Adventures in Cultural Consumption, Halfway Through A Dance To The Music Of Time Edition

At Lady Molly's
Casanova's Chinese Restaurant
The Kindly Ones

Nicholas Jenkins, the narrator of A Dance to the Music of Time, makes the most interesting structural choice in these, the fourth through sixth books of the series: he keeps his wife out of the story almost entirely. She's introduced as a character in book four, but does not utter a line of dialogue until halfway through the sixth book (and then, not a particularly revealing conversation). The premise, as explained at the beginning of Casanova's Chinese Restaurant, is that marriage is a curious thing: publicly-facing but intensely private, so that, as Jenkins says, you can know two married people quite well and not know anything, really, about how they relate to each other (especially if they are happily or well married). Jenkins' married life is not usually material to the story at hand, and so it is almost always omitted, or referred to obliquely, and this seems entirely proper--even respectful to his wife and their shared existence. This seems approximately correct to me: the sentiments that are entirely proper inside my own marriage would feel improper, or vulgar (as in 'not done'), to expand on too much.

All of which relates back to parental overshare, which, as Phoebe has documented at some length, is a topic where every person who has ever parented seems to feel free sharing every detail of their struggles with their child, no matter how embarrassing. I can only slightly imagine being a parent myself, but were that ever to be the case, I cannot imagine wanting to make the details of that child's life known to (or knowable by) the general public. Neither spouses nor children are fit subjects to validate one's own life choices (the only mode of such essays is apologia for those things done rightly or wrongly), and are best left to silence, the conversation of close friends, or those forms of writing that prize anonymity within the advice requesting and dispensing context.* If you must write, a world of other topics exist.

*I mean, there's a reason why writers of third-person research pieces pick their subjects; better to strive at objectivity than drown in a sea of subjective decision and justification. Wouldn't you, in any event, worry that your own experience is so hopelessly idiosyncratic that it could not possibly apply to everyone? Or are the writers of these confessional pieces the journalistic equivalent to the people who wander down the middle of an airport concourse, oblivious to whether they're blocking anyone's way?

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