Review: The essay is 54 pages long and interspersed with lines from Virgil’s poetry. The whole thing is one continuous digression. He begins with old age, switches to marriage and then the essay becomes a sex manual on just about every aspect of the subject that the reader can imagine, with a three-page digression on writing.
Quotes: [The most prurient discussions from this essay will not be reproduced here. For that, you’ll have to read the essay.]
“For Socrates love is the appetite for generation by the mediation of beauty. And considering often the ridiculous titillation of this pleasure, the absurd, witless and giddy motions with which it stirs up…that reckless frenzy, that face inflamed with fury and cruelty in the sweetest act of love, and then that our delights and our excrements have been lodged together pell-mell, and that the supreme sensual pleasure is attended, like pain, with faintness and moaning….”
“We eat and dine as the animals do, but these are not actions that hinder the operations of our mind.”
“On the one hand nature pushes us on to it, having attached to this desire the most noble, useful, and pleasant of all her operations; and on the other hand, she lets us accuse and shun it as shameless and indecent, blush at it, and recommend abstinence. Are we not brutes to call brutish the operations that make us?”
“May we not say that there is nothing in us during this earthly imprisonment that is purely either corporeal or spiritual, and that we do wrong to tear apart a living man….”
“To conclude this notable commentary, which has escaped from me in a flow of babble….”
“I say that males and females are cast in the same mold; except for education and custom, the difference is not great.”
The Art of the Personal Essay. Ed. Phillip Lopate.
: Anchor Books. A Division of Random House, Inc. 1995. New York