Monday, March 8, 2010

Carol Leifer gets weirder and meets Marcel Proust: hybrid identities


Comedian Carol Leifer recently came out as vegan, prompting a little piece titled Carol Leifer Gets Weirder over at Vegetarian Star, a site for celebrity vegetarian gossip and news. She quipped:
“I recently became vegan because I felt that as a Jewish lesbian, I wasn’t part of a small enough minority. So now I’m a Jewish lesbian vegan.”
 I love these hybrid identities. We all have them. What's yours? (Hint: it changes over time.) Maybe that is the reason people are fascinated with something like the Oscars: it is a pleasure to watch actors change from one skin to another. Meryl Streep is just one Mistress of the Multiple Selves, with great performances this past year in both Julie and Julia, and It's Complicated.

Marcel Proust puts it best, just a few pages into Swann's Way, the first volume of his In Search of Lost Time. This is from the translation by writer Lydia Davis, which I've just begun:
But even with respect to the most insignificant things in life, none of us constitutes a material whole, identical for everyone, which a person has only to go look up as though we were a book of specifications or a last testament; our social personality is a creation of the minds of others. Even the very simple act that we call "seeing a person we know" in in part an intellectual one. We fill the physical appearance of the individual we see with all the notions we have about him, and of the total picture that we form for ourselves, these notions certainly occupy the greater part. In the end they swell his cheeks so perfectly, follow the line of his nose in an appearance so exact, they do so well at nuancing the sonority of his voice as though the latter were only a transparent envelope that each time we see his face and hear his voice, it is these notions that we encounter again, that we hear.
I think that is the smartest comment on identity and psycho(social) media that I've read in a long time.

2 comments:

Jeanne said...

I think this is probably the very first time Carol Liefer and Proust have been mentioned in the same context--you're amazing!

elena said...

Sometimes my hybrid head hurts...