Friday, December 19, 2008
Bright visions came to haunt him of a world that could and should have been his, a world of intellect and sensibility that now lay forever mixed in his mind with "the East." In the East, he then believed, a man went to college not for vocational training but in disciplined search for wisdom and beauty, and nobody over the age of twelve believed that those words were for sissies. In the East, wearing rumpled tweeds and flannels, he could have strolled for hours among ancient elms and clock towers, talking with his friends, and his friends would have been the cream of their generation. The girls of the East were marvelously slim and graceful; they moved with the authority of places like Bennington and Holyoke; they spoke intelligently in low, subtle voices, and they never giggled. On sharp winter evenings you could meet them for cocktails at the Biltmore and take them to the theater, and afterwards, warmed with brandy, they would come with you for a drive to a snow-covered New England inn, where they'd slip happily into bed with you under an eiderdown quilt. In the East, when college was over, you could put off going seriously to work until you'd spent a few years in a book-lined bachelor flat, with intervals of European travel, and when you found your true vocation at last it was through a process of informed and unhuried selection; just as when you married at last it was to solemnize the last and best of your many long, sophisticated affairs.