I’m finally done with Saul Bellow’s The Dean’s December. Took a long time because I kept it as a subway book. Enjoyed it, there are a few interesting things that sir Bellow does with his prose. His analysis is always a bit too analytical and the emotions are a bit too emotional, but all in all it takes a bit of going over the top to makes us see the difference once in a while.
Anyway, what has been puzzling me lately is the fact that literature characters seem to not keep up with the times (not even Ryu Murakami’s or Beigbeder’s). Take dean Corde, The Dean’s December‘s main character. He’s a middle aged chicagoan with mixed European origins that spends a month in communist Romania so as to be next to his wife at the moment of her mother’s death. He’s an intellectual of the old guard. Calm, moderate hard liquor drinker, with a background in philosophy and journalism that seems to understand all social intricacies by grasping them in a bookish manner. He’s a ‘ripe’ individual, the kind that has mostly already learned most relevant things of his time.
However… the action takes place I think at some time in the 60s or 70s. It’s hard to tell really cause apparently Romania was already poor as heck but Sinatra was still hip. Now… this was a tremendous time in history. You’ve got the birth of rock’n roll, JFK, Bob Dylan, Woodstock and blow. The world was changing. And apart from reflections on the daily assumed abnormality of a suppressed people (which would be us) and on the anti-humanism apparent in a murder trial or prison life (which probably don’t seem that acute to anybody anymore), the perspective’s missing. The ‘plots’ of the different narrative strings that intertwine seem to be pieces of a different puzzle.
And this man that’s supposed to bring it all together is neither here nor there. That’s what also makes him a good icon of cultivated people in general: he knows a heck of a lot of stuff about how things are supposed to be, dove a few times into what they are but really still has no clue what’s going on. And he’s not even trying to figure it all out. Most of the time he’s just… taking his time. Absorbing, comprehending, feeling. Things that most of us really have no time for, especially considering this age. Cause online made it all the more difficult. It’s becoming so easy to find out everything immediately that it’s turning into the only thing we do. We… find out, comment, move on, find out, comment, move on. But the necessary distance and time required for intimately acquiring what’s happening into our system seem to be long gone.
It’s kind of like the difference between an elephant… and a ping-pong ball i.e., between a creature doomed inside a tech era and something completely worthless but on the move.
So… what’s to be done?