There's a line in Woody Allen's Love and Death (that great film) in which, after a comically mournful exchange with Diane Keaton's Sonja, Jessica Harper's Natasha says: 'I don't want to get married. I only want to get divorced'.
There's a profound truth in that gag, I think. I was listening to Paul Simon's Hearts and Bones album recently, for the first time in many years -- the first time, really, since I was a young teenager. I remember I bought the album when it came out; and that I loved it, listened to it over and over. And it struck me, listening to it now, and particularly listening to the title track: how did I take this, back then? What did it mean to me, that it meant so much? So: the title song is a beautifully worn-down response to a relationship at its end, a mix of nostalgic glimpses back to happier times and a weary, emotionally-bruised sense of how things have now died between the singer and his inamorata. Listening to it as a young teenager, still virgin and almost wholly inexperienced in the emotions which are the idiom of the song, I wonder if I didn't think: this is how I want to feel. I wanted the happiness, but in a retrospective way (because then it's done and dusted and safe); and I wanted the melancholy because it just seemed so grown-up and sophisticated and suave. I wanted, in other words, to bypass the marriage and go straight to the divorce.
I could say, 'I didn't know any better'; which of course was true. But there's a broader point here. That there is a darkly complex pleasure (often a genuinely intense pleasure) to be derived from sadness is hardly a new notion; but perhaps what gets overlooked is the extent to which art (songs, movies, novels) in effect sell precisely that pleasure to inexperienced audiences, by taking for granted the assumptions (that simple emotional pleasures, a healthy functioning relationship and so on are consummations devoutly to be wished) that this portion of their audience precisely won't take for granted. On the other hand, it's possible that maybe I think too much.