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Reading Notes: Isherwood

Is there such a thing as second best? Can one be in love with two people at the same time? How does one split the “love nerves”?

When I’m with you I’m a new, quite different person. That’s why you must never get upset, Tommy—you did, once or twice, you know—about any of the other people and relationships in my life. They simply cannot touch us, they couldn’t if they tried to, because what you and I have together belongs only to us. It doesn’t depend on anything else. It exists on its own.

I have never in my life met anyone like you. I only wish it could have happened sooner. I wish—I wish—oh hell! Forgive this drooling.

When shall I see you again? I have all sorts of schemes, as I hinted to you that evening I got so drunk up at your place. I know I oughtn’t to have mentioned them until I was sure—in my profession one should have learned the danger of making promises! But I just couldn’t keep them to myself. I suppose that was because I was so desperately anxious to hook you somehow! I mean, I’m not naive enough to imagine that anyone can be satisfied indefinitely by memories, especially if he’s young and full of life, like you. I did my best to help you build up a reserve to keep going on. That was why I didn’t leave until the last possible moment. But you must have something to look forward to, as well. Otherwise, I’d have no right to ask you to remember me at all. I ought not to be writing to you even. A Meeting By the River, Christopher Isherwood p.48-49

What beautiful and yet wistful passage. It touches my sore nerves. When relationship is one that is defined by long distance, maybe the best one can cope with the barrier is memory. A male lover and a wife. One of them ought to remain in the shadow.

(When I wrote this down in the journal, it looks so simple. But it’s really easier written than conceived. The verbalizing of thought is only possible when the intensity of emotion that impinges my blood vessel has subsided. maybe this what great literature does—get you in touch with the inner core.)

13 Responses

  1. I am glad you are reading this. I just read it in 2009 and it was one of my favorites.

  2. I think there is no question that one can love more than one person at the same time, quite fully, quite richly — at least that’s true for some people. But things can get complicated and scary. I agree about great literature touching us at the core; it hits the raw nerves sometimes.

  3. I believe you can love more than one person at the same time too….great passage!

    • I cannot come to love more than one person at a time. I know I would suppress it if I do. I always believe that I should be loyal to just one person. 🙂

  4. Such a striking quote. And I think your comment about touching the core links with this Isherwood quote as well: “One should never write down or up to people, but out of yourself.”
    ::adds author to TBR list::

  5. I have to admit I havent read this (am soon to start A Single Man) but I am so keen to read all Isherwoods workds after Goodbye To Berlin!

  6. Yes, one can love more than one person at the same time, but neither of those who are loved will ever able to recieve 100%. So the question is– is it worth being loved 25% of the time by someone you feel deeply for; or being loved 100% of the time by someone you don’t care as much about.

    I don’t know if this really relates to the book, but it’s what I was thinking when I read the passage and your thoughts :-)!

  7. This book sounds amazing. Thanks

    For some reason, you disappeared from my google reader! How I have no clue, but now that it came to my attention, I have a lot of catching up to do on your blog. You read some interesting books. Thanks Matt

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