Perhaps you're thinking, Althouse got caught up in that thing we call real life. She complained about Thomas: "He hasn't said anything about sex." And then she must have gotten a clue and detached herself from the keyboard. She abandoned her readers to a long, weird comments thread, where they would mark time until the next tidbit about Thomas, the next tidbit that never came.
Or perhaps I had a class to teach and some other things to read and by the time I got back to the Thomas tome, I found I'd hit a boring stretch. I was saving up to say a few sharp things about this part, and then the boredom won over the desire to say something sharp, and I was asleep at 9:30.
Now, I'm up hours before dawn, ready to talk.
First, I can see one thing clearly. I lost my sympathetic feeling toward the author when he abruptly left his wife and child. On the first page of this book, Thomas writes about his own father's "inexplicable absence" from his life. Now, suddenly, Thomas is absenting himself from his own family and, for us, it's inexplicable.
It was the worst thing I'd done in my life, worse even than going back on my promise to Daddy that I would finish my seminary studies and become a priest. I had broken the most solemn vow a man can make, the one that ends... as long as you both shall live. I still live with that guilt, and always will.So we know he feels bad. But this book is brimming with bad feeling about so many things. Bad feeling and then steeling himself to soldier on. We're in a chapter titled "A Question of Will," and two pages after he's drinking, driving, and deciding to leave his wife, he's bolstering himself by listening over and over to the song "The Greatest Love of All" (the George Benson version from the movie about Muhammad Ali).
According to Wikipedia, the song "has in certain circles become shorthand for cheesy music or kitsch." It's used and abused in many movies and TV shows: "Coming to America," "School of Rock," "Say Anything," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The psycho killer in "American Psycho" identifies it as his favorite song. And that's apt. It's a song about self-love, a powerful declaration that self-love is the greatest love.
Everybody searching for a heroA man who leaves his wife and child is wallowing in the lyrics of a song about how people aren't fulfilling his needs? He has no one, and he must look only to himself for inspiration? Thomas writes that he "didn't even like" himself after what he'd done to his son, but that's why the song was so helpful.
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone to fulfill my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me
The greatest love of allThomas quotes those lyrics. So, you're down on yourself because of something you've done. A song said something that helped you out, but why? I've abandoned my son, the way my father abandoned me, but, really, the most important love is the love that I have for myself! Did he ever picture his own father out enjoying life, singing about how he'd found the greatest love of all, the love for himself?
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
Here's a line from the paragraph about the song: "I'd done what I thought was right." What? Oh, that's Thomas gliding quickly from remorse about his broken family to the more signficant topic: coming out as a black conservative.
I'd done what I thought was right, and I took heart from George Benson: I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows/If I fail, if I succeed/At least I live as I believe/No matter what they take from me/They can't take away my dignity.I'm picturing the movie version of "My Grandfather's Son." A despondent Clarence sits by his record player. He sobs. He listens. His face reflects a thousand emotions. Finally, he rises, restored, and walks into a montage of scenes in various federal offices, where we see him smiling and shaking hands with one smiling white male conservative after another, as the triumphant music swells: If I fail, if I succeed/At least I live as I believe/No matter what they take from me/They can't take away my dignity.
It's a cheesy, kitsch classic.