Maybe it’s the influence of the sultry air of summer, heavy, dirty, and mournful with thunderstorms that will never come, but in just two days last week, on ferry boat and BART train, I saw three women reading celebrated novels of adultery: two Anna Kareninas and one Madame Bovary. We all get the yen, and I too felt like putting down Paradise Lost, because even the deepest love can tire, oh, just a bit, after a dozen or so readings, and grabbing a ripe adulteress from the shelf, but I resisted and went back to the battle in Heaven. Reading about it (adultery, not warring angels) is so much easier than dealing with it oneself (well, I guess that's true of the angels as well); go for the glamour and avoid the work. By "glamour" I mean "deep insight into the human condition", of course.
If you’re tired of trains and arsenic, though, you may dazzle and entice your friends with some equally great but more obscure members – and who doesn’t like obscure members? – of the body of nineteenth-century adultery novels, lesser known only, I have no doubt, because they are written in Spanish and Portuguese: Leopoldo Alas’s La Regenta and Galdos’s Fortunata and Jacinta from Spain, and any of the novels of the great Eca de Queiros (sometimes spelled Queiroz) from Portugal. As a public service, because that is the sort of thing I do here, I will provide a pronunciation guide to Queiros’s name (which contains various cedillas and things which I am omitting out of laziness and ignorance). I myself have a wretched Portuguese accent, and speak only a few words, but since “I am offended” and “You are shameful” are among them, I am in reality fully equipped for life in Lisbon, though perhaps not in Rio.
Anyway, I asked my father, a native speaker, and here goes: AY – sa duh kay – ROYZH. Do that with a slight backward roll on the “R” and you’re close enough. My father then hastened to inform me that the family (meaning his older relatives) did not consider Queiros a decent author, which is really all the enticement one might need. (By the way, if you read The Maias, and you should, do not read any of the introductory material first, at least in the Penguin edition – there is a major plot point they blithely give away, and you should come across it on your own.) I also used to see every movie condemned by the Vatican until they got around to The da Vinci Code. Not even the Pope’s proscriptive thunder could make me want to sit through that. When I finally heard what the book was about, I was stunned: that’s it? Jesus had kids who now live in the south of France, undoubtedly sucking on Gauloises and sneering at Americans? Look, if they can’t turn water into wine, I’m not interested. What an odd tribute to the human obsession with bloodlines, and what a sad insight into what passes for religious discourse in this country.
Since I’m providing pronunciation guides to Portuguese names, I’m going to put it on the record that my last name is pronounced to rhyme with “jazz.” Any other pronunciation gets a correction from me, and when I occasionally have the pleasure of meeting someone who reads me, I hate for the very first thing I say to be a correction. My grandparents anglicized the pronunciation when they emigrated, and in one of my few faint gestures towards ancestral respect I insist on their pronunciation. Though perhaps what I’m respecting is anglicizing, on behalf of several branches on the other side of the family tree.
Speaking of unsatisfied yearnings and disappointment, I finally have DSL installed, and though the guy from AT&T who had to show up to repair the line here was extremely prompt and helpful, everything else, meaning mostly the speed, has been . . . unimpressive. I haven’t had the heart for my eagerly planned YouTube orgy, because it just takes so much more time than I thought it would. I mean, I’m glad I’m off dial-up, but mostly because it’s just embarrassing still to be on dial-up. If you don’t own a cell phone (I don't), people assume you’re making a statement, as opposed to just being befuddled and stuck in the past, and they might even think it’s some sort of intriguingly independent-minded and subversively Luddite anti-electronic-leash statement, as opposed to “I am unpopular and do not get calls and besides I hate figuring out new technology”, whereas with dial-up all you’re really saying is that you sure do miss 1997.
Speaking of missing things, I'm really going to miss subscribing to the San Francisco Opera. I felt a restless melancholy earlier tonight as I prepared for tomorrow night's date with Lucia di Lammermoor by tearing my second-to-the-last subscription opera ticket from the subscriber ticket sheet I received last summer as I have every summer since 1992. Then comes Ariodante next Friday, and then farewell to Orchestra Left D5, and farewell to my sixteen-or-so years of subscribing and donating. I’ll undoubtedly end up at some of the operas next season, but it's not quite the same. I’ll be damned if I’m going to encourage Gockley as he drains all artistic excitement from the opera house. Technical toys are no substitute. I know I’ve already said I’ll be damned if I encourage the Opera's bold retreat to 1953, but I’ll say it again: I’ll be damned if I pay for a ticket to La Boheme or the lovely though exhausted standards Gockley is trotting out for the walled-in tastes of those who think, or rather who wish, that the musical world stopped with Rosenkavalier. The Opera’s upcoming schedule is not a season, it is a surrender. Oh, here I go again, an obsessive and spurned lover. I do wish them every happiness. What do I know. Maybe they were right to dump me, or, rather, in that classic move, to maneuver things so I felt compelled to dump them. Maybe it all really has been downhill since Zinka stopped singing Gioconda.
Under the circumstances, the San Francisco Symphony is looming larger and more gratefully in my mind. I am, needless to say, way behind in posting, so expect the drawn-out summer nights to be filled with Proustian (long, ravishingly self-indulgent) reminiscences of concerts from months ago (look, it’s all memory as soon as you stop applauding anyway), but I do wish I had written sooner about some of the Symphony concerts, just because I’m so glad to see a big musical organization that seems to be pointed in the right direction. I’m heading there Saturday night for my favorite Beethoven symphony and the new piece by Magnus Lindberg, but even though I’ve been eagerly anticipating this concert all season, still (and watch me ouroboros this whole thing, right here!) part of this faithless lover’s heart will be longing for the exotic charms to be found in hanging with the cool kids at the Columbarium. Go, and live without regrets.