Thursday, January 12, 2012
In Praise of Older Women by Stephen Vizinczey
On my first day back to reading friends’ comments on Goodreads after a hiatus of several months, I came across a reference to Stephen Vizinczey. For the months I was away, I hadn’t been able to concentrate on reading myself, but I was anxious to write again. Since my blog is about reading, however, I could only really write if I could read. The title of this book appealed to me and I would see if perhaps I could concentrate.
In Praise… is fiction in the guise of autobiography. The young male character is a little brash, but only because, it appears, he was dearly loved in his childhood. He grew up thinking that everyone would love him as much as did his relatives and the monks of his adopted Franciscan monastery. “This book is addressed to young men and dedicated to older women…” he writes in the preface. ”Modern culture—American culture—glorifies the young; on the lost continent of old Europe it was the affair of the young man and his older mistress that had the glamour of perfection.”
Right at the outset we sense the incisive mind of the writer. Rich with anecdote, Vizinczey’s descriptions of his character’s deflowering and sexual encounters with young and older women around the world are terribly amusing, and insightful into the differences between the sexes, and cultures. Relations with women in North America are painfully funny and catches males and females in our culture “in the nude,” so to speak, so clearly does he see our oddities and poke fun at our interactions.
This book is not new: it was initially published in 1965. I wish I had known of this lovely classic when I was younger, though I wonder if I would have enjoyed it so completely and without inhibition. That may be the author’s lesson when he recommends the charms of older women to young men. If I had only known when I was younger how difficult and painful it was for young men “to get any,” I like to think I would have been more accommodating and open to experimentation. But perhaps it is only these older eyes that are so generous and gentle.
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