Tuesday, January 14, 2014


File:RolandBarthes.jpgI have learned to check on the meaning of words constantly.

Sometimes they don’t quite mean what I think they mean—and sometimes they have have just changed their meaning. There is nothing new in language evolving, but I suspect the rate of change—given modern communications and globalization—has speeded up significantly.

In that context, I would expect English—a truly global language—to change faster; and for the French to fight a formidable delaying action. Where the latter is concerned, I truly hope so, because it’s an especially beautiful language. Besides, I have French ancestors so I’m hopelessly biased. They came from Normandy, just like Roland Barthes (see photo—and read on).  He was borne in Cherbourg whereas my lot came from Calvados.

Picking up yet again from my WILD MEN, WILDER WOMEN & THE WILDEST PARTIES blog, I was intrigued to find that a French euphemism for orgasm is La petite morte or “little death—”and that it also covers post-coital tristesse. Did I know that? I feel fairly sure I did—but sometimes you don’t know what you know (if you know what I mean).

However, I was particularly intrigued to find that literary critic Roland Barthes used the concept to describe the feeling one should get when experiencing any great literature.  As I have just written, I had approached the same concept from the point of view of a writer—but I confess that I hadn’t thought about it from a reader’s perspective. Odd, because I was a reader before I became a writer.

Either way, writing and sex seem to be inexplicably linked. Consider me much relieved. I knew there had to be a reason why I abandoned a financially profitable way of life for this strange occupation—which doesn’t even attract groupies.

Poets get all the literary groupies. Though maybe times have have changed. Still, at my age it’s politer to think of a groupie as a muse.

Incidentally, I once had a girlfriend—a truly elegant and beautiful young woman—who ended up as a groupie with the Kinks.  If you haven’t heard of the Kinks, shame on you. Rod Stewart used to be one of them.

The photo is that of Roland Barthes who absolutely looks the role. He was—needless to say, French; and was a French literary theorist, philosopher, linguist, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, social theory, anthropology and post-structuralism. He died in 1980.

But, of course, you knew all that. And he wrote books too.

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