Novelist as Voyeur

Among many, I’m reading Gay Talese’s intensely bizarre The Voyeur’s Motel, and I squelched an impetus to conceal the unmistakable cover at the lake with my kids this afternoon. There’s an underlying subtext of, well, porn, which is something I never read.

Perhaps the other subtextual issue is that I realize, like all novelists, I’m a tenor of voyeur, too, always looking at other people and parsing their lives, wondering at the mechanics not only of their material lives, but their souls, too. Talese’s book reminds me of the far classier Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and the four horsemen in relationships. Over and over, I’ve thought of that Contempt horseman rearing its head. (How much I wish I’d heeded Gladwell’s words, many years ago.)

A third of the way through the motel book, I’m already longing for Talese to toss me some kind of bone of human decency, and perhaps one reason I keep reading is I want that decency to rear up at some point.

You can never really determine during their appearance (of couples) in public that their private life is full of hell and unhappiness. I have pondered why it is absolutely mandatory for people to guard with all secrecy and never let it be known that their personal lives are unhappy and miserable.

– Gay Talese, The Voyeur’s Motel

Such a grim view. Then there’s this: swimming, we could see a bank of clouds rushing across the lake today. In this humid day, with no sign of lightening, only the rain rushing in and rushing out, the girls kept swimming in the downpour, just the two of them in all that cool water. Voyeur that I may be – beneath a cedar tree in a shower storm – I hope to catch a more joyous slice of human life.

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Greensboro, Vermont

About Brett Ann Stanciu

A writer and sugarmaker, Brett Ann lives with her two daughters in stony soil Vermont. Her novel HIDDEN VIEW was published by Green Writers Press in the fall of 2015. Let my writing speak for itself.
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