Saturday, June 7, 2008


I've been tagged! as bloggers say excitedly when this happens to them.

By sheer luck, Sucharita Sarkar at Why Not Blog It Out was good enough to invite me to play a blog tag game, involving literature, just when I am reading -- no joke -- Rousseau's Confessions. So for the purposes of the game, I can seem much more intellectual than I would if she had tagged me last weekend, when I took it into my head to borrow a couple of bodice-ripper romances from the local public library. Sweet Revenge, anybody? To be fair, one could argue that Rousseau is just as smutty as, and far more genuinely unclean than, the excellent and hard- working ladies who keep the romance industry locomotive on the tracks and roaring by at 90 miles per hour year after year.

The rules of this tag game are like so:
Pick up the nearest book.
Turn to page 123.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the next three sentences.
Tag five people with this game, and acknowledge the person who tagged you.

Herewith, Rousseau, p. 123:

He knew all the great performers, all the famous works, all the actors, all the actresses, all the pretty ladies, and all the great gentlemen. He seemed familiar with everything that was alluded to. But directly a subject was mentioned he interrupted the conversation with some broad joke, which made everyone laugh and forget what had been said.

Tame and straightforward, by the standards of the book. The "he" in the passage is one Venture de Villeneuve, an impoverished musician who knocked on Rousseau's door in Annecy one cold February night in the early 1730s and, in time, led him on to "fresh follies" after he had been behaving himself for a year.

I must admit that page 123 is farther along in the book than I have actually reached, so I am not sure what happens next or even what follies came before. The Confessions is a difficult book to come at, for me, because years ago I read Paul Johnson's Intellectuals, whose first chapter savages Rousseau as a liar and a psychopath loathed and pitied, in the end, by most of the people who had ever known him. This is not to speak of what Johnson, and other conservative thinkers, regard as his wholly pernicious influence on the modern West.

We'll see if I am able to come to independent conclusions. So far, the anecdotes are not auguring well for the author, who smiles out at us so happily, or so creepily, from Maurice-Quentin de la Tour's sketch on the cover of the Penguin paperback edition. Here was a man who, in his thirties, snubbed an older woman with whom he fancied he had had a lover's quarrel as an eleven-year-old boy. Here also was a man who attended the opera as the guest of a friend, but then, when he saw how crowded the theater was, turned back to the ticket booth, handed in his ticket, pocketed his friend's refund money, and left. This is not to speak of Himself as that eleven year old boy, sneaking into a neighbor's kitchen and urinating in her cooking pot.

Anyway, thanks to Sucharita for tagging me. To finish playing my turn of the game, I have tagged:
Dr. Debs
Farmgirl Susan

Happy reading to all, and I will continue my journey through Rousseau's "enterprise which has no precedent, and which, once complete, will have no imitator."


  1. Thnaks,Nancy, for your prompt reply.

    Rousseau (we had read about him in political science classes in school/college) seems to have led an interesting life. But then, the general perception we have of liberal-minded Frenchmen of those centuries is that they were somewhat, er, bawdy, in their personal lives.Intellectual/artistic freedom overlapping into other areas of life as well?

    BTW, the Sayers you mentioned (the lady finding a body on the beach) is the one I'm reading now, HAVE HIS CARCASE.

  2. Hello Nancy.
    I'm up to the task!
    Thanks for including me.

  3. Nancy I just completed my task and the weirdest thing happened! (I think)
    Go take a look at my post. Tell me what you think.
    (It's truly real and organic. I didn't plan it at all. So weird.)

  4. Yep, I visited and it is kind of weird. (I left you a comment there.) I would say "Happy reading!" but it sounds kind of dorky :D