Thursday, January 08, 2015

The anatomy of jealousy

Jealousy everywhere. I'm living and breathing it.

I read Alain Robbe-Grillet's Jealousy several years ago. I never got around to reviewing it here, but I recall noting that I might've interpreted it rather differently if it weren't for its title, if I hadn't known what it was supposed to be about. It couldn't be read cold. A weirdly dispassionate telling was suddenly imbued with a passionate external interpretation.

In The New York Review of Books, Diane Johnson considers the theme of jealousy in the light of a couple of books that I'm not sure I would ever have thought to group together, including Jealousy, by Peter Toohey:
One of Toohey's more interesting findings is that a morbidly jealous person (as opposed to "normally" jealous) is especially zealous in seeking "visual evidence to confirm the truth of the way they are feeling"; Othello must see Desdemona's handkerchief. This visual element makes film a particularly suitable medium for expressing jealousy. He suggests that stalking also arises from the visual need.
Toohey uses Robbe-Grillet's novel to illustrate a couple other points. I'm a little hung up on this novel at the moment and want to revisit it, having just watched Last Year at Marienbad (for which Robbe-Grillet wrote the screenplay) the other week.

Johnson also references Happy Are the Happy, a book of short stories by Yasmina Reza, which has just sky-rocketed to the top of my wishlist.

See also An Ode to Envy, a TED Talk by Parul Sehgal, an editor for The New York Times Book Review:
Jealousy is exhausting. It's a hungry emotion. It must be fed. [...] Jealousy is a hungry emotion. Jealousy like information. Jealousy likes detail. That's why Instagram is such a hit. Proust actually links the language of scholarship and jealousy. When Swann is in his jealous throes, and suddenly he's listening at doorways and bribing his mistress' servants, he defends these behaviors. He says, "You know, look, I know you think this is repugnant, but it is no different from interpreting an ancient text or looking at a monument." He says, "They are scientific investigations with real intellectual value." Proust is trying to show us that jealousy feels intolerable and makes us look absurd, but it is, at its crux, a quest for knowledge, a quest for truth, painful truth, and actually, where Proust is concerned, the more painful the truth, the better. Grief, humiliation, loss: These were the avenues to wisdom for Proust. He says, "A woman whom we need, who makes us suffer, elicits from us a gamut of feelings far more profound and vital than a man of genius who interests us." Is he telling us to just go and find cruel women? No. I think he's trying to say that jealousy reveals us to ourselves. And does any other emotion crack us open in this particular way? Does any other emotion reveal to us our aggression and our hideous ambition and our entitlement? Does any other emotion teach us to look with such peculiar intensity?

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