The coming of age

I enjoyed (if that’s the word) a nice lead-in to a day of wrestling with official government agencies, including a school lender. It was a good day for force myself to remember the words of Julian of Norwich, who has a calming influence on me: All shall be well, and all things shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Mantra, anyone?

fuseli14 No, what I saw was a movie about fighting off the onslaught of impending old age. It’s called Elegy. It  was made from a Philip Roth novel entitled The Dying Animal. Its protagonist (are there heros anymore?) is named David Kepesh, he’s a senior literature professor who is somewhere in his sixties but who is drawn, almost against his will, to much younger women, as in one of his female graduate students. He is having a pretty torrid go-round with what looks to be a fortyish entrepreneur who is strikingly beautiful and who embodies why many men appreciate the ardor of older women. However, Consuela Castillo, the graduate student in her early twenties…well, you don’t have to guess at what occurs and occurs and occurs and blah-blah-blah.

But there is never a happy ending to a story like that. Indeed, what is a “happy ending,” anyway? I won’t spoil the story for those who don’t know it, but Death becomes a pervasive presence to line up with the old age that is creeping up not only on Kepesh but on his best friend. And illness…illness descends where it is least expected.

Nevertheless, watching the film I saw myself as the older teacher as literary character, even one played with the savor of rapacity, by the wonderful Ben Kingsley. Sometimes I have thought that post-secondary straight male teachers should either be vowed religious (like that would make a difference) or sent to the university directly from the spay-neuter clinic. Men smart enough to teach are smart enough to intuit the beauty and passion of someone perhaps not fully formed. At the same time, and perhaps because of that intelligence, they are prone to rationalizations, i.e., they are too stupid to get out of the room.

It’s the curse we carry. Over 30 years ago, one of my graduate student colleagues, who specialized in affairs with his undergraduate students after he’d turned in their grades, thank you, reflected with some sadness, “It’s difficult. We get older but they stay exactly the same.” Sadly, as in 1972, yes.

All the same, if David Kepesh isn’t my hero because he is a bit to scarily realistic, I wouldn’t mind having a spray from the magnetism bottle he was using.


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