Saturday, August 27, 2016
Making sense of Sittenfeld's NYer story, Gender Studies
With great assistance from M in interpreting Curtis Sittenfeld's current NYer story, Gender Studies, about a professor of same on a business trip who narrates this tale, first giving us the sorry details of her long-term failed relationship w/ a self-centered fellow academic who cheated on her for years then dumped her to go with a much younger grad student, whom he married almost instantly. The narrator's story, oddly, focuses on the working-class, Trump-liking driver of the airport shuttle, He obviously comes on to her a little, gives her his card with her cell #, she's contemptuous of him but - in a way that she seems even completely unaware of as she narrates this story a year or so down the line - she's attracted to him, consciously and sub. She seems to lose her photo ID and calls him to ask if it's in his van; he comes to the hotel later, hinting that he has the ID, but wants a drink w/ her first. She obliges, leads him up to her room, they have awkward and incomplete sex. He confesses he doesn't have the card, suggests maybe she made up the card story to lure him back to her, he just wanted to "hang out" w/ her, she kicks him out, then she finds the card - so what's obvious to us is that he was right, she wanted him back to her room, even tho she can't admit or even recognize this desire, she can't wait to tell her friends about this amusing encounter, then decides not to do so (not clear why she would then narrate this story or to whom exactly) - she feels shame and disgust for going w/ this guy who she sees as her inferior - he even likes Trump!, as she ends the story - but we look from outside her perspective and see a lonely woman in a series of crappy relationships with her intellectual "peers" and unable to recognize or even in a sensible way act on her true desires - a snob, in other words, or at least in part - but in a broader sense this story explores the chasm between classes that we see in our country, especially in the heat of this weird election. This may be Sittenfeld's first NYer story? She has written prolifically and always has a pleasant, welcoming, informal style - nice to see on these sometimes arid pages.