Honestly, when will cheating couples finally learn to keep their declarations of passion out of anything that could conceivably be stolen by a lady's maid, discovered by a suspicious spouse or unearthed by a cyber sleuth? Never, one hopes, or much of the world's great literature, not to mention detective fiction, would collapse.
Stripped to its essentials, the
First there's the man himself, square-jawed, yes, but not terribly handsome, with those protruding ears and that receding hairline, still radiating competence nonetheless and more than that, a Middle American super-dad decency that almost belies his four-star status. Then there's
And, oh, the shivery meta-media pleasure of watching Stewart now review those softball questions knowing what we/he knows now, or finding the whole original extended-version episode in which Broadwell banters with her cuckolded husband as they do his and her sets of push-ups for charity.
Still, if the narrative had been confined to Petraeus and Broadwell, even with his universally beloved status and his resignation mere days after a contentious election, the nation might simply have shared a raised-eyebrow pause and moved on.
But then we met Honorary Counsel
It's one thing for the head of the
Reading descriptions of Kelley's champagne and caviar parties, her Gasparilla Pirate Fest parties and sky diving with the troops, it is difficult not to envision a Lebanese American version of
Who, in this case, appears to have included some of the military's top male brass — trained intelligence officers who supposedly are able to spot a potential terrorist across a crowded room but who, apparently, don't know a nakedly ambitious social climber when they're posin' for pictures with her.
This is why we cannot get enough of the Petraeus story: It has something for everyone. A fallen hero, a troubled smart girl, a cast of characters who seem destined for the
But it's more than the story's multiple narrative touchstones that compel us. There is something heartbreaking about it being Petraeus, who, unlike Clinton or Edwards or our former governor, has not cultivated a noticeable sexual swagger or a million-dollar smile.
So he must have, we imagine, simply fallen in love. And for all our carefully nurtured cynicism, our tales of the sexting and hook-up generation, we remain a nation in love with love, particularly forbidden love.
Our books, our films, our television series steer us again and again to the thundering, fatal majesty of a love that makes all other concerns — jobs, friends, the respect of peers — superfluous.
It's no accident that two of the winter's biggest films are the final "Twilight" and
In real life, similar choices often lead to climaxes far less
And in a country with laws and mores still beholden to our Puritan founders, the only thing we like better than a good, juicy, twisty love story is a good, juicy, twisty love story with a moral at the end.