Excerpt from Claire Messud’s “Aiming to Please”

by Jess

Published in The New York Review of Books, May 28, 2009, Volume LVI, Number 9, p. 4.

“In my youth, foolishly, I believed that a life had a trajectory, an arc, and that that arc had a significance, that its meaning could be ascertained.  I retained this belief for a long time, in spite of all evidence, because literature — like, but in lieu of, religion — allowed me, even encouraged me, to do so.  In this sense, I have been like Emma Bovary, struggling fruitlessly to make reality conform to my literary ideals.  Still in some corner of myself, I am unwilling to renounce this conviction, because I do not know what to make of a life without purpose, a life that has no arc but merely a continuing, and then … one day an end.  I am old enough to realize that such a life — the mild, meandering flat line of a life — being real (as opposed to a literary fiction) should not fill me with despair; but I seem not yet mature enough to accept this.”