Tuesday, March 3, 2015

the last book I ever read (Rabih Alameddine's An Unnecessary Woman, excerpt five)

from 2014 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine:

I did live for art, though. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I don’t think. I didn’t sit down one day and plan on a life devoted to aesthetic beauty. I’m not berating myself for that. I slipped into art to escape life. I sneaked off into literature.

The forbidden aspects of this life may have seduced me. I don’t think anyone approved of my reading when I was a child. My mother certainly didn’t, and my stepfather made sure to criticize when he noticed: “Reading is bad for your eyes. You’ll soon need glasses, which will make you even less attractive.” My family would have been incontrovertibly hostile to art had they known that such a thing existed—if you showed them a grand piano, they probably wouldn’t have known what manner of beast it was. Of course I received various permutations of the “Who will want to marry you if you read so much?” lecture, but I also had to endure the chilly “Don’t try to be so different from normal people.”

Different from normal people? When I first heard that, I was sorely offended. I thought every person should live for art, not just me, and furthermore, why would I want to be normal? Why would I want to be stupid like everyone else?

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