Thursday, January 28, 2010
Coco, Igor and Catherine, Elizabeth, John and Rielle
News broke yesterday of Elizabeth Edwards separation from her philandering husband, John Edwards, as I finished reading Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky: A Novel by Chris Greenhalgh for today's Silicon Valley Moms Blog Group book club. I found the coincidence very ironic. You can't help seeing similarities between Stravinsky and Edwards, two men with big talents and the big egos needed to promote those talents, both dependent on rich sponsors to get their messages to the public. And both full of rationalizations for sleeping with other women while their wives are seriously ill.
Catherine Stravinsky, bed-ridden with consumption, must deal with the humiliation of living in the home and under the protection of the very woman who temporarily steals her husband, the designer Coco Chanel. The Stravinskys are in exile from their beloved Russia, which is caught in the throes of violent revolution. Composer Igor Stravinsky struggles to find time and peace to work on a symphony and a revision of the modernist classic The Rite of Spring. Chanel has offered her summerhouse outside of Paris for the use of the Stravinskys and their four children during the warm months of 1920. She also offers herself to Igor, who does not resist.
Reading American Wife last summer offered me a great deal of insight into the possible workings of the mind of a woman who remain married to a man like George Bush; Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky could also be read as a companion piece to the Edwards saga. Perhaps Edwards, like Stravinsky, passively blamed Fate for driving him into the arms of a flattering, and conveniently childless, other woman. The by-some-accounts slightly loony Rielle Hunter holds no comparison to the cultural touchstone and creative powerhouse Coco Chanel, except in her status, at least when the affair began, as a single working woman without pesky dependents. Elizabeth and Catherine retain their dignity and seem to gain some solace in the company and comfort of their children.
I turned forty-five this week. I celebrated with my husband and my children and then celebrated again with some old friends, some who are mothers, some who are not. We found plenty to laugh about and share, sitting together on pillows on the floor. Battles between women who have chosen different paths seemed airy, far away and very likely imaginary.