Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Joyce Carol Oates' A FAIR MAIDEN: She was 16, He was 68

A Fair Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates opens with “INNOCENTLY IT BEGAN. When Katya Spivak was sixteen-years-old and Marcus Kidder was sixty-eight."

Katy is described as being five-feet-five, tanned, and slender with streaked-blond hair and “steely gray eyes”. Since the sixth grade she had begun hearing words about her “Tits, boobs, [and] ass [...]” She was thirteen when she noticed how men, not boys, looked at her. And she was fourteen when she lost her virginity to her older cousin.

Kidder is described as being gentlemanly, six feet two, with icy blue eyes that were “crinkled at the corners from decades of smiling” and with striking white-hair." (I wrote in The Allure of Nymphets that according to R. Don Steele in How to Date Young Women for Men Over 35 and Nassim Taleb in The Black Swan, girls are very attracted to grey hair.)

They met while Katya was working as a nanny for the Englehardts on Ocean Avenue in exclusive Bayhead Harbor, New Jersey and continued to meet after Kidder invited Katya to visit him at his mansion. (He had a pied-à-terre "[...] on Fifth Avenue, overlooking Central Park," as well.) The ocean front mansion had “floor-to-ceiling bookshelves [...] an easel [...] stacks of unframed canvases. On the walls were works of art – paintings, pastel drawings – portraits of women, girls, and young children.”

(Mr. Englehardt was attracted to Katya, his 16-year-old Nanny, as well. "... he gazed at her with a faint fond smile, and when his wife wasn't close by, he'd openly flirted with her. When Katya came to breakfast with a "... swollen and discolored right eye," Mrs. Englehardt was very "anxious" and suspected that Katya was impregnated by Mr. Englehardt.)

(That fact that Kidder was an artist, author and composer, reminded me of a quote from Nabokov in Lolita. He wrote You have to be an artist and a madman [...]” to spot a willing nymphet out of a crowd.)

On Katya's first visit to the mansion, they drank lemonade from a “heavy cut-glass pitcher” and ate strawberries and sherbet out of “shallow low cut-glass bowls” before Kidder asked Katya to pose for him. “Pose? Like for a …. portrait?” she asked.

But it wasn't until during a subsequent visit did Katya realize "He wants me, this old man. Desire and yearning in Mr. Kidder's startled blue eyes were like nothing Katya saw in the eyes of other, younger men [...] Exhilarated, she thought, He wants me! Me, me!"

Eventually, they began to kiss after he paid her for "modeling" and before she left the mansion. "[...] kissing Katya's mouth so warmly, gently, as Katya had never been kissed before, and how strange and wonderful it was [...]"

Katya was confused about their relationship. "He is the only one who loves me. And I love him. He's a dirty old man, a pervert. You must know. Marcus Kidder! Not Ever."

But she was really confused after she suspected that Kidder drugged her and took advantage of her. He denied it, but their relationship took a dramatic turn after that dispute.

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