I did also finish The Course of Love, by Alain de Botton recently. This is a story of ordinary married life. I didn’t read it because I specifically wanted to read a story of ordinary married life, but rather because Alain de Botton is one of those authors, who, when he has a new book out, I will generally investigate. (Though if a Christian fellow ever were to take the initiative and ask me out, unlikely as I now perceive that to be, I’d need all the help I can get, because history would indicate that I am inept.) But I feel like it was a useful book to have read, and I’d actually recommend that everybody read it. The fact that it is written primarily from the male perspective on day-to-day relationships also made it interesting to me. It is a novel, containing the narrative of one married couple, but is also interspersed with italicised philosophical/psychological musings on what it means to be in relationships and raise children …
I didn’t underline anything as I read, though much of it was thought-provoking, so now I am left flicking for a good bit, but here is something from the main characters middle-of-the-night ponderings (and there have been a lot of interviews with the author and articles online if anyone cares to look):
At this point, he is beyond self-pity, the shallow belief that what has happened to him is rare or undeserved. He has lost faith in his own innocence and uniqueness. This isn’t a midlife crisis; it’s more that he is finally, some thirty years too late, leaving adolescence behind.
He sees he is a man with an exaggerated longing for Romantic love who nevertheless understands little about kindness and even less about communication. He is someone afraid of openly striving for happiness who takes shelter in a stance of pre-emptive disappointment and cynicism.
So this is what it is to be a failure. The chief characteristic may be silence: the phone doesn’t ring, he isn’t asked out, nothing new happens. For most of his adult life he has conceived of failure in the form of a spectacular catastrophe, only to recognize, at last, that it has in fact crept up on him imperceptibly, through cowardly inaction.
Yet, surprisingly, it’s OK. One gets used to everything, even humiliation. The apparently unendurable has a habit of coming to seem, eventually, not so bad.