Big Readers Forum Index


About Schmidt by Louis Pegler

 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Big Readers Forum Index -> Novels and short stories -> Discussion of individual novels
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2972


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2017 9:57 pm    Post subject: About Schmidt by Louis Pegler  Reply with quote

I am, as I said earlier, reading About Schmidt.  It's basically a study of one individual and hos he has lived his life. The reviews on the front and back talk of Schmidt being “unlikable”, “a study of aging centred on a man whose flaws become both sinister and sympathetic”,  and “a brilliant imposter, though this time an imposter unaware of his charade.  He is the cultivated man unable to acknowledge his subtle strain of Jew-hating”.  

Mostly I find Schmidt a pitiable character.  He has managed to alienate his daughter and future son-in-law, though Louis Pegler only gives vague reasons why – he is cool and distant, I gather.  But since we see things mostly through his eyes, that doesn’t come through to the reader much.  He complains about his daughter’s fiancé as being obsessed with his legal career, in a way which he never was.  But mostly he dislikes and fears him because he is a Jew.  

He does find modern life uncultivated, but what I notice most and dislike most is his sexual references.  He talks about women’s breast in the coarsest of terms despite the San Francisco Chronicle saying “In an era of encroaching coarseness, where civility dissolves...Schmidt summons in us a remembrance of elegance past.” While he loves his wife Mary he takes every opportunity to be unfaithful to her when he is away on legal trips.  And then when she is sick and asleep he has sex with her.

Later after Mary’s death, in his diary he writes about a waitress (of whom I think we will hear more) and imagines: “ With a respectable old guy like me, she doesn’t need to ask herself whether I have AIDS or whatever else she can catch from some character with goo on his head and rings in his ears; I am unlikely to be violent.  To her generation, sex is no big deal.  So why not fuck me in my nice clean bed?  Under that T-shirt with “O’Henry’s” written on it, probably a lavender bra.  Breasts neat and hard like buried mounds.  Tiny waist.  Stomach. A narrow stretch of black fur.  She’s ready, soaling through her tights.  When those are peeled off, legs of an antelope.  No polish on her toenails; feet sore. perhaps a little swollen, she stands on them all day.  That’s where I start, kissing the soles of her feet and then the toes, working my way to the thighs, which she keeps closed at first, and then, as I reach the furry place, she opens, pushing at my face.  Insistent, raucous cooing.  Wait for me, take me, now!”

I suppose it is because I have been married to a rather prudish man, who would never use those particular phrases, but I find this a surprising way for a cultivated man to think and write in his diary.  And not just there – he analyses everyone he meets in this sort of way.  I realise from my own thoughts that one does see people in physical terms – I also admire women for their bodies as much as their minds.  (Surely I am not the only heterosexual woman to do this. I do often feel sympathy when men are condemned for being distracted by low-cut blouses etc.  This seems a natural reaction to me. )  I remember shocking a friend when I remarked on a woman presenter’s shirt showing up her lovely figure and I love looking at Serena Williams’ shining skin and voluptuous figure, but I don’t think of them in such gross terms.  
At any rate Louis Pegler’s book is carefully written, and has many long sentences which take a bit of careful reading; one of them indeed I read over and over again but still didn’t get the total sense of or understand just which character was being described.  I don’t know if that was just my confusion or the writer’s obfuscation.  I am pretty sure it wasn’t a typo or a mistake.


Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Sandraseahorse



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
Posts: 1154



PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2017 6:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for that, Caro. I rather enjoyed the film, which I saw many years ago, and I don't remember anti-Semitism.  Perhaps it was there and I missed it or possibly it was air-brushed from the film.


Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2972


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Sun May 07, 2017 12:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Apparently the film About Schmidt didn’t say much about Schmidt’s supposed anti-Semitism.  I have never really understood anti-Semitism – Jews look much like the rest of the white population (why is that, when they originate from the Middle East?) , so it is not a matter of skin colour.  Here in the south of New Zealand there are not many Jews (although we have quite a lot of Israeli tourists) and I don’t know if I know any Jews or not.  I could understand it more when there was a feeling between Christians and Jews that their views on Jesus were opposed.  But now Jews and Christians seem to be very close.  

But in the book Schmidt’s attitudes to Jews are a major focus.  His future (what? there isn’t a word for it)  mother-in-law of his daughter talks about this to him near the end of the book and says about his daughter’s attitude:  “She knows you turned on Jon because he is Jewish.”  He wanted to say “I didn’t exactly turn on him, and, I wasn’t unhappy only because he is a Jew, but what was the use of splitting hairs.”  ...”But I can tell you do have strong anti-Semitic feelings. Perhaps you should examine them.  Jews aren’t that bad.  On the average they aren’t worse than other people.”  
“They are different.”

I differentiate between Jews and Israelis, certainly Israel’s policies re Palestine.  But our  Israeli ambassador certainly doesn’t.  He takes any criticism of Israel to come from anti-Semitism, which seems to me a good way to shut down discussion of the real issue.  

Schmidt’s reaction to his daughter’s desire to change to the Jewish religion is less than enthusiastic, but I don’t find that anti-Jewishness.  Any parent finds that sort of thing difficult: I remember friends who were non-religious being distressed when their daughter became a strong Christian (she still is) and I was always a bit worried that one of my kids might take up religion because that would put him off-side with the rest of the family.  But none of them have.  It is more a matter of having your own values rejected than the particular religion.  

I never got quite what the book was about, apart from an older man suffering from grief for his dead wife trying to make sense of his, not very successfully.  He does form a sexual relationship with Carrie, the Jamaican waitress 40 years younger than him.  I kept expecting her to be some sort of gold-digger, but it didn’t seem that way, though she certainly had other relationships. And they all linked to Schmidt in some way or other.  

People have called it a dark satire on the power of wealth to suffocate human creativity and the emotions.  Maybe his emotions are suffocated, though I am dubious even about that, since he managed to find solace easily enough, though in different places from where he might have expected, but I didn’t see it as particularly satirical, just a sad story of displacement and a man’s attempts to find substitutes for that.  He certainly wasn’t gregarious or social (reminded me a bit of my husband in this respect) and didn’t much enjoy the company of his previous colleagues.  

But I haven't as yet checked fuller reviews.


Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2972


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Sun May 07, 2017 12:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've just read the New Yorker article Not Really About Schmidt, and it says there is not a single scene in the movie from the book and the waitress character from Puerto Rico (I said Jamaica earlier) is not in the movie at all!  I though she and her boyfriend were the main resolutions for Schmidt in his life, and allowed him some comfort.


Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2972


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Sun May 07, 2017 1:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you go to Goodreads and read the review by Jeffery Keenen that sums up my views on the book exactly!  It comes up at the start when I go there but is dated 2012.  Maybe one of the replies is the most recent.



Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Big Readers Forum Index -> Novels and short stories -> Discussion of individual novels All times are GMT
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

Card File  Gallery  Forum Archive
Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group
Big Readers Theme by Mike Alexander
Based on Artemis by Vjacheslav Trushkin
Create your own free forum | Buy a domain to use with your forum