Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Ebenezer had of course observed her for some years as she and his companions came and went in their harlotry, and from the talk in the coffee-house had got to know about her in great detail at second hand a number of things that his personal disorganization precluded learning at first. When in manly moments he thought of her at all it was merely as a tart whom, should he one day find himself single-minded enough, it might be sweet to hire to initiate him at long last into the mysteries. For it happened that, though near thirty, Ebenezer was yet a virgin, and this for the reason explained in the previous chapters, that he was no person at all: he could picture any kind of man taking a woman - the bold as well as the bashful, the clean green boy and the dottering gray lecher - and work out in his mind the speeches appropriate to each under any of several sorts of circumstances. But because he felt himself no more one of these than another and admired all, when a situation presented itself he could never choose one role to play over all the rest he knew, and so always ended up either turning down the chance or, what was more usually the case, retreating gracelessly and in confusion, if not always embarrassment. Generally, therefore, women did not give him a second glance, not because he was uncomely - he had marked well that some of the greatest seducers have the faces of goats and the manner of lizards - but because, a woman having taken in his ungainly physique, there remained no other thing for her to notice.

- John Barth
The Sot-Weed Factor

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