Book 1 from “The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh” cycle
In our youth the idea of the future is imbued with an alluring foreboding of love, since all songs and books say love is something special, and the body is excited by the anticipation of something sweet and forbidden. Love longing is precisely what allows sometimes complete strangers to enter your life and sometimes even become a part of your life. What do we expect from love and do we then get exactly what we expect?
In this exquisitely written romantic book the author analyzes the experience of her youth in search of love. She recalls the time when the iron curtain separating Russia from the Western world was destroyed, the country stopped building socializm and tried to adopt the so-called “Western values”.
Today I’m going to open a little the mysterious curtain over my book “I Am Becoming a Woman” so that interested readers can get an idea of what kind of text they have the possibility to immerse themselves in.
So, in my book there is nothing invented – this is a real true story about my relationship with numerous men in my life, about how my body was trembling with the desire to surrender to every next man, and, due of my inexperience, still not quite understanding what kind of desires made me experience such a strong excitement, that I almost reach the feeling of nausea. … About my fear of loneliness and about my willingness to spend the evening with almost any man interested in me as in sexual object. About my lonely evenings, when I was sitting at home and waiting for the call of my next gentleman, going over in my mind all the words that I said to him during our previous meeting, in order to convince myself in a fit of euphoria that I did everything right and that therefore I would surely hear right at that moment a phone call from him, or, on the contrary, to remember something from my words or deeds that might have disappointed him, and by this to explain to myself why the phone was so silent all the time and that meant my current boyfriend decided to break his promise and not to call me and thereby to cut off our communication right at that moment, sowing the numerous complexes in my soul that something was wrong with me and that I was not attractive enough.
I will now quote a small fragment from the text of the book:
He admitted he would be very sorry if I “flew inside” – it was the first time I heard this strange slang expression. After having told me about his occupation – he worked … as a pimp, – a guy asked if I had a man. I answered in the negative. “Do you want me to do for you what every woman dreams of?” At that moment, I was all ears since, of course, I was eager to learn what a real woman should dream of. “I will introduce you to a foreigner, you will marry him, go abroad and see the world.” Then there was darkness, the film and his hands. He was affectionate, gentle and attentive. “Do you feel uncomfortable when you are kissed?” he guessed. “Suppose I feel good, but how should I express it?” I tried to joke in response. “You could simply look at me, and I would be pleased.” In order to cheer me up, he said, “You are just a little girl and you do not want to learn anything!”
Recently, I have been analyzing a lot of what exactly gave me the impetus, what exactly motivated me to write my story “I am Becoming a Woman”. The novel “Christine” (1952) by English woman writer Pamela Hansford Johnson is one of those books that, since having been read by me many times in my youth, influenced some part of my life after that – for example, what I was like in my 17-18 years old. Thus, the reasoning and behavior of the Hansford Johnson’s heroine influenced indirectly the heroine of my own novel.
Now, when I decided to re-read this novel in order to find out how much echoes of this text can be found in my own story “I am Becoming a Woman”, I was surprised to see a fragment from the novel “Towards Swann” by Marcel Proust as an epigraph to “Christine”, including such words:
“all this was not only experienced, thought out, kept by me for a long time, but … it was my life and it was me myself.”
Yes, I was really surprised because it was Marcel Proust and his literary style who gave me the idea of writing my autobiographical novel, and thus both names – Marcel Proust and Pamela Hansford Johnson – turned out to be indirectly related and, so to speak, “the circle has beem closed” in a way.
As we recall, critics initially found the style of Proust’s first novel unusually confusing, especially when it comes to the chronology of the events he described. Life events, sometimes rather chaotical and unpredictable, emerged in the memory of the protagonist, serve in Proust’s book only as material on which endless analyzes of “elusive sensations” are built. In his text, Proust gives very little development of the plot in terms of the amount of “action”, but at the same time, a certain impressionable young man with a fine mental organization was chosen as the main character of the novel, who perceives these ordinary and unremarkable things that happens to him in a rather sharpened manner. Therefore, on the pages of the novel, we come across literally “kilograms” of the author’s reasoning on general themes and an analysis of the elusive feelings of this young man. And all this is held together solely based on the unique recognizable author’s style and on this very analysis of the smallest sensations, plus on not too banal – and sometimes, on the contrary, even on a little paradoxical – reasoning on general topics.
As for the literary cycle “The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh”, then as for events retelling, it is built much more linearly, although from time to time I am also quite a bit distracted from the main narration – well, I am doing this like in some play the actor sometimes utters next remark, addressing not to his partner, but turning conspiratorially to the theatrical auditorium.
In my immodest opinion :), the events of my youth were much more exciting than the measured life of the hero of Proust’s novel, and besides in my reasoning I stand on the position of a person familiar with the much later and more sophisticated fruits of intellectual achievements of human civilization than Marcel Proust used in his reasoning.
As for the novel “Christine”, this is a very interesting reading, first of all, for connoisseurs and lovers of the Clapham area and Clapham Common park in London – Pamela Hansford Johnson “dilutes” the diary of her main character Christine with numerous nature descriptions in these places at various times of the year… Besides this novel is interesting as a reflection of that distant era when pneumatic mail was used in London, and electric lighting was installed in houses for the firt time… The era of popularity of Hawaiian guitars, when young people first were eager to dance in clubs of London suburbs, and later were eager to drink cocktails in bars in Mayfair … But, of course, the novel is interesting not only for researchers of the habits of Londoners in the early thirties.
Now, after many years, it was really touching for me to discover unexpectedly in the novel text those passages that I once carefully reread and which have become part of my personality. Of course, I have remembered for the rest of my life the final phrase of the novel “A stranger here, I was free,” it marked how the heroine is pleased to realize that she had long since escaped from the oppression of endless thoughts about her past. The image of Christine in some way reminded me of the very image of a girl that looms in my own cycle “The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh.“ Most likely, I became just what I was because I repeatedly re-read the novel “Christine” in my adolescence.
So, Christine is looking for her love, not knowing yet what kind of the chosen one the fate will send her. Of course, in your youth the idea of the future is imbued with an alluring foreboding of love, since all songs and books say love is something special, and the body is excited by the anticipation of something sweet and forbidden. Love longing is precisely what allows sometimes complete strangers to enter your life and sometimes even become a part of your life.
Pamela Hansford Johnson writes about the sexual side of Christine’s emotions with caution, noting that at that time (late twenties and early thirties) young people were still very innocent, and even in English there was no corresponding expression “to make love”. The author exquisitely compares the excitement of the heroine at the thought of sexual intimacy with “the fluttering of a flower in the close shackles of a bud,” and Christine, inspired by reading some love stories, imagines her wedding night in a dark room on the seashore, full of aromas flowers.
Of course, in my novel, I pay much more attention to the physical component of love than in this novel of the early 50s.:) My first book describes the habits of Russian youth in Moscow in 1987-1989.
The heroine of my novel, like Christine, is always very attentive to what exactly her boyfriend is telling her about his other women.
Following the young Christine, my heroine is sometimes vain and is fascinated by men’s age and status – indeed, what girl does not dream, for example, of an overseas prince who will take her away to the castle in his country? She is waiting with patience when, finally, cavaliers with their own cars will appear in her life. The third part of the cycle, entitled “Flirting over a Cup of Coffee”, describes the love affairs of my heroine with mature, respectable men almost 30 years older than her.
Christine feels being in love and charmed by the male charisma of the boyfriend caring for her, despite her boredom already on the second date with him and realizing that the two of them will have nothing to talk about. Later, Christine tries to convince herself that, probably, there is nothing special in the love and attitude of women towards her husband, and probably everyone has known this for a long time except her.
I will quote here the clever words spoken to the heroine of my story by one of her men about the selection of her future husband:
“Regarding vital precepts оf a wise knowledgeable man, addressed to a girl“ considering her future living ”, he advised me in any case to marry a man with a”lofty”education (he used not”high “but namely”lofty”as a joke), otherwise we would have nothing to talk about in the evenings of our future family life. “
Christine tries not to take to heart the fact that her chosen one is indifferent to literature close to her in spirit, and his ear pathologically does not distinguish melodies, although for Christine herself the power of music and memories of the melodies she has ever heard is of very great influence. For comparison, I will give a quote about the meaning of music for my heroine:
“At that time – however, and now too – my ecstasy from music was so great that as the highest form of interaction with a guy I liked I was dreaming about joint listening to my favorite music. This obsessive desire of mine is somewhat similar to the idea of the Marcel Proust hero, who was eager to admire the Gothic castles together with a beautiful girl, so that her presence would enhance his aesthetic pleasure of the beauties of ancient architecture. “
Inside Christine’s thinking there is some internal struggle all the time, and sometimes she even gets angry with herself because of feelings that go out of her mind control. In building relationships, inexperienced Christine acts intuitively and sometimes makes mistakes, which brings her a lot of problems with her boyfriend. Here’s what I write on this topic in my novel:
“When I still had no experience in dealing with men, then, finding myself in some situation together with them, I acted as some kind of instinct told me. And It seemed that this was exactly what the men expected from me. Most likely, I behaved like this according to some woman in me who existed separately from me and who had lived much longer than me. Maybe she lived by some life of my dreams and wishes or continued her existence in the memory of previous generations – in a word, it was an “archetypal woman” in me. “
I met books in my life that I often re-read as a teenager and about which then I remembered all my life with a warm feeling, amazed at my own emotions while reading. In fairness, I will note that the available choice for reading was by no means as rich as it is today, but still we saw on the bookshelves the spines with titles that had passed, in the opinion of competent persons, all kinds of censorship, both in terms of quality and for ideological reasons. For example, the “door in the wall” from the story of the same name by H.G. Wells became a completely archetypal concept for me for the rest of my life – I must say that in childhood and adolescence, the bright image of a door entwined with wild grapes and capable of hiding in the space of an ordinary-looking gray city, invariably excited my imagination. Just now I re-read this short story, and my expectations were not disappointed, and this time – I was touched again – however, this time it was more from my own memories, not allowing the ice of stinging criticism to penetrate my soul. This time, the described Garden of Eden unexpectedly reminded me of a visit to Rodini Park in the city of Rhodes … In general, this entire subconscious memory mechanism is truly amazing, because, to be honest, I cannot say that I remember visiting this park so frequently or that it was the most interesting park in my life … Apparently, a certain majesty and serenity, which gives this place its venerable age – really, the park erased at the end of the 5th century BC, and thete are pointers to the mausoleum of Ptolemy, – has affected. Indeed, centuries pass ater centuries, and the park still stands in the same place, indifferent to the passage of time and even more so to people with their vain concerns.
I have found that this story, with its thought of the amazing places lost in rather familiar space so close to us, has influenced my entire life. The Wallace’s school games with an attempt first to get lost and then find the right path reminded me of our childhood fun with space, which my girl friends and Iused to play in the vicinity of our house, about which I write in my book “I Am Becoming a Woman”
“We had such fun with Tanya: being impressed by the intricacies of the streets, we used to hit the road with the intention of getting lost. We were satisfied when, after having strayed among the streets and having time to be seriously scared, we suddenly found our house on the wrong side from where we left.”
The way his household greeted unkindly Wallace after his returning home echoes this fragment of “I am becoming a woman”.
“Then it turned out that they were looking for us at this time – we had gone as far away from home as never before … But this was a necessary feature of any more or less interesting activity: a reckoning in the form of censure from parents was to come inevitably.”
While I am making the final changes to the look and feel of my personal site, you can in the meantime read some reviews of my virtual friends all over the world about my book.
Carlos, 36, New York, USA
You have a voice. It’s poetic, ambitious and eloquent. I feel that you introduce events and immediately add many layers of commentary on everything instead of letting these moments flow more freely. I don’t think your reasoning is random but rather very self aware, like you constantly analyze yourself. It’s an intense stream of consciousness retrospect ive. I feel that hat you have created a hyper-literary account of your life, it’s a tour de force narrative.
James, 44, LA, USA
I like the detail in your story. It has a very historical feel to it in and time and place that doesn’t exist anymore. The way she views the exploration of her sexuality is really interesting. I like it too because it isn’t ‘cynical’ but more just speaking about what happened and how you felt and your observations. There was there some romantic observations and also some more cinical like observations.
Joni 30, Tampere, Finland
It seems very intellectual and very freshly written. Like a breath of fresh air. The writing is very thoughtful, it has new ideas and interesting observations. You use words delicately and deliciously. This is very beautiful text, with rare, delicate words. This work reminded me of the woman’s need for accepting men and accepting themselves, as well as the fight against acceptance of men and the fight against the acceptance of themselves, which is a common theme in the lives of many women. Is woman a puzzle or someone who wants to be understood? Or both. Women can be “The Others” for men as well. The great unknown in some way. They can be inexplicable creatures with broader perceptions, in some cases.
Warren, 34, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
I liked reading, you are a deep minded and fascinating person. Your childhood was different to mine, but so interesting. From reading your pages, I discovered about life in Russia, and also more about sexuality. I enjoyed it. There was humor and the style was good. I enjoyed your style of writing. I think that longer and more descriptive sentences are better to aid the reader’s understanding.
tichh, 59, Derby, UK
I admire you for the way you write you have an amazing talent I have never read such good work as you write
you are turning me into a reader 🙂
you are amazing writer
all are perfect in my eyes – the structure and content
Bill, 58, Wyoming, USA
You have created a “page turner” as we say. Just like when we read a novel that we can not put down. It has some very excellent descriptions of your thoughts and the words make it even more enticing. I am not shocked at all because it is deliciously honest.
Hocem, 31, Kasserine, Tunisia
I enjoyed reading. I read some intriguing passages, I was curious to read some “glimpses about the author”. Author “s life experience about emotional relationships is very diverse. The author mixes many little details to have more writing space and to interpret them in more independant way. I admire her craving to explain her opinion in a deep sincere way.
Bejn, 32 Belgrade, Serbia
You have a decent writing style. Details about childhood are nice actually, Stories from “Soviet” childhoods are always interesting to me. As for the story reviews, I like that it describes life just as it is, not romanticizing it.
Probably all of us have ever heard the phrase that in the same book, each reader finds something of his own. In fact, everyone reads his own individual book, because something in the text leaves him completely indifferent or even irritates him, while other fragments of the text evoke a strong emotional response or an influx of associations and memories in his soul. That is why the reviews about the same book are often so contradictory – readers simply have different backgrounds – both in life and in reading, different life experiences and different taste preferences … Even two brothers, two inseparable friends, or the husband and his wife who have lived together for a long time may have diametrically opposite tastes in some matters, because the inner world of each person is a kind of his whole universe, somewhat similar to the virtual world of a computer game, and not each of us is a filmmaker to embody his ever-changing phobias and fatazia in such a form that he can show it to other people. (haha, and besides, by the way, some of us are writers who are also capable of embodying phobias and fantasies of their inner world, but in this case they do it not using the camera, like a film director, but with a help of great and mighty art of words).
Of course, several of my acquaintances – my beta readers – have already read the book and told me about their feelings from reading. And I was surprised at so various topics for discussion that we had with them after reading. In fact, the text of my book turned out to be something like a litmus test for the inner world of my friends.
One guy – a writer – read the text from a purely professional point of view, but at the same time he was extremely sensitive to all sexual aspects as a man. Having his own Jack Kerouac stage in life driving around America in a cheap car, he was more impressed by the second part of the Cycle – “Serious Relations”, at the beginning of which some rampant alcoholic revelry is described. (By the way, let me remind you that “I Am Becoming a Woman” is the first part of the whole series “The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh”, and the next part – “Serious Relations”, which I am planning to release approximately in three months – there are some much more frank details.) Another writing guy (to myself, I call his literary tastes typically mid-American) treated the text as a classic romance with personages and characters. At the same time, I think he remained rather indifferent to my style and did not notice my irony, while I myself consider the literary style to be my main merit (“A person is a style,” said one extravagant Russian political guy-writer, just after communicating with whom I began writing a lot, which is described in the fourth part of my epic entitled “Belle Epoque or the Age of the Live Journal”). The third man found the text as to the author’s slightly ironic view of the events of his past life (and, I confess, this his perception is something similar to my own). People closest to me in spirit paid attention not only to the sexual component, but also to all numerous details that occupied my thoughts and gave an idea of life in the USSR and in Russia at that time. People far away from me in their spirit demanded more eroticism in the text and less descriptions of specific places in Moscow, but at the same time they were doing justice to my style…
To be honest, I still do not have many responses from women, although I am sure that it would be especially interesting for them.
Today, August 17, 23.59 PDT is the last day of the free downloading of the book. Immerse yourself in the Russia perestroika era life and compare the heroine’s first sexual experience with your own experience!
“Why is everyone interested in Ozzy and not in me?” “Well, you know …” “So I’m going to ask Ozzy that question right now. I will call him.” “Will you really call him?” At this moment, to my surprise, I discovered that for a long time already I had been smiling cunningly to my interlocutor, caressing his fingers enthusiastically with my own ones. And also I noticed that a couple of Germans at the next table near the pool were getting up to go away. And now, finally, Ozzy is in front of me. Oddly enough, I was not overwhelmed by any excitement – on the contrary, I became bored since I realized that my eternal striving to find objects of attraction for myself would not lead to good. It turned out he could not make head nor tail of English, that meant I didn’t need him at all. Really, how will I charm him, how will I make an impression on him if I am deprived of my main weapon – the ability to use all shades of words of the Great and Mighty language?
He has a hint of sideburns, and his hair is pulled back in a ponytail. I first saw him rimmed with masculine monkey antics, dressed in a thin white jacket, dotted with stripes of inscriptions, in jeans and sneakers. He is rather temperamental, but his face seems impenetrable precisely because of his Indian structure, and it is namely this contradiction that attracts attention to him. He walks in a wobby sort of way, like a football player, and has some more arsenal of antics so attractive for women … I am looking at the water surface of the pool, and I am alone, that is completely natural for a person. I can allow myself to laugh out loud or to say something to myself.”
This is the very beginning of the fifth part of my “The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh” cycle called “The Souvenir from the Midday Region”. But you may ask why I suddenly remembered about animators in Turkey? Perhaps I am thinking about failed summer tourism in the era of coronavirus? But no, that’s not the point. Simply to make Livejournal allow search robots to index my blog, I had to show some social activity yesterday, so I went to the top posts on Livejournal and among the posts about Navalny’s poisoning and about events in Belarus I found a post about the special love of Russian women for Turkish animators and I wrote my own comment on the topic – something like that: “Oh, there are really such sultry men in Turkey ….When I am looking in their direction I always really fear I will not be able to keep my legs closed.”
These very last days before August 14, I was coming up with and editing my booktrailer dedicated to the release of the book. For the soundtrack, I used a free melody from the YouTube stock – this is a composition called Journeyman by musician Aakash Gandhi, which I really liked. To edit the clip, I used the Clipchamp program, which allows editing online, but when I am trying to save the file in good quality, it offers to buy a paid Upgrade.