“The Completed ‘Confessions of a Young Philosopher'”

“The Completed ‘Confessions of a Young Philosopher'”

Last Sunday, I finished a life work. I mean, finished it to my satisfaction. It’s done – as I always hoped it could be.

Some years back, I had published an earlier version of this memoir under a different title. My attitude toward the present version is markedly different to what it was toward my story’s first appearance in book form. Then, what I hoped was that the world would understand and accept me.

The vindication I looked for from outside did come, in a measure, from the people who counted most for me as justifiers. A tough-minded philosopher I greatly respected, whom I privately called “the prince of Australian materialists” and who – as a materialist — shared none of my beliefs, wrote comparing the book to Augustine’s and Rousseau’s classic Confessions, adding, “Has any woman ever done this?” A writer for whom I have the highest regard wrote that the book would take its permanent place among Bildungsromans (coming-of-age novels). The thief of my innocence wrote back in French that reading it had made him “better, or [more candidly] less bad.”

Otherwise, in the world at large, it sank like a stone. My editor told me that the publisher had done absolutely nothing for the book, so I should not take that as a measure of how the new version would fare. Still, my sense of frustration at that time was tremendous.

With the present version, it’s different. I no longer feel that I’m awaiting validation from future readers. Not that I’m indifferent to how readers may respond. Not at all.

What I feel is that the meaning I was seeking is what I have found. The book can shed light on life – what life is about — for others too, and that is its purpose. Marcel Proust wrote a many-volume work whose overarching title was (in French) In Quest of Lost Time. His last volume, Proust called, The Time Found. If I were to come up with a similar title for my book, tying its different parts together, I would go from, In Quest of Lost Sense to The Sense Saved. The book reads like a novel (though it’s all true) but I believe it’s a teaching tool. It’s instructive.

With so serene a confidence in what I had achieved, I asked a top-of-the-line literary agent if he would take a look at the book with an eye to representing it. After a couple of days, he emailed back that he can’t sell memoirs unless they Tell All about celebrities (e.g., what a ghastly mommy that glamorous movie star was) or else have some uniquely horrible experience to share.

I think the spiritual journey of which I tell includes chapters pretty uniquely horrible but, unfortunately, I had a pretty happy childhood.

Of course, no matter how serenely “above” caring about the world’s opinion you may think you are, any rejection hits like a torpedo amidships.

So what do I really think about the (possibly) long long trail awinding between where I stand now and the right place of publication for Confessions of a Young Philosopher?

Oddly, I still approach that long passage with confidence.

The way to the destination

is part of the destination.

About Abigail

Abigail Rosenthal is Professor Emerita of Philosophy, Brooklyn College of CUNY. She is the author of A Good Look at Evil, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, soon to appear in a revised second edition. Its thesis is that good people try to live out their stories while evil people aim to mess up good people’s stories. Her next book, Confessions of a Young Philosopher, forthcoming, provides multiple illustrations from her own life. She writes a weekly column for her blog, “Dear Abbie: The Non-Advice Column” (www.dearabbie-nonadvice.com) where she explains why women's lives are highly interesting. She’s the editor of the posthumously published Consolations of Philosophy: Hobbes’s Secret; Spinoza’s Way by her father, Henry M. Rosenthal. Her next book project will be Conversations with My Father. Some of her articles can be accessed at https://brooklyn-cuny.academia.edu/AbigailMartin . She is married to Jerry L. Martin, also a philosopher. They live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
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2 Responses to “The Completed ‘Confessions of a Young Philosopher'”

  1. melhorn says:

    Dear Abby, I’ve been to Paris, but didn’t have the idea of the picture you have below- it’s great! Please send the link for your trip to Milbridge in August (“You CAN Go Home Again”). I missed it somehow. I don’t know how to get to it. “Oddly, I still approach that long passage with confidence.The way to the destinationis part of the destination”. This passage is a “wrap around” idea- I can think of a ink drawing in the woods or a painting of sail boats. http://www.greatbigcanvas.com/zoom/northeastern-breeze-i,2219335/

    Nancy

    Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2016 23:56:10 +0000 To: nmelhorn@hotmail.com

    Like

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