through all deviations a certain fidelity"!

Rapier wit here, but great pain, this is where he nails her, the heart of the matter for Algren. I guess I would call it her lie of freedom versus his reality of love. He obviously saw himself as “the risk of a faithful man” who went and upset Simone’s applecart of constructed reality, her terror about losing personal freedom. I wish that he spoke more about his view of freedom because I think he is saying that freedom’s real value lies in choosing to “lose it” deliberately. Perhaps because she lived such a reflected life, journeying almost disembodied through reality and therefore highly fearful of being trapped, anchored outside herself, freedom is her only choice.

He re-states this again later saying, “The horse-player who can't bear to mill about in the middle of a mob of two-dollar bettors, and so devises his own home-system which give him winners every day and obviates the necessity of going to the track, is in much less the same strange conditions as Mme. de Beauvoir. He goes to the Jockey Club file and she goes to the Bibloteque Nationale. And to both, the bettors milling about, making wrong guesses and going broke, appear mutilated. “

"Mme. de Beauvoir's appeal is to the woman who never got to the track: whose life somehow went away or was lived by somebody else in another town. She too has found that, once in the room behind the looking-glass, one cannot, like Alice, get back to one's old room.”

And finally, and I take this out of sequence but it makes more sense here, Algren speaks about “procurers (as being) more honest than philosophers” and “The true mutilation to them, is not passion, but passionlessness; and loving too violently a lesser affliction than being able to love only contingently. Because it means she is able to live only contingently.”

Algren sees himself ultimately then as the passionate and violent man – mutilated according to Simone. But in his eyes, she is the mutilated one living a life that is “contingent” i.e. conditional, a life that may be or may not be dependent on anything real.
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Re: ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby gemini » Fri Nov 05, 2010 1:30 am

fireflydances wrote:OK. I hope the following makes sense!

I’ve spent two hours tonight going through Algren’s review because while it is an incredibly dense document, it says so much about his perception of this woman he once loved so deeply. Yes, written in bitterness but filled with terrible insight. You can’t help but wonder when it was that he first came to understand all this about Simone and then get the gut feeling it was early on.

I think it’s a convoluted and repetitious piece: he states the same thing different ways. There are also parts where he wanders off onto other threads that interfere with his main thesis. In any case, I got out of it two big things.

1. Her Reflected Life -- Not Lived But Watched
“Mme. de Beauvoir's world, that she reports with such infinite accuracy is a reflected vision; no one ever lived behind that looking-glass. Which is why all the characters of her novels, although drawn directly from life, have no life on the printed page. These people are rememberable only if one has happened to have known them; from her books one remembers not one.”

So Algren begins as though he is reviewing Simone’s ability as a writer, but immediately he is reviewing Simone as a human being.

I felt an immediate sense of recognition reading this. I was very taken by Algren’s reference to Alice Through the Looking Glass as a metaphor for Simone’s approach to life: as though she saw real-time life as an alternate reality, a world that is a reflection on her constructed world. Major backwards stuff – the Alice allusion is so telling. Simone definitely does give one the feeling that she stands apart from her relationships, observing and pondering but not completely present, not in the moment with her lovers. And then, wearing the hat of a reviewer again, Algren adds that this tendency to objectify makes it harder to bring her characters totally alive. At least, that’s what I get.

“No other modern writer has moved millions of women, leading submerged lives, toward lives of their own while leading her own vicariously. No other writer has exposed the myths of femininity so lucidly while guarding her own so jealously. Her humanitarianism would be irrefutable if it weren't for men and women getting in the way.”

Vicariously (from the dictionary): felt or enjoyed through imagined participation in the experience of others

Two things here. The notion that she is living vicariously follows on Algren’s earlier remark about “reflected vision” -- she is acting ‘as if’ in situations. So does it follow that he felt she didn’t so much ‘love’ as act ‘as if she loved’? And then, “guarding her own myth” Again, living a consciously constructed life, carefully tending her image.

2. The Reality of Love Versus the Absurdity of a Freedom that Requires Contingent Love or How Contingent Love Means Contingent Life, we come full circle

Algren now expands his critique to examine how this ‘reflected life” condemns Simone. He begins this thesis by taking Simone’s words to readers and exposing the absurdity of her vision of life.

"Can there be any possible reconciliation between fidelity and freedom?" she inquired of Harper's readers last November* and answered herself in the next paragraph: Often preached, rarely practiced, complete fidelity is usually experienced by those who impose it upon themselves as a mutilation, they console themselves for it by sublimations or by drink."

“This leaves a single-hearted woman with no way of remaining faithful except by staying drunk all day. It also imposes a grave risk on any woman, who values her freedom, who takes a lover: she must face it: he might prove faithful! Which would obligate her to be equally faithful. Then both would have to stay drunk all day. For what is left when one's freedom is lost?

"Fan her head!" the Red Queen, anxiously interrupted. "She'll be feverish after so much thinking……………….. (and several paragraphs later) “Anybody who can experience love contingently has a mind that has recently snapped. How can love be contingent? Contingent upon what? The woman is speaking as if the capacity to sustain Man's basic relationship--the physical love of woman and man--were a mutilation; while freedom consists of "maintaining through all deviations a certain fidelity"!

Rapier wit here, but great pain, this is where he nails her, the heart of the matter for Algren. I guess I would call it her lie of freedom versus his reality of love. He obviously saw himself as “the risk of a faithful man” who went and upset Simone’s applecart of constructed reality, her terror about losing personal freedom. I wish that he spoke more about his view of freedom because I think he is saying that freedom’s real value lies in choosing to “lose it” deliberately. Perhaps because she lived such a reflected life, journeying almost disembodied through reality and therefore highly fearful of being trapped, anchored outside herself, freedom is her only choice.

He re-states this again later saying, “The horse-player who can't bear to mill about in the middle of a mob of two-dollar bettors, and so devises his own home-system which give him winners every day and obviates the necessity of going to the track, is in much less the same strange conditions as Mme. de Beauvoir. He goes to the Jockey Club file and she goes to the Bibloteque Nationale. And to both, the bettors milling about, making wrong guesses and going broke, appear mutilated. “

"Mme. de Beauvoir's appeal is to the woman who never got to the track: whose life somehow went away or was lived by somebody else in another town. She too has found that, once in the room behind the looking-glass, one cannot, like Alice, get back to one's old room.”

And finally, and I take this out of sequence but it makes more sense here, Algren speaks about “procurers (as being) more honest than philosophers” and “The true mutilation to them, is not passion, but passionlessness; and loving too violently a lesser affliction than being able to love only contingently. Because it means she is able to live only contingently.”

Algren sees himself ultimately then as the passionate and violent man – mutilated according to Simone. But in his eyes, she is the mutilated one living a life that is “contingent” i.e. conditional, a life that may be or may not be dependent on anything real.


Very well said. As for making sense, I found myself agreeing with you on each point so we must have got the same opinion of what he meant.

The notion that she is living vicariously follows on Algren’s earlier remark about “reflected vision” -- she is acting ‘as if’ in situations. So does it follow that he felt she didn’t so much ‘love’ as act ‘as if she loved’? I think he is saying that if she is not committed enough for fidelity, she is just playing at love.

I think he is saying that freedom’s real value lies in choosing to “lose it” deliberately. Yes, I think you are right. Strangely choice is an existentialism description so I don’t see why fidelity didn’t fit in as well as infidelity in her beliefs.

I have to agree with Algren, Simone condemns fidelity and thinks promiscuity is natural. Funny, Simone being that way herself never made her happy about sharing Sartre or even Bost. She never could control her jealousy. She did live a very interesting and full life but I think much of it was not happy, even though she tries to justify her feelings in her books all her life.

Algren can be sarcastic and very blunt but he does make his point and I like the way he writes, even about Simone. I still hope to see his letters to her someday, if for no reason than to justify my own curiosity.
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Re: ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby Liz » Fri Nov 05, 2010 3:11 am

Before I comment on any responses, I want to give my first reaction upon reading this piece:

That his basic points were.......

• that she wanted to control things or take charge, that she thought herself superior

• that she wanted to uncover and expose injustices (which was a good thing) but that she exposed too much (she just couldn't keep her mouth shut) and some of it was inaccurate or embellished

I think we get an idea here that maybe her wordiness in her letters may have secretly driven him nuts. You can also tell that he didn’t like her superior air in some of her letters (like when she gets impatient with him for not wanting to learn French).....


Nelson Algren wrote:While other writers reproach the reader gently, she flattens his nose against the blackboard, gooses him with a twelve-inch ruler, and warns him if he doesn't start acting grown-up she's going to hold her breath till he does.



Gemini, you brought out his best quotes. He was a witty guy……especially when he was mad. I wonder if he always had a sardonic sense of humor. I have a feeling he did. And I can see her being attracted to that.


My comments on what Firefly said:

"Simone definitely does give one the feeling that she stands apart from her relationships, observing and pondering but not completely present, not in the moment with her lovers. And then, wearing the hat of a reviewer again, Algren adds that this tendency to objectify makes it harder to bring her characters totally alive. At least, that’s what I get."
Firefly, I think she did plenty of observing of people and commented plenty on her observations. I’m not convinced that she saw people as they really were, but how she wanted to see them. And I wonder if this is what Algren meant with his references to Alice.

"So does it follow that he felt she didn’t so much ‘love’ as act ‘as if she loved’?"
And sometimes the idea that she is playing the act of being in love comes through in her letters. It is as if she is in love with the idea of being in love more that she is in love with Algren.

"I wish that he spoke more about his view of freedom because I think he is saying that freedom’s real value lies in choosing to “lose it” deliberately."
I agree. I have always been for women having free choice. I did not want men to control us. But that did not necessitate my insisting on a career my entire life. I chose, because I had the freedom to do so, to be a stay at home mom. So in my mind, freedom is an individual’s right to choose how he/she wants to live. I think she went overboard on insisting that freedom meant not committing. However, she did do whatever the heck she wanted. So I call that freedom.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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nebraska
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Re: ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby nebraska » Fri Nov 05, 2010 7:46 am

fireflydances, what an excellent analysis of the article! :applause2: You brought out a lot of points that I had skipped over.

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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Re: ATLA Question #25 - The Harper's Article

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Nov 05, 2010 10:24 am

Thanks, everyone for analyzing this article so well. Not having read any of Simone's other books I was lost for much of it. Algren must have felt like one of her lab rats when he started reading all her other books.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!


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