don’t wallow with regret,
avoid most illegality,
and stay away from debt,
read only what is well reviewed,
and movies that are praised
by critics, and sleep in the nude
with those by whom you’re crazed.
Be most discreet when writing e-mails,
stay away from porn;
at men who aren’t turned on by females
don’t snigger and don’t scorn.
Always drink expensive wine
when you’ve great food to eat,
but adultery decline
when you’ve a chance to cheat.
At 2am no one’s to blame,
but even earlier it
is wrong to cast on others shame,
unless they’re lacking wit,
because a lack of wit is what
the gods detest, and I,
and if you lack you will not
be for this bull the eye.
Inspired by Janet Maslin’s review of Amy Bloom’s book “Where the God of Love Hangs Out” (“The Flowerings of Love Are Not for the Weak, ” NYT, January 12,2010) :
“At 2 o’clock in the morning, no one is to blame, ” Amy Bloom writes at the start of her beautifully astute new book. Her narrator is Clare, a middle-aged academic speaking in the present tense. Clare and her best friend on the faculty, an Englishman named William, are sitting together watching disaster coverage on CNN, the light of the television glinting off their wedding rings as they unexpectedly embrace. It happens that each of them is married to another person, that the spouses are present, and that the spouses are asleep at 2 a.m., when Clare and William’s union begins. “It does not seem possible, ” Clare observes of her new lover, “that we are people with three children, two marriages and a hundred and ten years between us.” Oh, but it does. Ms. Bloom, who has worked as a psychotherapist as well as a creative writing professor, clearly has great gifts in both those realms. Her 2008 novel, “Away, ” was a marvel of concise eloquence and insight, full of artfully executed twists and turns. She writes about characters who are stunning in their verisimilitude but never really predictable in their behavior, and Clare and William quickly emerge as two such figures. Ms. Bloom follows them in sharply cliché-free ways from first embrace deep into guilty pleasure….
Ms. Bloom’s characters are uncommonly fully formed, seldom young, some of them well into old age. Yet they sustain the ability to surprise one another — and themselves. Case in point: Julia, a white woman who has just lost her black husband, a very famous and successful jazz musician, when she first appears in this book, in the story “Sleepwalking.” Julia and “Sleepwalking” date back to 1993, when they appeared in Ms. Bloom’s book “Come to Me, ” but they are well worth revisiting. The story is written without shock value, even as it tells of the single, mortifying night on which Julia and Lionel, who is the 19-year-old son of Julia’s husband from his earlier marriage, expressed their grief in ways that would haunt both of them for the rest of their lives. Ms. Bloom clearly believes that life goes on, no matter what mistakes one makes, until, suddenly, it doesn’t. And she finds it much more useful to make accommodations with reality than to wallow in regret.
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