THE WORLD OF
MARA, MARIETTA

A website about art as a way of life, life as a form of art (in other words, ethics and aesthetics), conceived as a complement to the novel by Richard Jonathan, Mara, Marietta: A Love Story in 77 Bedrooms.

Mara, Marietta is a love story told primarily through art and sex.

…where ‘sex and drugs and rock and roll’ becomes ‘sex and art and philosophy’…

What’s the novel about, and who is it aimed at?

‘What excites you?’ a girl asks the hero at a party. ‘Art’, he replies. Speaking of the heroine, the girl continues: ‘And Marietta, what excites her?’. ‘Risk’, he says. The girl interprets this to mean ‘sex’. And she is not mistaken. Indeed, Mara, Marietta is a love story told primarily through art and sex. In a heady cocktail of music, dance, cinema, sex, painting and poetry, the story moves from Princeton to Paris, and from there radiates out around the world.

She is a theoretical physicist and a musician, he a poet and rock song lyricist. They meet in New Jersey, say goodbye, then meet by chance three years later in Paris. In a midnight bar he tells her he’s having trouble with the novel he’s writing. She says, ‘Tell the truth. That often makes the best fiction’. He asks her how. She says, ‘Have you ever had your heart broken? I mean really broken, so that you had nothing left but your eyes to cry with? That would strip you down to your truth’. He says he hasn’t, then asks her, ‘Will you do it for me?’. ‘Do what?’ ‘Break my heart.’ Softly, but distinctly, she says, ‘Yes, I will’. Between two beats of his heart he hears himself say, ‘Thank you’.

After seven years together she leaves him, in a way rarely, if ever, seen in fiction. From then on he begins writing her a ‘very long love letter’, one which moves from magical realism to a cinematic depiction of all they have lived together. (By the way, if you haven’t guessed, the letter is the novel itself.)

From the archaeology of childhood to the founding of an ethics, from the investigation of desire to the affirmation of life as creation, the lovers discover through each other at once their own buried history and the deepest intimacy of the other.

Mara, Marietta: A Love Story in 77 Bedrooms is neither for cheap-thrill seekers nor for readers who only seek new twists on stale conventions. Rather, it is a tale for adults who are unafraid to open their hearts and minds to the intelligence of the body and the soul.

He who has read Kafka’s Metamorphosis
and can look into his mirror unflinching
may technically be able to read print,
but is illiterate in the only sense that matters.

GEORGE STEINER,
Language and Silence

Is it a dirty book, is it romance?

Mara , Marietta: A Love Story in 77 Bedrooms is not a work of ‘erotica’. Nor is it ‘romance’. Rather, it is a novel that, in dealing with love and sex, refuses the standard modes of the lyrical and the cynical, the coy and the vulgar, and opts instead to invent its own forms. Why? Because the protagonists, in their distinctiveness, required the author to restore to love the singularity of an erotic relation between subjectivities, while their lovemaking demanded that sexuality be transfigured through the imagination.

Will the reader share the author’s view that it is a profoundly joyful book? The author can only hope so. But, dear reader, do be aware of the following:

To read well is to take great risks. It is to make vulnerable our identity, our self-possession … He who has read Kafka’s Metamorphosis and can look into his mirror unflinching may technically be able to read print, but is illiterate in the only sense that matters.

GEORGE STEINER, LANGUAGE AND SILENCE :
Essays on Language, Literature and the Inhuman

Mara, Marietta: A Love Story in 77 Bedrooms is written for the humble,
not for those who (to put a twist on Steiner) can make love then look into their mirror unflinching.

Q & A

Will Mara, Marietta make me cry ?

Depends. Is your heart made of stone, marshmallow, or sinewy muscle?

Will it make me laugh ?

Yes. Unless you’re a dimwit.

Will it turn me on ?

Depends on how it resonates with your own erotic scenarios.

Will it sharpen my intelligence ?

Yes. Unless you don’t know that you don’t know.

Will it increase my spiritual hunger?

Yes. Unless you’re sated with certainties.

What will I find on this website?

A personal perspective on art in all its forms, and on the novel’s themes and subjects, from anorexia to zoology.

Why do you favour a personal perspective?

The particular taste of a singular consciousness, the individual touch that resonates, that is what I aspire to offer on this site.
Something beyond passing opinions and the churning of information.
Something, in other words, in line with my conception of fiction.

And what, exactly, is your conception of fiction?

At the root of everything is boy meets girl.
Everything else is sublimation.
Stick your hand into the human heart, bloody it on passion.
Wipe it on your philosophical brow, lick it clean with your primitive tongue.
Then bloody is again and smell the scent of desire, the yearning that will not die.
Now arrange it all into a rhythm of words that give music and cinema a run for their money.

All photographs © Richard Jonathan
Photography: Julien Chazeaubenit | Model: Kelly Jane | Mara Marietta Culture Blog