This is my first Faith and Fiction Round Table discussion and, honestly, I'm a little bit nervous. I hope I can do the Round Table justice. Here goes...
Certain Women by Madeleine L'Engle tells the story of David, a famous actor, whose life has mirrored that of the biblical King David. He has had eight wives and numerous children, along with other affairs. As the book opens, we find David with his daughter and eighth wife on board his small yacht as he dies of cancer. Throughout the course of the book, we see David's life primarily through the eyes of his daughter, Emma. We go back and forth between current time, as David dies, and Emma's retelling of the family's past. Much of this past revolves around a play about King David, written by Emma's estranged husband and her father's obsession with that play.
I'll be posting a review with my thoughts on the writing and entertainment value later, but these posts are intended to focus on a topical aspect of the book. They may contain spoilers, so be warned. If you've read this one or have something to add, please join in in the comments section!
I'm going to address a topic that was small in relation to the major themes of the book as a whole, but that stood out to me. Hopefully, addressing a more minor aspect will keep me from repeating (inadequately) what the other members are discussing. My favorite moment in the book described the relationship between the biblical David and Jonathan. Emma and her husband, who at that point in the book is writing his play, mention how sexualized our culture has become. They are discussing whether or not David and Jonathan had a plutonic or romantic love and Emma wishes that people could allow friendship to be intimate without sexualizing it.
One of the best lectures I ever attended in college was given by a male professor who had a very close platonic relationship with another male professor. They memorized Shakespeare's sonnets together and walked around campus quoting them. The lecture was given regarding Tennyson's relationship to his beloved friend in In Memoriam. Current scholars debate Tennyson's relationship with his friend, as they do Shakespeare's relationship with the male subject of his sonnets. The professor compared his friendship to both of these and mourned the culture's inability to accept expressionf of platonic male friendship.
We've come a long way in our acceptance of various sexualities and expressions of sexuality. Many things that were considered immoral or even illegal are now culturally acceptable. However, we still can't seem to wrap our heads around the idea of two men loving each other in a non-romantic way. If a man tells another man that he loves him, especially if he expresses that love physically or in any sort of emotional way, we assume they are romantically involved. The same often applies to women. Sugar Bear and I are affectionate with each other publically (Sugar Bear is my sister if you're not aware) and we've gotten the stink eye (or cat calls) more than once. I'm not talking about frenching my baby sister here - but we sometimes hold hands when we walk and kiss on the cheek to greet each other. Emma also mentions this same experience at a later point in the book, as she holds hands on a walk with one of her father's wives.
While this only gets a brief specific mention in the book, it does tie to several other themes seen throughout the story. This was especially evident to me in Emma's rape. I think L'Engle did a good job of pulling together Billy's sexual aggression towards Emma with her earlier comments to her husband on the sexualized nature of relationships. What should have been a platonic brother-sister relationship became something more when Billy gave in to the demands of culture and the pressure of his family. We also see this happen time and again in David's relationships with various women. Sex is the assumed mode of communication and expression of love between two people at any given time.
What do you think, Reader Friends? Am I wrong? Tell me why! I love a good discussion on things like this! Also, if you see me on the street loving on a cute brunette, get your mind out of the gutter - that's my Sugar Bear!
You can see posts on the book by other Round Table members at these links:
My Friend Amy
The 3 R's Blog
Tina's Book Reviews
My Random Thoughts
Books and Movies
Crazy for Books