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Session 6 Notes

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Author: David O'Connor
Notes on David O'Connor's 1/29/07 Lecture on Andre Debus "Falling in Love" for PHIL 20214

Lecture: Andre Dubus, “Falling in Love”

  1. Introduction
  2. Ted’s need for silence
    1. Temptation: the demon of Nick Kakonis
    2. Ted’s reliance on alcohol and the role of luck


      "Bring some books, have one drink before dinner, maybe a beer while I eat. Hole up, walk around; be silent.  Look the demon in the eye."
      Nick rubbed his neck and said: "Drink bottled water. Peel the fruit. Don't shit your brains out."
      "If I did, all you'd see in the bowl is water."
      "Stop that.  It's just something that happened. And leave the demon here. You've looked at it enough."
      "No. I haven't looked at it. I've fucked it. Now I'm going to look at it; talk to it." (Andre Dubus, Dancing After Hours, New York: Vintage, 1996: 42-3)

    3. Ted’s response to the demon

      Ted’s sexual relationship with Susan included the unspoken precondition that children were prohibited and would be killed if created. Ted needs to find a place to repent, to hear his own heart.

      The story forces us to interrogate the meaning of sex. Ted and Susan refer to sex in a way that indicates their rage about their freedom being threatened by sex.

  3. The Erotic Needs of Susan and Ted
    1. The complex introduction of Susan

      After the play, Susan “felt larger than the room. She did not show this to anyone. She acted small, modest. She was twenty-two and had been acting with passion for seven years, and she knew that she could show her elation only to someone with whom she was intimate. To anyone else it would look like bravado. Her work was a frightening risk, and during the run of the play she had become Lucile as fully as she could, and she knew that what she felt now was less pride than gratitude.” (Dubus 28-29)

    2. Susan does not need a lover who gives approval or praise. Instead, she needs space for her own gratitude. She needs to experience her talent as a gift. This gift is not easy for a lover to give, though only a lover can give it. A lover can allow Susan to feel fullness, to view her talent with more than mere pride or self-satisfaction. Susan’s life is broken by her abortion and she fails to experience fullness.

       

      “Soon she was in New York, but for a long time a desert was inside her; it was huge and dry and there was nothing in it.…she needed work to flood that dry sand.” (Dubus 40)

    3. Dionysus emerges in the story: alcohol and theatre are something one can lose oneself in.


      "She watched Ted walking toward her, her glass and his in the palm of his left hand. A shell from a mortar had exploded and flung him off the earth and he had fallen back to it, alive. She wanted to be naked, holding him naked. She took the Coke from his hand and said: 'I need an hour. I don't want to drive drunk.'" (Dubus 31)

    4. Ted plays off of the cigarettes and alcohol to give her the space that she needed.


      "When they made love, she could feel the war in him, could feel him ascending from what he had seen, what he had done; from being blown up. Her heart knew she was in love. She said: 'I like you a lot.'" (Dubus 34)

    5. Ted ultimately needs to experience new life, to forgive himself for the men who died around him. But Ted first gives Susan what she needs. Sometimes the intimacy of your lover lets you see yourself as how beautiful you see yourself. This is not the same as the your lover seeing you as beautiful.


      "The pill isn't a philosophy. I need a philosophy to go out there with. You know? I can't just go out there with a cock, and a heart. Maybe I need a wife." (Dubus 42)

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