October 27, 1966 [Loves of a Blonde]

Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio is good at understanding lies—but also good at telling the truth--unfortunately, sometimes. And the biggest, most necessary lies are about love--and the greatest of those lies is that we are all meant to have our portion, like a gift--or a reward for suffering the pain of not having it. I was stricken by the story of Alice Hindman, a woman who at twenty-five "began trying to force herself to face bravely the fact that many people must live and die alone." Anderson tells such a convincing truth about loss that I wish it were a lie.

A Czech director, Milos Forman, in Loves of a Blonde captures a little piece of that pressing truth. His young girl, trapped in a dull factory town, enamored of a young man from Prague, faces loneliness when she follows the boy to his home, arriving suddenly at the apartment he shares with his parents, who in his absence treat her to the most painful--but also somehow bitterly amusing (and protracted)--cold shoulder in the history of film. Her dogged determination to be loved, and their stolid refusal--especially the mother--to provide even a crumb of false hope, set her up for her dreary epiphany.

I share the hope that we do indeed deserve love, that being loved is one task we must attempt--the other, and perhaps the better, is to love; but Forman's movie breathes Hamlet’s fear that, if we were all treated as we deserve, none of us would escape whipping. I suppose it’s a kindness that Forman’s film is not so violent--actually, it’s a rather quiet, matter-of-fact meander; nonetheless, it does arrive at a kind of humiliation: the viewer’s. I’m reminded that my assumptions about how much one is loved are tenuous at best. When I was that Czech girl’s age, nineteen or so, I understood the blonde's assumptions--and would have shared her numbing embarrassment at having to put on that brave face of loneliness--in the presence of strangers, who are blind as well--but see too clearly where she has gone wrong. Oh, who am I kidding: I still yearn like the blonde, and get what I deserve, and feel that rush of shame--like the boy in "Araby"--Joyce also knowing us as little creatures, no matter our age.


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