The Anniversary of Stephanie Bishop
But we may get into another story, told by her, the near-famous author, who seems no longer the passive, admiring young woman who was only too happy to sleep with the famous professor when he invited her to his taxi in a wet one Night. To her credit, she didn’t immediately know he was partnered with a very new baby.
The baby, Joshua, is now a relentless, injured 17-year-old and it’s his behavior that makes JB insist on the cruise. An established fact about desire is that it has real-world consequences.
The anniversary has a long list of characters, all of which are necessary to the plot, but it’s narrated by JB, so we’re constantly in her head. It takes energy to stay there because like hearing other people’s dreams it just isn’t that interesting most of the time. Deep within the book she writes about and compares her own way of writing Jeanne Dielman, Quai du Commerce 23, 1080 Brussels, the famous 1975 film directed by Chantal Akerman, in which Akerman let the camera linger on the actress’ face for a very long time.
“We watch her watch her thoughts, watch her have them, sit so still at the glass-topped dining table.” JB goes on to explain that when she’s writing a novel, “there’s always something I’m waiting for to find out”.
The anniversary is adorned with beautiful moments and undeniably exquisite writing, a fine education about desire but perhaps we have to wait too long to know what we need to find out. However, it is never less than an admirable and ambitious exploration of some problematic contemporary things about men and women and the forces of desire, not just sexual but creative desire.
Marcel Proust, always willing to help, should have the last word: “Lust makes everything bloom; Obsession makes everything wither and fade.” Proust? Nietzsche? De Beauvoir? Still here, still relevant, still necessary.
The Booklist is a weekly newsletter for book lovers from book editor Jason Steger. Get it delivered every Friday.