do my thesis for me essay writer generator homework help services dissertation writing services cheap discourse analysis essay cheap thesis writing services problem solution essay

On Not Learning to Flirt

Daphne Merkin’s new memoir, The Fame Lunches: On Wounded Icons, Money, Sex, The Brontes, and the Importance of Handbags (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, $28) is biting, insightful, and as revealing and withholding as a well-observed life deserves. Alert to all kinds of experiences, Merkin mines her fraught relationship with her father in the chapter “On Not Learning to Flirt.” Here’s a taste:

I was invited one summer to spend a weekend in New Hampshire with the writer Saul Bellow at the behest of his agent, who had recently taken me on as a client. Bellow was his larger-than-life, oxygen-eating self, as charming a host as you could wish for, discoursing on everything from Bach to his secret recipe for tuna fish salad that called for a tablespoon of ketchup. He was solicitous of me, praising what writing of mine he had read, and in general conspiring to make me a happy guest. But his very assumption of masculine irresistibility, which his agent had succumbed to long ago, put my teeth on edge, and I spent a good deal of time taking walks by myself so as not to have to be an audience to his sweltering ego.

reviews - the fame lunches

Towards the end of the stay, Bellow and I were talking outside, just the two of us, while he tilled his bounteous garden. I could swear he did an imitation of Marlon Brando in The Godfather by cutting an opening into a piece of orange skin, sliding it over his teeth, and then smiling at me ghoulishly, but whether I am inventing this in retrospect or it really happened, I know I suddenly felt tenderhearted toward him. As Bellow was seeing us off, I leaned over to give him a hug, and after we had said our goodbyes, he added, in a quiet voice, “Be kinder to the male gender.” This suggestion, in the simplicity of its appeal and the vulnerability that lay behind that appeal, broke through my already-wobbly defenses, opening up vistas of affection withheld and received that I mostly had shied away from. I cried all the way to the airport and then throughout the plane ride, feeling that I had been seen and understood, that the once-ignored little girl was now an adult woman whose feelings and responses left their mark on the male beholder.