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Notes on a Scandal: Loneliness sucks

Most people remember the film version of Notes on a Scandal (which I most unfortunately love) as being that one where Cate Blanchett has an affair with a teenage boy and Dame Judi Dench is some sort of predatory lesbian.

Cate Blanchett isn't enough of a dick in the movie

The book about which it is based, What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal], somewhat diverges from that. As I read it, I realized with increasing dismay that Dench's character, the narrator Barbara, was grossly maligned and simplified in the film. Not that her character is overly simple there, but she CAN in fact be reduced to 'predatory lesbian.' At least based on thoughtless impressions.

The book is narrated by Barbara, as she writes in her journal about her relationship with another teacher at the high school she has worked at for decades. This other teacher (Sheba) is new and wants to make some sort of difference in the lives of the students, but of course is immediately overrun by her pupils. Barbara is writing in the wake of Sheba's affair, and whether she is a reliable narrator or not is...questionable.


Barbara is likable and unlikable. She's extremely judgmental and uses phrases like "suppurating carbuncles," but this, of course, endeared her to me. Cliches are the worst, aren't they, Barbara? I'd say we should have tea, but you made such a big deal about going over to Sheba's for dinner that I worry it would just be uncomfortable for both of us. But STILL. People saying inane things: boooo. 

I had the misfortune of spending half an hour waiting with Sue at the 74 bus stop. At some point she actually turned to me and declared, in the halting, exulting manner of a person who was just then minting a delicious epigram, "You wait--when the bus finally comes, there'll be five of them right behind it."

She's likable for her judginess and likable because she is an acerbic, funny, intelligent woman, but she is too on her own, and this has made her socially awkward. If you're by yourself for a long, long time, playing with others isn't a skill that comes easily.

So. Loneliness.

Man is not meant to be alone. Loneliness is one of the worst things I think the human animal can experience in day-to-day life, and some of my most unfortunate memories, the ones so bad I can't get a silver living out of them, are when I felt unspeakably lonely.

And with this book, when Barbara is so desperate to form a connection with a human being, and talks about her endlessly repeated habits, day-in and day-out, having no one to share them, all I did was hope she would find someone. This book made me want to issue a proclamation that everyone has the right to a friend, and no one should go through through life feeling they are by themselves. 

May everyone someday live in an old lady house


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