2003 - Notes on a Scandal - Zoe Heller


media

In the end, though, it's not the carelessness, or even the cheerful mendacity, of the reporting that astouds so much as the sanctimony. Good Lord, the unrelenting sanctimony! [5]

Any species of sexual attraction that you can't find documented on a seaside postcards fails the health test as far as these people are concerned...Journalists are educated people, aren't they? College graduates, some of them. How did their minds get so small? [6]

class

Like so many members of London's haute bourgeoisie, Sheba is deeply attached to a mythology of herself as street-smart. She always howls when I refer to her as upper class...though she cannot say it, or even acknowledge it to herself, she thinks of the working class as a mysterious and homogenous entity: a tempery, florid-faced people addled by food additives and alcohol. [48]

Connolly understood all this, I think. I don't mean that he would have been able to articulate, or even to consciously formulate, the role that class played in his relationship with Sheba. But that he sensed the anthroprological dimension of Sheba's interest in him and played up to it, I have no doubt. [49]

The God business is just a diversion for her [Sheba] -- a bit of Marie Antoinetteish dabbling in someone else's charming rituals. I daresay if my sister and her family had been devotees of the Santeria cult, she would have joined in just as cheerfully, toasting effigies and sacrificing goats. [179]

family life, good and bad

And yet, there was something in the disarray that was enviable. When you live alone...you know with painful accuracy the provenance of everything you touch and the last time you touched it...the level of the salt in your shaker decreases at the same execruciating rate, day after day. Sitting in Sheba's house--studying the mingled detritus of its several inhabitants--I could see what a relief it might be to let your own meagre effects be joined with other people. [104]

She had always found it harder to get along with her children when he wasn't there. It was so much easier being a parent when one was performing for another adult. [145]

People like Sheba think that they know what it's like to be lonely. They cast their minds back to the time they broke up with a boyfriend in 1975 and endured a whole month before meeting someone new...But about the drip, drip of long-haul, no-end-in-sight solitude, they know nothing. They don't know what it is to construct an entire weekend around a visit to the launderette. [197]

After a while, Sheba said dully, "I don't suppose I would ever have had children if I'd known it was going to be like this" [227]

humor

Many of the younger teachers harbour secret hopes of "making a difference" [29]

Even his most minor conversation sallies have an agnonised, over-meditated quality, and he tends to pitch his voice one or two uncomfortable decibels above the standard register. Talking to him is rather like attempting to converse with a school play. [39]

For my simple-minded colleagues, however, private education is a sin, pure and simple. It's up there with fur coats and fox hunting, on their all-time top ten list of Things They Reelly Reely Disapprove Of. [41]

"Tell me, what kinds of things do you like to do with your spare time?" I gave him a list of activities that I had engaged in at some time or another over the last five years. Reading, walking, listening to music. And then, because he seemed to be expecting more, I added swimming. [200]

stray thoughts