The lapse of luxury

"It is bitter to have loved and lost than never to laugh it off," Bamuall Subtler

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Real Self

Intimacy is what most of us desire; it’s also industriously feared and avoided. Will Self’s story “Caring, Sharing” succinctly encapsulates these feelings. On the surface, it’s a science fiction scenario. The protagonists are modern-day Manhattan sophisticates that just happen to have lumbering monster-sized body-guards to take care of them. These creatures are also child-like, and cuddle adults as if they were un-weaned babes. The two main characters go on a date, and they even have a “sleep-over” afterward, but there is never physical contact. Nor do they share much outside their neuroses. They are both nerve fasci on par with Woody Allen’s persona. However, the huge child-monsters, innocently enjoy life, and sex (unbeknownst to their clue-less world-weary sponsors).
Like many other satisfying satires, the story is not ABOUT my interpretation… it suggests many alternate readings. So this little review isn’t a spoiler. Self doesn’t imply any interpretation. The monsters could also be psychological shadows of many qualities adults slough off or deny. For me the story asks questions that torment me. Why are we both sophisticated and oblivious? Why aren’t we honest about our desires and fears? Why don’t we admit we need constant approval and cuddling? (That is, at least for ourselves, if we don’t have a posse of admirers)

Will Self is usually a vicious visceral satirist with an over-stimulated vocabulary. I loved his supremely nasty Naked Apes, which tears apart contemporary society. And I was disturbed in a good way by My Idea of Fun, where the reader gets up-close and personal with a deluded psychopath. This story was a refreshing... unencumbered prose, and seemed compassionate even as it exposed human weaknesses. If any readers of this review have also come across compassionate satires, please let me know about them. They are quite rare, rare because one must laugh at the protagonist AND feel sorry for them. How often are we led to feel that? Deserved derision coupled with a sympathy for human nature.

This story made my day and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t nourish me for years to come.

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