Finding Frances

The feature length finale of the Comedy Central series ‘Nathan For You’ takes an amazing melancholy turn, when Nathan decides to use the show’s resources to find Bill Heath’s (the Bill Gates impersonator from previous episodes) long lost love.

Though still full of the same comedic flavor that Nathan is famous for, this is a heart wrenching documentary about a man that could not let go of the past.

Bill, now 76 years old, never married, and never had children, has spent his life always wondering what happened to his young love Frances, last seen over 50 years ago. Though it is never stated directly, it is implied that he never married or had children because he was always hoping to find her. Early in the episode we get many clips of him reminiscing about her, always saying ‘I should have married her.’

Nathan takes it on himself to help Bill find Frances, using ridiculous, roundabout tactics that will be familiar to fans of the show. But always present between the comedy is a thick vein of longing, and it will creep under your skin and leave your heart aching.

What kind of love must one feel to still wonder about someone from half a century past? What kind of emotions could prevent a person from moving on after so much time? The relationship of Bill and Frances is startlingly similar to that of Florintino and Fermina in Love in the Time of Cholera, except, as we find out during a heart squeezing scene where Bill reads through a box of old letters–Bill left Frances to pursue his career in acting, and regretted it ever since.

I won’t spoil the end, but as the episode progresses and Nathan finds more and more information about Frances, it becomes clear that Bill has held some kind of frozen image of her in his mind, a version of her trapped in amber and unchanging as the decades rolled by.

Is this how all love works? A first impression of overwhelming emotion seared into the brain, unable to be overwritten no matter what else happens with or because of that person. Do we have any choice but to cling to that moment when everything was perfect and amazing, despite all that has changed? That irrationality and inability to accept change–or even perceive it in some cases–is part of what makes us human…

The end of this episode left me with a surreal feeling of the gulf of time that can separate two people–a feeling of melancholy for the past, like opening a time capsule full of childhood mementos, or finding an old love letter in your attic.

This episode was better produced, and miles more meaningful than 90% of Hollywood movies today. Even if you’re not familiar with the show, and don’t care for absurdist/awkward comedy– I would recommend watching this episode. It is heartfelt, real, and peeks at some secret aspect of being human that hides within all of us.

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Love in the Time of Cholera

This was the story of love between many people over a lifetime.

There were so many little nuggets of goodness in this novel that it’s hard to give a general idea of why I liked it. I loved the description of Florintino, and found a lot of myself in him. He was also laughable at times, though, with his ridiculous ideas of love and his determination that bordered on obsession.

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of youth and age, and how their views on love differed, but the views that others took of them remained the same–they were kept apart in their youth because they were too young, but in their old age, their families try to keep them apart because they are too old for love!

Fermina has a hard/hot headedness that Florintino refuses to give in to, and it is fun and emotional to read. He is a tireless, endless lover and you can’t help but cheer for him to keep trying.

The kind of love that lets you fall for someone in your youth, and then be unable to forget about them for fifty years, even when they never talk to you or even acknowledge your existence, is difficult to imagine. But Marquez does a great job of giving me an insight, and a hint at what that might feel like.

 

Distant love

Fermina and Florintino have broken it off, and the arc of their romance reminds me of many internet relationships of modern day.

The two of them communicated nearly exclusively via letters, even though they lived in the same town. Then when Fermina moved away, they continued their correspondence for several years, eventually agreeing to marry–all while having said no more than a few sentences to eachother in person, and those years ago.

Then, one day Flortintino comes upon Fermina in the market and whispers in her ear–something that took great courage, as Florintino was always completely paralyzed when he saw her, and could only watch from afar–but when she turns and sees his face up close, the spell is broken, and she realizes it’s all been an illusion. She leaves, and drops the whole thing that moment, never answering his letters or seeing him again–all too easy for her, since they only spoke via letters, and no one other than her father and one cousin even knew he existed.

This kind of ephemeral relationship, though possibly rare and strange in the past, is now commonplace with the advent of the internet. I’m sure countless people can identify with either Florintino–who fell madly in love with someone he’d basically never met in real life, and then was destroyed when she vanished. Or with Fermina, who realized she was in too deep with someone who, in actuality, was a complete stranger, and cut it off while she could.

A good story stays relevant over the years, and this one has in ways the author probably never anticipated…

All kinds of love

I’ve started listening to this novel, and so far–as the title would imply–it is all about love. The book opens with one character, and we follow from him, to his wife, to his wife’s past lover, and I assume we’ll keep bouncing around like this, in a sort of meandering way through the past. It’s very enjoyable so far.

Currently we’re following Fermina and Florintino, young lovers who communicate with letters only, having only said a few words in person, even though they live in the same town . Florintino stares at Fermina for months before talking to her. It’s a love that is as restrained as it is explosive.  And she feels it for him, too, and is tormented while waiting and waiting for him to say something to her.

It’s a perfect portrait of young love, and I’m curious how their relationship will evolve over the years, since we know from the opening of the novel that Florintino professes his love again to Fermina 50 years later, days after the death of her husband.

Engaging story so far!