The Reader (2)

When I ended my last posting,  I felt so exhausted I thought my final moments on earth were upon me. I expected, then, that I would never write again, never see another film, never read another book, well, at least not in this earthly realm.

You may think me excessively maudlin, but I’ll explain that I’m 113, being born in 1895. There aren’t many my age and still living. I may arguably be the oldest of us bloggers, for I sense from the content of what you, my fellow bloggers, write that most of you are under thirty, although I’ve come across in the blogosphere a couple of you sixty and seventy year-olds, but certainly no older. Now you may understand how much the anomaly I feel when I post my pieces.

Being 113 I feel grateful each morning I wake up alive. I live in the moment. I’m the quintessential existentialist. I feel the warmth of the sun’s rays, luxuriate in them. When a bird sings I stop everything and listen. When I eat I savour slowly each mouthful. When I see a film I become so a part of it I forget where I am, who I am. When I read a novel I see the characters, hear their voices, see what they see, hear what they hear, think what they think, feel what they feel.

Thus, as I watched the film, “The Reader”, and its scenes of Hannah (Kate Winslet) in the bath with the young man, Michael, it was I, not Michael, who was in the bath with her. It was I, not Michael, who read aloud to Hannah as she sat opposite me in the tub. It was I, not Michael, whom she soaped down. It was I, not Michael, who soaped down Hannah. It was I, not Michael, who lay entwined with Hannah in her bed afterwards in post-coital bliss.

And as I watched “The Reader”, I thought how I would have loved it had I had a thirty five year-old woman as a lover when I was fifteen, when it was older mature women, the thirty five year-olds, whom I lusted after, not the fifteen and sixteen year-olds whom I was supposed to lust after. And these most desirable thirty five year-old women were made even more desirable because their bodies and limbs were fully covered. Remember, this was circa 1910 when the mini-skirt, the plunging decolletage, and the thonged bikini, were as unimaginable as the silicon chip. There was almost no bare womanly flesh to be seen, so my nightly erotic dreams of these most desirable older women were all the more vivid, all the more Bacchanalian.

On the other hand, had I, when fifteen, had a thirty five year-old lover like Hannah, my memories of her may have spoiled my subsequent love-affairs, as Michael’s memories of Hannah did actually spoil his subsequent love affairs, since he always compared the women he had love affairs with, with Hannah, and always found them woefully wanting. Thus his good fortune, his triumph, as a fifteen year old, contained the seeds of his later romantic disappointments, including his marriage which ended unhappily.

While my wife, Gladys, was a great disappointment to me in the conjugal sense (although she was, apart from a couple of lapses, a good and dutiful woman), I did have several love affairs with other women, some of whom I’ll never forget for the unutterable pleasure they gave me. Paradoxically they helped my marriage, since I didn’t demand of Gladys my conjugal rights nearly as often as I would have, absent these other women.

You who are reading this, may think I speak of romance exclusively in the past tense, since I’m 113, and cannot be expected ever again to have a love affair. This just isn’t true because the older I get the better lover I become. I will admit to having failed as a lover when much younger, particularly before the 1960s. But, as I said in my previous posting, I embraced the spirit of the 1960s, and this enriched my love affairs. I felt less the need always to be masterful, less the need always to act the cave-man, to admit to being vulnerable. For this, I became a better, a more sensitive, a more polymorphous lover.

Thus I expect to have future love affairs. Now, I do realize my 113 year-old body isn’t as aesthetically pleasing to the womanly eye as it was when I was twenty-five or so. But my 113 year-old body isn’t just any old 113 year-old body, for I continue to work out regularly in the gym, as I’ve done all my life. Thus my body can pass for that of a fifty or sixty year-old Baby Boomer, and Baby Boomers of this age still have love affairs. The older I become, the more women are available to me, for, as a 113 year-old, I can find women as old as seventy or eighty to be attractive.

Don’t misunderstand me. I do find thirty five year old women beautiful and desirable, as I find also their twenty-five year-old sisters beautiful and desirable. But I regard their physical beauty as I would a beautiful painting or sculpture. I drink in their beauty dispassionately. When I see a young man with a beautiful young woman, with whom he is in love, I think “good for him” and hope he and she will make beautiful and passionate love together. But I, myself, wouldn’t wish to make love with the young woman because it just wouldn’t feel right. Our enormous age difference, and that we are at totally different stages of our lives, would preclude a spiritual and intellectual communion between us – something essential for me in a love affair.

I love women more for their minds, intelligence, and emotional maturity, than for their physical beauty. I’ve known women who were quite plain-looking, but who had a warmth and intelligence which made them, for me, unutterably beautiful and desirable. This inner beauty is ageless. She who has it, and who doesn’t let it atrophy through dissipation, will always be beautiful and desirable to me, no matter her age.


The Reader

Just because I’m on the run from the American police for having killed many men, and am therefore forced to live underground in a basement of a demolished house in Texas, on the outskirts of a city I cannot for my own safety disclose, doesn’t mean I don’t still read books and watch films.

I’ve read voluminously throughout the last eighteen months I’ve been an outlaw, since reading is a wonderful way to pass the long hours of the day when I must keep out of the public gaze.

And, while reading, I’m not worrying about being caught by the police, being tried for murder, found guilty, then killed through lethal injection, because, whilst reading, I’m concentrating solely on the words on the page or computer screen (reading off a computer is as valid a form of reading as from the printed page). Thus I worry less than if I don’t read. Thanks to the internet, as well as to my circumstances, I read more than ever. So I’m ingesting more information than ever. Despite my 113 years, and being born in the nineteenth century, I’m a twenty-first century man, with my fingers pressed firmly on the Zeitgeist.

This is a perfect lead-in to the latest film I’ve seen, “The Reader”. The beginning of the story is set in West Germany in 1958. A fifteen year-old boy, Michael, becomes ill on the street, and begins vomiting. A thirty five year-old woman, Hannah, sees him, and takes him to her flat where she bathes him, then sends him home. Michael’s mother is grateful to Hannah for helping her boy, and she sends him back to Hannah with flowers as a thank-you gift.

Had Michael’s mother been clairvoyant she might not have sent Michael back, because, when again at Hannah’s, he gazed at her with desire, and she him. Thus they embarked on a love affair. But it wasn’t your normal love-affair because with normal love-affairs, you, if the man, don’t have to read aloud from books for many hours to your woman before making love. Reading to her is what Hannah made Michael do, for she hungered after knowledge, since she was, for all intents and purposes, uneducated.

So Michael read book after book – Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, The Magic Mountain, you name it – to Hannah while with her in the bath and lying in bed. Sitting in the bath together is what Michael and Hannah seemed to do lots of. Watching these bath scenes, I felt strong pangs of desire coursing through my body, because having a bath with a beloved is, for me, extremely erotic. In “The Reader”, the woman in the bath, Hannah, was in reality Kate Winslet, and what red-blooded man wouldn’t want to bath with Kate Winslet?

In the second half of my life, I’ve tried to make bathing with the beloved an integral part of my lovemaking. I like particularly the candle-lit bath. If only my wife, Gladys, had liked taking candle-lit baths with me, our love-making would have been other than a dreaded conjugal obligation. I was at least partly responsible, since, for the first forty years of our marriage, my approach to love-making with Gladys had been utilitarian, mechanical, obligatory.

It was only in the 1960s that I began to change my approach to love-making, when I imagined myself as a woman submitting to the sexual demands of men like me.

I went through this mental exercise not because of altruism, but because women were wanting nothing further to do with me after only one night of love. I had sufficient humility to see that the fault was mainly mine, that I hadn’t paid attention to the spirit of the 1960s, particularly the new feminism, when women were no longer content to be men’s doormats. Thus I had to change, or I would be ever after sexless – well, apart from sex with Gladys, my wife.

So, in my lovemaking with women other than Gladys, I became more sensitive to what they wanted, and this included erotic candle-lit baths. As a newly sensitive man I asked Gladys to take candle-lit baths with me too, on those occasions when we made love. But Gladys, who I knew had abhorred my decades of conjugal demands on her, just wasn’t enthusiastic. She continued to want me to complete quickly the love-making, while she lay back, and, no doubt, thought of England.

I feel suddenly overwhelmed with fatigue. I hope it isn’t my heart. I’m unable to write more today. If still alive, I’ll continue talking about “The Reader” next time.