How a French Major Thinks.

I admit I have an ugly fondness for generalizations, so perhaps I may be forgiven when I declare that there is always something weird about a girl who majors in French. […] She has been betrayed into the study of French, heedless of the terrible consequences, by her enchantment with this language, which has ruined more young American women than any other foreign tongue.

Second, if her studies were confined simply to grammar and vocabulary, then perhaps the French major would develop no differently from those who study Spanish or German, but the unlucky girl who pursues her studies past the second year come inevitably and headlong into contact with French Literature, potentially one of the most destructive forces known to mankind; and she begins to relish such previously unglamorous elements of her vocabulary as languor and funeste, and, speaking English, inverts her adjectives to let one know that she sometimes even thinks in French. The writers she comes to appreciate–Breton, Baudelaire, Sartre, de Sade, Cocteau–have an alienating effect, especially on her attitude toward love, and her manner of expressing her emotions becomes difficult and theatrical; while those French writers whose influence might be healthy, such as Stendhal or Flaubert, she dislikes and takes to reading in translation, where their effect on her thought and speech is negligible; or she willfully misreads Madame Bovary and La Chartreuse, making dark romances of them. […] This is how a female French major thinks.

Have you ever read something so profoundly true and applicable to yourself that you read it over and over and over again until you could almost recite it back word-for-word?  I have, many times.  Today, it was this excerpt from Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

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