By Louis Begley
Fleeing the cave in of his first marriage, Max turns into a summer-house visitor on Lake Como and meets males who will form his life--Charlie, a well-known architect and Toby, his startlingly attractive male spouse.
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Extra info for As Max Saw It
But among the ‘sondry thynges’ which books treat of are women, and here we not only have ‘other preve’, but we find the books themselves at variance; in opposition to the antifeminist tradition which is represented in the Legend’s Prologue by the Troilus, there are the ‘sixty bokes olde and newe’ in Chaucer’s possession which the God of Love cites as containing innumerable stories of women who chose to die rather than be unfaithful (G 273–310). How can the notion of literary authority survive such contradictions?
Chaucer must have known perfectly well that Troilus and Criseyde, for the reasons I have already outlined, is not an antifeminist work. Yet he also knew (as his picture of Jankin’s use of his ‘book of wikked wyves’ makes clear) that the subtleties of authorial intention are all too often submerged in the crude interpretations of the reading public. This being so, he both is and is not contributing to the antifeminist tradition in telling of Criseyde. He therefore avails himself of the conventional polarities of the ‘woman debate’ in order to make an equivalent contribution to the opposing stereotype of the suffering ‘good woman’.
At the end of Troilus and Criseyde, he not only apologizes for his story to the female members of his audience12 – Bysechyng every lady bright of hewe, And every gentil womman, what she be, That al be that Criseyde was untrewe, That for that gilt she be nat wroth with me. Ye may hire gilt in other bokes se; 12 The audience addressed may be the implied rather than the actual audience, since Richard Green (1983–4) has shown that the number of women at court was probably small. Such apologies to women for anti-feminist material are frequent enough in medieval literature to be regarded as conventional (Mann, 1991); but Chaucer’s use of the convention is differentiated from that of other writers by his immediate addition of remarks critical of men.
As Max Saw It by Louis Begley