Yeah. I must confess, after 550 pages of campy Romanticism, paranoid defensiveness, and dizzying self-delusion, the book was weighing on me rather heavily, so I sped through the last hundred pages at a rapid clip, not giving enough time to the stone-throwing and banishment that comes as a sort of bitter fulfillment of all of Rousseau's dark, alamarmist mutterings. There is much that is wonderful, human, and perspicacious in this book, and much that is tedious, annoying, or good only for the dark humor it provides. There is a surprising amount of ink spilled about his problems urinating and the awful "bougies" which were prescribed to help relieve his condition. And once he starts including actual letters, dear reader, the acrimoniousness gets out of hand.
It starts out so pleasantly, and his youth is painted as a warm pastoral, except for the occasional note of sexual deviance, including two attempted molestations (one by a priest, the other by a convert), exhibitionism, and his erotic coupling with the older woman, Mme. de Warrens, who made such an impact on his life, who he refers to throughout as "Maman"... all of which is kicked off by his very early description of a prepubescent sexual awakening at the hands (literally) of his nanny, who taught him that love hurts. Beware the perils of spanking, he warns us.
This bizarre taste, which persisted beyond adolescence and indeed drove me to the verge of depravity and madness, nevertheless preserved in me those very standards of upright behavior which it might have been expected to undermine.Indeed. Five hundred pages and forty years later, describing another in a series of social disasters where he managed to piss off someone who was trying to help him, he writes this:
One might have said of this, as of all my blunders, that I seemed to take a perverse pleasure in exciting the hatred of an amiable an powerful woman, to whom, in truth, I was becoming more attached each day, and whose disfavour I was very far from wanting to attract, while succeeding through my ineptitude in doing precisely that.A moment of clarity, perhaps, where Rousseau entertains the possibility that he likes to be shamed and punished by a powerful woman... From this vantage, though, he soon descends again into not seeing his neurosis (or whatever it is), but merely acting it out.
It's fascinating, actually. I finished some other books, but I need to go now, so I'll talk about them later. Au revoir.