Such doubts only inflame desire. As Rabih has realized, the most attractive people aren’t those who accept him right away (he doubts their judgement) or those who never give him a chance (he grows to resent their indifference) but rather those who, for unfathomable reasons – perhaps a competing romantic entanglement or a cautious nature, a physical predicament or a psychological inhibition, a religious commitment or a political objection – leave him turning for a little while in the wind. The

A well-loved child is set a challenging precedent. In its very nature, parental love works to conceal the effort which went into generating it. It shields the recipient from the donor’s complexity and sadness – and from an awareness of how many other interests, friends and concerns the parent has sacrificed in the name of love.

Objects mimic in a material dimension what we require in a psychological one. We need to rearrange our minds but are lured towards new shelves. We buy a cashmere cardigan as a substitute for the counsel of friends. We

Watching crowds step off the escalators and onto the concourse, I thought it miraculous that in the midst of so many people, I should ever be able to find her–as well as testimony to the strange particularities of desire that it should be precisely she whom I needed to find.

By overwhelming consensus, our culture locates the primary difficulty of relationships in finding the ‘right’ person rather than in knowing how to love a real – that is, a necessarily rather unright – human being.

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