Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Five top fictional works of idleness and lassitude

Francine du Plessix Gray is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, including Simone Weil, At Home with the Marquis de Sade: A Life, Rage and Fire, Lovers and Tyrants, and Soviet Women. Her new novel is The Queen's Lover.

One of her five favorite fictional portraits of idleness and lassitude, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Tender Is the Night
by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1934)

We are in the south of France in the mid-1920s. Handsome, charming Dick Diver is a successful doctor and psychiatrist who is married to a beautiful, wealthy, schizophrenic former patient, Nicole. He realizes that he "lost himself" in his 30s when he stopped regularly practicing his profession. The Divers and their two children live in an expansive villa, holding parties "organized for excitement" and frequenting fellow expats, who include both Nicole's lover, Tommy, and Dick's, Rosemary. Undone by excessive leisure—"Why did he leave medicine?" Dick asks himself—he gets into drunken brawls with the police that destroy his reputation. Nicole eventually leaves him for her paramour, and Dick settles into a modest medical practice in a small town in upstate New York, drifting into ever-diminishing circumstances, all ambition gone.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue