Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Old Lovers, Young Things and Winter Mischief

I drove through the hills with an old lover the other afternoon. I know we were both thinking of summer nights under the grapevines, the smell of summer air, summer skin. That day it was foggy and cold and we drove swiftly, but there was mischief and memory in the air.

I love stories. What happens to people, how their lives unfold and what steers them through their both their bold and minor choices. I love plot lines, unexpected turns, stunning outcomes. I love the reduction of a big tale to a few simply driven lines.

The other week I read a film brief about a new film starring Naomi Watts,set in Australia, and taken from a Doris Lessing novella. Interesting. I saw the stills and cringed a little. It's called 'Two Mothers' and tells the story of two utterly best mates who have love affairs with each other's sons. There are glittery sea shots, clasped bodies in beds with gentle tans and rude biceps.

Of course the hook is: Could You? Would You? Would you ever dream of bedding your best mate's kid? A boy you've seen at every stage of growth. Baby, toddler, skinny kid, pimply teen, cheeky thing, young spruced-up sexually awakening man?

And then of course you're meant to run through the offspring of your best mates. That one - well, he is cute. That one - never! While alternately thinking of your own sons in bed - whaat! - stroking one of your 40+ girlfriends.

The few film reviews I read state that these affairs were lengthy - spanning years - until they were terminated by the mothers in 'respectable' old age. 'Respectable'? It's not that I'm a prude or shy from age-gap relationships, and everyone knows that love is chemical and grabs you by the throat...

But ladies. Naomi. Please.

I haven't read Doris Lessing's book of four novellas - 'The Grandmothers' - from which the novella is taken. But I will be ordering it when I finish this post. Like many of us I read 'The Grass is Singing' and 'The Golden Notebook' as a young woman but haven't read much Lessing since. Now I want to bypass what Hollywood has squeezed from this story (which will doubtlessly be elegantly produced, and probably quite a turn-on) and go back to the source. Doris Lessing's words. The compulsions of these people. The context. 

Already an old review of the story from The Guardian calls the set-up a 'cankerous self-indulgence rather than a daring liberation' and I wonder if Hollywood will pick up upon these degrees of self-delusion. Or what Lessing herself - an eighty-year-old master - writes,

'These lives were easy. Not many people in the world have lives so pleasant, unproblematical, unreflecting; no one in these blessed coasts lay awake and wept for their sins, or for money, let alone for food.'

Far more intriguing this, no? Than the illicit being given such grace.

16 comments:

  1. Good post to put the indulgence fest into perspective, I think.
    I haven't read Lessing yet - can't think how this has happened as I've had copies from the library and just not managed to pick them up before the return dates. Must remedy this.

    I think you have hit on something here about film adaptations in general focussing on the base aspects of novels and snapping a clapper board to the head of the work.

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    1. Thanks Rachel it makes you think how sumptuous and many-layered literature can be - and how the work of a film might lie somewhere else. Not just cheap and gutsy story lines, but something more stirring, which the best films always are.

      I never saw the film 'Atonement' because there was one scene which I thought was absolutely perfect in the book, and I couldn't bear the idea of a director tinkering with my vision. I'm looking forward to reading Lessing's novella.

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  2. Right now I'm reading Ancient Light by John Banville. It's told from the point of view of an older man (say his 60s, early 70s), an actor actually, who had an affair with his best friend's mother when he was 15 and she was 35.

    Other than it being similar, I don't know what it has to do with anything. Except, it's hard to wrap my head around. I can think of a few men I'd love to experience, but none of them are under the age of 30. I don't think.

    And now I'm going to think about old lovers. Happy sigh.

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    1. Always lovely to think of old lovers! And as for below thirty - nahh! I've been cleaning up after young men for decades. And I think there is always some form of brake applied around your sons' friends - it's just too weird, it does seem a form of desecration and abuse.

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  3. MMM - I think it is one thing to have an affair with a younger man - indeed I dated one 15 years younger than myself for 2 years - but a friend's child that you have known since day 1 - to me it is a bit creepy - the probability of 2 friends each having affairs with the other's son? I can't really imagine any plausibility and more of an ick factor in my mind. If there was no previous connection not so implausible - like Mrs Robinson :)

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    1. Oh I'm sure there's a way for these things to happen and why not a bit of Mrs Robinson? But not young vulnerable sons. There's certainly a big ick factor involved.

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  4. Have to agree with you on your reaction. I second Naomi. Please. Hadn't heard about this film yet. Don't think I'll be making my way to this one, however. Hope you're enjoying your holiday season, Catherine!

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    1. Great holiday over here, we've escaped to London! Hope Roma is treating you well. See you in the New Year!

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  5. My daughter and her boyfriend were here visiting for the holiday. She's 32. He's 26, and he's one handsome boy. But honestly he lost his shine pretty quickly ---- I was annoyed by his mannerisms and his stupid comments or lack thereof. I was even annoyed, eventually, by the way he held is cocktail glass and his trying-too-hard bohemian shoes.

    I tend to be drawn in by the distinguished older man, gray at the temples, confident in the smile. I never dated anyone my own age even when I was a youngster, always going for the older. When I was 27 my boyfriend (for lack of a better term) was 42. We dated 4 years until it crashed and burned, and it was an intense 4 years.

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    1. Yes I've also been drawn to old souls, with some silly young things along the way. Maturity can be so much more sexy than self-centredness I agree. The French say someone is 'bien dans sa peau' (comfortable in his or her skin) which seems the most appealing criteria. No neighbourhood boyz thanks!

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  6. Well this was a post to set the mind whirring, thankyou. I have read Doris Lessing but not this as I usually avoid novellas. Still cannot imagine this sort of relationship would work for me especially the son of a friend, no way! Happy New Year to you, I look forward to visiting your blog often in 2013.

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    1. Thanks Lindy and grazie for your review too! I'm still quite curious to read Doris Lessing's novella - more for the context and language than this concept. Sons of friends - not in my world! Looking forward to reading more of your blog too. Happy 2013 to you and family !

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  7. Hmm very provocative way to ring in the new year. But I have to say there's too much of a cringe factor with Naomi's film choice for me to ever consider seeing it. How many ways are there to express "yuck" and "ick" ...? On a lighter note, I look forward to reading more of your intriguing details about car drives with old lovers! Happy New Years,
    Leslie (Gwen Moss)

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    1. A Happy New Year to you too Leslie! I look forward to reading more of your words and I hope not to write too much nonsense !

      Ahh, old lovers and drives in the wintry hills...

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  8. Oh God. And why not. Why not?
    I f*d an old man when I was 20. I'm old now - and yet the rules of the game are that I've got to fend off the beautiful 25 yr olds who want to f* me?
    Lust is lust is lust. That chemical ignition can be sparked by the most inconvenient of partners. And unless huge hurt would ensue (and really, we can be discreet, surely, if we want to avoid that) why not?

    And the 'ick factor'? My sons are independant sexual beings. What they get up to is their adult business...

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  9. PS I've missed you! Life just intervened...

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