The Attraction of Things by Roger Lewinter
The Attraction of Things by Roger Lewinter is a short book about a man who loves fine things. In long, punctuated sentences, we learn of his obsessions, his romances and his grief. Although brief, the reader comes to know and appreciate Lewinter, particularly for his ability to weave life around his attraction to and pursuit of things, in Geneva of all places.
Frequenting the flea markets in the city center, Lewinter has an acute eye for things, from kashmir shawls to G&T red or black label records. His admiration of these objects is so divinely specific. He is on a first-name basis with all the Saturday flea market retailers, and they know what he is looking for. We come to learn about any number of his finds.
Interwoven, often in the same, seemingly page-long sentences, are the stories of his parents' demise. Interesting that this book was read on World Cancer Day, because we learn of the tumor in his mother's tongue, and the prostate cancer that his father lived with for some time. In his chase for things, we also sense the loss of his loved ones, a loneliness addressed only by hunting. And when Lewinter is not hunting for a porcelain vase or the perfect opera, he is hunting for a new level of understanding in the complex literature and philosophy he reads and frequently references (to the degree that I decided I will one day read it a second time, only to annotate all the references he makes!).
Indeed, in his writing style and in the stories he tells, there is a restlessness. Until he finds and regularly practices the lotus position (of all things; this is quite amusing), he is an insomniac, rarely asleep. The restlessness seeps into his unusual relationships, first with a woman and later with a man. A man who ends the relationship with the words, "Hollywood, it's over." We see that sexuality is something that plagues Lewinter, and keeps him unsure of his love of and interest in performing in theater, for fear that it will confront him too seriously with his homosexuality.
There is a tortured, beautiful course through which his prose runs; a story, so short, entirely complete. While I have read a fair deal of memoirs now, none unfold quite like this one. Is that because it was originally written in French? Or is it the man, the man for whom everything is connected, and all attached to his attraction of things?