Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Pleasures of Misanthropy

Growing up, I read Florence King's column because my parents had a subscription to The National Review. She was my favorite part of the entire magazine, mostly because of her way with words. I realize now how she reminds me of Oscar Wilde, Ambrose Bierce, P.G. Wodehouse, and a touch of David Sedaris.

And I wish that I had encountered her memoir, Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, years ago. I heard of this book only because she died in the first week of 2016 at age 80. She makes misanthropy funny, and is scathingly honest. She's also a conservative feminist, which is a rare bird indeed.

Don't expect to read a placid 1950s coming-of-age story a la The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (a book I truly enjoyed, BTW). Do expect sex. LOTS of sex. And a woman whose family overlooks Christmas only because of "the din made by the Different Drummer Corps that marched back and forth across the parade grounds of our minds" (205).

Be prepared, too, for a stunning third act that turns this light fluff of a biography into something more. It is poignant, sad, and cathartic. I'm adding Florence King into my list of favorite writers, and look forward to reading more of her work.

So Quotable:

On her parent's first meeting: "It was a bad start but the gin helped." - 17

"Expecting Granny to stay away from an unformed blob of female material was like expecting a cobra to stay away from a flute." - 29

"A man who wears a tuxedo while emptying the garbage at four A.M. is bound to have strange children." - 33

"Today  I admire her lack of vocation for motherhood, but at four I was convinced that she was trying to murder me." - 42

"Whether or not I went crazy is impossible to say; a maniac could hide in my family as a leaf can hide in a forest." - 45

"Dimly I sensed that a female with a personality like mine has to make sure that she looks and smells good at all times, or as Henry Adams put it: 'Those who study Greek must take pains with their dress.'" - 81

Out of all the sports after joining the Marines: "I picked riding because it gave me a chance to sit down." - 148

"I inadvertently encouraged him by laughing - at him - but incapable of discerning the difference, he soon believed himself to be the heir of Swift and Wilde." - 240 (Spoken like a true misanthrope!)