The first meeting of Inez Christian and Jack Lovett at the ballet - the beginning of Lovett's "grave attraction" that would last over twenty years - iThe first meeting of Inez Christian and Jack Lovett at the ballet - the beginning of Lovett's "grave attraction" that would last over twenty years - is the sexiest scene I've read in a while:
Cissy Christian smoking a cigarette in her white jade holder. Inez, wearing dark glasses...pinning and repinning a gardenia in her damp hair. This is our niece, Inez, Dwight Christian said. Inez, Major Lovett. Jack. Inez, Mrs. Lovett. Carla. A breath of air, a cigarette. This champagne is lukewarm. One glass won't hurt you, Inez, it's your birthday. Inez's birthday. Inez is seventeen. Inez's evening, really. Inez is our balletomane.
"Why are you wearing sunglasses," Jack Lovett said.
Inez Christian, startled, touched her glasses as if to remove them and then, looking at Jack Lovett, brushed her hair back instead, loosening the pins that held the gardenia.
Inez Christian smiled.
The gardenia fell into the wet grass.
"I used to know all the generals at Schofield," Cissy Christian said. "Great fun out there. Then."
"I'm sure." Jack Lovett did not take his eyes from Inez.
"Great polo players, some of them," Cissy Christian said. "I don't suppose you get much time to play."
"I don't play," Jack Lovett said.
Inez Christian closed her eyes.
Carla Lovett drained her paper cup and crushed it in her hand.
"Inez is seventeen," Dwight Christian repeated.
"I think I want a real drink," Carla Lovett said. ...more
Carter hasn't made Sade a pressing priority, hasn't propelled his books any higher up my to-read list, but her readings, especially of Justine; or, ThCarter hasn't made Sade a pressing priority, hasn't propelled his books any higher up my to-read list, but her readings, especially of Justine; or, The Misfortunes of Virtue (1791), are full of striking passages. These are perfect summaries of a very familiar type:
...in the character of Justine Sade contrived to isolate the dilemma of an emergent type of woman. Justine, daughter of a banker, becomes the prototype of two centuries of women who find the world was not, as they had been promised, made for them and who do not have, because they have not been given, the existential tools to remake the world for themselves. These self-consciously blameless ones suffer and suffer until it becomes second nature; Justine marks the start of a kind of self-regarding female masochism, a woman with no place in the world, no status, the core of whose resistance has been eaten away by self-pity.
Justine’s virtue is not the continuous exercise of a moral faculty. It is a sentimental response to the world in which she always hopes her good behavior will procure her some reward, some respite from the bleak and intransigent reality which surrounds her and to which she cannot accommodate herself. The virtuous, the interesting Justine, with her incompetence, her gullibility, her whining, her frigidity, her reluctance to take control of her own life, is a perfect woman. She always does what she is told. She is at the mercy of any master, because that is the nature of her own definition of goodness.
For Justine is extraordinarily single-minded. This single-mindedness makes her rebel against that Fate that mistreats her; she is in revolt, even, against human nature itself, or, rather, against a view of human nature as irredeemably corrupt. Justine would say, as all good revolutionaries have said: ‘Even if it is so, then it should not be so,’ and, though she is far too pusillanimous to do anything about it, she never deviates from her frail and lonely stand, from the idea that men and women need not necessarily be wicked.