"FIDELITY IN love for fidelity's sake has less attraction for her than for most women: fidelity because of love's grip had much...a blaze of love, and extinction, was better than a lantern glimmer which should last long years," wrote Thomas Hardy of Eustacia Vye, the passionate, faithless anti-heroine of his novel "Return of the Native."
I came across this yeasty quote--and many others--in Eric Felten's new book, "Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue." Felten, in quick, breezy and amusing style, examines the confounding, infuriating nature of loyalty. Loyalty in love....loyalty to country...loyalty to friends and family (do you snitch on that pal or brother/sister who just happens to be a heartless embezzler or mass murderer?) The author also considers loyalty to job, corporation and most terrifyingly, political loyalty. This is what Lyndon Johnson demanded: "I don't want loyalty. I want loyalty. I want him to kiss my ass in Macy's window at high noon and tell me it smells likes roses. I want his pecker in my pocket."
Felten--who writes for the Wall Street Journal--gives many examples, pro and con, of the sometimes excruciating tests of loyalty. But he's for it, wholeheartedly (though whether he would have kissed LBJ's backside in Macy's window remains open to debate.)
One of the reasons I found this book so appealing is that it is shot through with great snippets from various other works, and marvelous quotes. Which, of course, I intend to use. An exchange from John O'Hara's "Appointment in Samarra" was one of many: O'Hara's protagonist, Julian English, has gone off and left his wife for the day, drinking and whoring it up and generally running their lives in all manner of misbehavior. When he returns, he won't own up to what he's done. He simply demands his wife's loyalty. "This is a pretty good time for you to stick by me."
"I can't stick by you if you don't tell me what for. "Blind, without knowing, you could stick by me. That's what you'd do if you were a real wife, but what the hell." Writer Felten doesn't reveal the book's denouement. And while I think loyalty is a wonderful quality---in the words of writer Felten "a forgotten forlorn relic"--one can't help being on Mrs. English's side in this matter of her husband crazily stewing in his own juices. There's loyalty and then there is good sense. As Sinclair Lewis wrote in "Dodsworth": "Love has to stop somewhere short of suicide." Or Macy's window.
There was another quote too, that kind of stopped me cold, from some member of Bieber's entourage: "No one's ever grown up like Justin Bieber. Ever. In the history of humanity." Oh, really? How soon we forget...Michael Jackson.
Sevigny is currently receiving excellent reviews for her latest project in which she plays a pre-operative transsexual hit man in the series "Hit & Miss." I am dying to see this, but it airs on Direct TV which I do not get. Can't Showtime or HBO pick it up? Or, hello, Direct TV-- might you send me a few DVDs? I'm a great admirer of Miss Sevigny. (I'm hoping this works better than, "I'm Chloe's biggest fan!")