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gribskovprofessors06 - The Professors Wife ALENA GRIBSKOV...

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The Professor’s Wife ALENA GRIBSKOV I cradled the cupcake in my hand, the thick excess of pink frosting threatening my fingertips. The room around me was bare; the white of the walls overwhelmed the room, and the faint lighting barely reached the cor- ners. The professor and his wife had orchestrated a social, and I and the other students sat uncomfortably on their new furniture, all caught in the same throes of awkwardness. They made tenuous and painful conversation; I lis- tened in silence, my eyes drifting across the occupants of the room but final- ly settling on the professor’s wife. She was not pretty; my mind in its clinical distance called her ugly. With a scientific, dispassionate eye, I watched her: she was skinny, but lacked the smooth, graceful lines that would have made her attractive. There were wrin- kles around her eyes; her face seemed washed out, somehow, missing a vibrancy that I expected in it, and I found myself staring instead at her shoes. Her tiny feet were arranged prettily—it seemed a discrepancy—into little green sandals that didn’t match the hue of the green polka-dotted dress she wore. The dress was exceedingly garish, and yet she wore it with comfortable confidence. It tied clumsily at her waist; the top was an overlapping V. And though I found her, logically, rationally, ugly, I had the feeling that she was somehow not, that there was a secret I did not know. She spoke in broken English, with a Portuguese accent that was thick and obtrusive. She stumbled over the words, embracing awkward pauses as she tried to express what she knew but could not say. As she leaned forward to explain a point, her husband’s eyes would follow her movements, as if she were some possession worthy of jealous guarding. I didn’t understand the expressions of pride and adoration that lingered on his face. She stood up to collect the plates, and the skirt of her dress settled around her knees. As she moved, I saw suddenly what I had missed before. The fluidity of the motion knitted together every ugly trait into something beyond it. She was compelling, commanding—and I knew, with unwarranted certainty and unshakeable belief, that she was beautiful. MERCER STREET - 1
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She was beautiful not because of any prettiness, any exception from the laws of nature or of life, but because she was ugly. I had allowed myself to vul- garize her in my mind, to pick out every imperfection and to know it, unflinchingly. She was beautiful for the same reason that The Unbearable Lightness of Being is beautiful—because it is ugly. My unrelenting examination of the professor’s wife had produced the same sensation in me that I had felt when reading Kundera’s novel: a morbid fascination and a physical discomfort. Kundera does not shy away from fol- lowing every markedly uncouth thought and habit to its end, until the read- er feels almost affronted. There is no room in our culture to look at our own failings, the absurdity and crudity of our lives. Vulgarizing the professor’s wife
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This note was uploaded on 04/12/2011 for the course WRITING 101 taught by Professor Jabaker during the Spring '11 term at NYU.

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gribskovprofessors06 - The Professors Wife ALENA GRIBSKOV...

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