desperately seeking Stendhal

I was up all night, or nearly, trying to find a single passage in La Vie de Henri Brulard. It would have been much easier if I owned the book. Instead of searching pages, I was searching google. But this one passage, that I knew almost by heart anyway but had to see for myself, had to see it, mattered more than anything. The hours pulsed on, tangents crept down my ankles and took root in the carpet, and meanwhile I sorted through mentions and gestures towards and knowing smiles and bad summaries and notes for the bac and everything else except a goddamn direct quote of the piece. And it's famous, this bit, I keep insisting to myself--I'm flabbergasted! If you look up (in a desparate pique) "Proust quote" on google, you get a million little gems. You can send them to your friends in email, without typing them or translating them yourself--it's quite efficient [not that I advocate efficiency with literature, mind you, but so be it, shameful little truths]. But Stendhal is another matter. Oh sure, you get some quotes. Try it, as I'm sure some of you are in another open browser, just now doing. But not from HB, and/or not THE ONE. [of course, I just then assumed in writing that I have readers, but much like Stendhal I know differently, hence the endless need for writing, for prefaces and re-prefacing, the postpreface, the posthumous preface, which it will all have been one day...]

The quote was supposed to somehow sum up the state of my love life -- a solidarity of feeble dust-scratching between me and Marie-Henri Beyle, or Henri Brulard, or whoever so scratches into the dust a collection of names and ponders them. Not in a Sesame Street way (one of these things is not like the other, a sing-song matching game), but in the way of a question that is at the same time an impossible gesture of inscription. The set isn't complete, and even a man out walking with a stick knows that. They repeat. That's why the letters can be interchangeable--and we like to add "but never the people"--but I'm not so sure. It depends on the view taken, and it's no accident that this bit of dust-scratching happens in a place with a view out over a city (or a town--you see, I can't remember, and I couldn't find the quote). Of course, that's where you go wrong -- the view over, from above, the mastery of the question applied, the list, the summing up of "the state of my love life" -- that's reading in the wrong way, although such a reading is invited. Clearly. But such would be to close the set, not by scratching the final initial, adding the "so that's it", drawing lines of similarity, or any such maneuver; but simply by extricating oneself from the dust. It is not only by manner of memory, or manner of reflection that one finds oneself there.

It will have been ironic, in the Alanis way at least, to think that I will have devoted a good part of my intellectual life to reading about, thinking about and writing about love; and yet, perhaps no one will have asked it such fervent questions, put it into such contortions of interrogation-under-torture, into such radical doubt, as the men who have claimed to have loved me. It is divine comedy, at least sitcom style, that the questions from the not-set go in ways I haven't prepared for, in ways I can't write about "for tenure", in ways whose repetition I can see but not understand, in ways that leave me seeking Stendhal on google at 2am, looking for something I already know by heart.