Sunday, March 6, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 37.3 (Herman Melville)

Israel Potter by Michael_Kelleher
Israel Potter a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.
Melville, Herman
Israel Potter, His Fifty Years of Exile

Not sure where I bought this one -- probably online or at Talking Leaves...Books.

I have a soft spot for this odd book of Melville's, mostly because it's such a hilarious satire of the early years of of the United States. The depiction of Benjamin Franklin not as a wise statesman but as an endlessly pontificating miser is one for the ages.

I may have exhausted the discourse on friendship for the time being. I've woken up the past few days without a thought in my had as to how I might continue. I suppose I could tell more stories about more friends who've lasted over time, but there aren't that many. And of those the number with whom I keep in constant contact is even smaller. I suppose I could talk about a specific kind of friendship that I do think about fairly often, that is the intellectual or artistic friendship.

When one is involved in the literary world, in whatever capacity, be it as a writer or critic or poet or novelist or intellectual or curator or publisher or editor or some combination thereof, one finds that many friendships develop over the years that have as their basis common artistic, intellectual and professional passions.

These are friendships that do not necessarily have a personal basis.

When two friends get together they talk about what they are reading, what films they have seen, how their work is coming along, where they have been published (or rejected or ignored). They gossip about other writers or trash the latest books of their rivals or share some morsel of information they discovered in their research. They are a special kind of friendship.

Because they are rooted in common passions, they have an intensity that closely resembles friendships rooted in mutual attraction or feeling for the other person. Sometimes both elements exist in these friendships. The personal and the intellectual mingle in ways that are exhilaratingly complex.

In other instances, one is aware always that were something to change, for instance if one person chose to become a lawyer or a business person instead of an artist, then the fragile chemistry of the friendship would instantly dissolve.

I have always enjoyed pursuing different kinds of friendships, but this kind in particular has always made me feel insecure. As much as I enjoy the passionate exchange of ideas that occurs, I have always felt a need to put friendships on a personal basis. When I can't find that personal footing, I take a step back.

Something in me innately mistrusts a relationship that is purely intellectual, or purely professional, or based merely on perceived mutual benefit. This might reveal a certain lack of ambition. On the other hand, one needs people to talk to about the things they are thinking and making. At least I do. Were all friendships only personal, I suppose I might feel safe, but rather bored.

I am not sure I am actually getting at anything here except to say I have lots of friendships of this sort and I love all these friends and yet I often feel somewhat outside of the relationship. A level of uncertainty exists that makes me feel they could dissolve at anytime if something more interesting than me or my ideas came along to distract the other person.

I guess I have abandonment issues. Maybe I do have more to say...

From Israel Potter

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