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Joseph O’Neill on Wistfulness and ‘we’re-all-going-to-die Sex

Almost finished reading Netherland, a review of which — with Zadie Smith and James Wood in sight — is forthcoming. For now, these two whimsical ponderings from its text:

"…one lunchtime, Cardozo, mulling over popping the question to his Worcestershire girlfriend, points out a beautiful woman in the street. “I’ll no longer be able to go up to her and ask her out,” he says, sounding dazed. Plainly the logical response is to inquire of Cardozo exactly when was the last time (a) he asked out a girl on the street, and (b) she said yes, and (c) he and she went on to greater things; and in this way bring home to him that he’s being a dummy. I say no such thing, however. We are in the realm not of logic but of wistfulness, and I must maintain that wistfulness is a respectable, serious condition. How, otherwise, to account for much of one’s life?"

And on carpe diem power outages:

"It also transpired that the upheaval provoked a huge number of romantic encounters, a collective surge of passion not seen, I read somewhere, since the ‘we’re-all-going-to-die-sex’ in which, apparently, everybody had indulged in the second half of September two years previously – an analysis I found a little hard to accept, since it was my understanding that all sex, indeed all human activity, fell into that category.”


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One Response to “Joseph O’Neill on Wistfulness and ‘we’re-all-going-to-die Sex”

  1. Jake Says:

    I look forward to the review—I wrote about it here, or, rather, my uncertainty towards it. In another couple months I want to try again and see how it ages, though I will say the Gatsby comparisons seem unwarranted for reasons to be expanded upon at some point, perhaps in a longer article.

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