Places to go when you can’t stay anywhere

None of the three pieces that I wanted to note were mentioned on the cover. 

The state of Florida has a long list of crimes that require a convict to be registered for life as a sex offender.  Registered sex offenders in the state are prohibited from being close to schools, playgrounds, and other areas where children congregate.  Some Florida towns decree that registered sex offenders must stay at least 1000 yards (914.4 meters) from such areas; most put the boundary at 2500 yards (2286m.)  Since the average town has quite a few child-friendly spaces, the consequence of these laws is that Floridian sex offenders cluster into little ghettoes.  Irina Aleksander spent some time following a man who runs a business that shepherds registered sex offenders into these ghettoes.  The man, himself a registered sex offender whose crime was watching a 19 year old girls perform a sex act on a 15 year old boy, is evidently getting pretty rich.  The neighborhoods where he send his clients tend to get very inexpensive very quickly.  He seems like a good person to know if you are a real estate developer and want to find a way to reduce startup costs for redevelopment projects in Florida…

A person who has a lot of anger might answer the question of where registered sex offenders should go by referring to another article in this issue.  A business in Switzerland has taken advantage of that country’s very lax laws on assisted suicide to offer foreigners an easy death.  Zurich has thus become the world’s capital of “suicide tourism.” 

French playwright and novelist Henry de Montherlant committed suicide in 1972.  Had he asked for assistance, one suspects he would have found no end of volunteers.  An essay in this issue claims that Montherlant’s finest work was the the tetralogy of novels known as Les Jeunes Filles.  These books are most famous for Simone de Beauvoir’s attack on the cutting remarks they direct at women as a class.  The reviewer does not defend these remarks, though he does point out that the novels feature equally vitriolic insults against men, the French, and various other categories.  Nor was Montherlant simply a man who wrote unpleasant books.  During the Nazi occupation of France, he broke his prewar habit of deriding antisemitism and militarism to write a book called Le Solstice de Juin, a 300 page love letter to the Wehrmacht.  The essayist notes that Montherlant’s secretary quit her job rather than type this peculiarly craven little production.  Moreover, Montherlant might have had trouble finding a place to live were he transplanted from mid-20th century France to early 20th century Florida, since his chief sexual interest, as his novel  Les Garçons makes abundantly clear, was in adolescent boys.  Strangely, the essay does not mention Montherlant’s plays, which were the chief reason he was elected to the Académie française in 1960.  Horrid as Montherlant was, I admit that the essay made me want to go back at least to his plays, if not the novels.  Though when the essayist writes that “Our journalists pay such deference to the man in the street, despite all the damage he has done, that when Montherlant disparages him, I feel as if I were reading something seditious,” I want to turn, not to Montherlant, but to Céline.  There was an author who really showed what a man of sheer, unreasoning hostility could do in literature.

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4 Comments

  1. vthunderlad

     /  February 19, 2010

    I like the cover of that issue. Nice graphically, nice photo. Reminds me of a **blog** I sometimes read.

    Wow, Montherlant sounds like a mixed bag of nasty. Should we use his name for someone who participates in all types of tourism?

    To complete a ‘Grand Montherlant,’ participate in:

    -standard tourism (sightseeing)
    -eco tourism
    -wildlife tourism
    -food tourism
    -war tourism
    -poverty tourism
    -sex tourism
    -suicide tourism

    (amusingly, I wrote “terrorism” for a couple first)

  2. acilius

     /  February 19, 2010

    Sounds like a laudable goal!

  3. Interesting… good to know… in case I become sex offender or suicidal. :))

    “Irina Aleksander spent some time following a man…”

    Do you know my name is in fact Irina Alexandra?? :)))

  4. acilius

     /  February 21, 2010

    Gosh, I didn’t know that!

    I hope you won’t become a sex offender, suicidal, or very much like Henry de Montherlant!

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