January 30, 2008
Almost, but not quite. I finished The Almost Moon last week, and can't really say if I liked it or not. I'm leaning toward not, but I should point out that once the book hooked me, I found it (almost) compulsively readable. And I'm not saying "almost" parenthetically to be cute, but honestly -- I wanted to read it, and yet didn't, too.
I was hoping that I'd have a more clear-cut reaction to this book than I did to Sebold's blockbuster The Lovely Bones, another book that I whipped right through, yet also had pretty mixed feelings about (especially the end). The Lovely Bones is sort of my go-to book that I use as an example of why I don't join up with my MOMS book club: yes, it's dark, yes it's about a young girl who was murdered and who narrates the story from Up There, but really, is it that hard to take, or that hard a read? Yet time and again I hear murmurings from women I know who found it so bleak so disturbing, so hard to take, etc.
Please. And yeah, maybe it's my snobby bookworm with an MFA self coming through loud and clear here, but....puh-leeze. You want dark and disturbing, go read Denis Johnson's Angels and get back to me on whatcha think. Or how about some of that pervy drunkard Bukowski served up with the chardonnay and brie?
The Almost Moon is dark, too (much darker) and also has a death at the center of it's story. In this book, the first-person narrator, Helen Knightly, murders her elderly and infirm mother at the end of the first chapter, and the rest of the book is comprised of her actions over the next 24 hours, with lots of flashbacks so that the reader can piece together the past relationship between the disturbed, mentally ill mother and her only child.
The fact that Helen, and by extension the book itself, is brutal and dark and driven isn't really my gripe here, although, yes, it's hard to call Helen likable by any stretch, especially after she sleeps with her best friend's grown son (not even counting the actual murder and hauling of her mom's carcass down the basement steps to the meat freezer). Helen's voice is just so flat and without affect, it makes the book tough going. And I suppose this voice is supposed to reflect how she was beaten down and hurt by her mother's problems and rages over the years, but still, it did not make for a sympathetic heroine. Not that a a heroine necessarily must be sympathetic to make a novel work, but still -- eh. What I did relate to was Helen's sense of being an outsider, an Other, in the world at large, compared to the insanity and dysfunction (and the slick and smiling hiding of it from the neighbors) that lurked each day behind her parent's front door.
I'd like (hope) to write a post soon about a book that I'm just wild about, but I'm not sure when that will happen. I could go back to the very end of last year, and tell you how much I enjoyed Case Histories and the odd yet very appealing Origin, by Diane Abu-Jaber. (Now there was a page turner.) (And come to find out, the author was RIGHT here in town reading and discussing this novel at the our new library late last year, and I missed it! Damn. I need to take advantage of what little culture we get in this town.)
January 21, 2008
Sometimes I think I could write a whole book on the subject of friendship. I think about it a lot. More than the average person, I'm pretty sure. On the other hand -- what I don't know or understand about friendship could easily fill a book.
I felt a little bad today, thinking about my snarky "friends vs. acquaintances" comments in yesterday's post. First, I realized that one of my friends actually did call me when we were all sick. (I guess now isn't the time to bring up the fact that she just needed to pick up an item at my house and unwittingly got sucked into listening to me whine about how terrible and blah we all felt.) Second, while I could blather on for a lot more words here weighing the semantics of "friends" vs. "neighbors" vs. "thrown into this mess of motherhood together," the fact remains that right now, I have more "friends" that I've had in my entire adult life. Or, actually, in my whole life, ever. Huh. That makes me feel a little weird.
Let's change the subject. Sorta.
So the picture of Bette Midler is up there because often when I find myself ruminating on the subject of friendship, I end up singing her song, "You Got to Have Friends" in my head. That album (or was it an 8-track?) that this song is on was played a whole lot in my house growing up. Both of my parents were big Bette Midler fans, back when she was a raunchy showgirl with a big voice, and not the woman known for starring in Beaches and singing that groaner, "Wind Beneath My Wings."
"Standing at the end of the road, boysThis was one of the many, many songs that formed the soundtrack of my childhood. The funny thing is, my parents, or my mom specifically, never did, and never has, had any friends. Oh, she had plenty of work pals, or gals I should say (that's her word, and it still sorta makes me cringe with embarrassment to use it, just like I did when said it back then). When I was fifteen or sixteen, my mom had quite a few gals from her office that she would have drinks with on Fridays after work, and often during the middle of the week, too. None of these women were the type of friends that she could call upon the phone just to shoot the shit with, and none were ever invited to our house, unless you count a handful of quick potty breaks. As far I can recall, she never visited at their homes, either.
Waiting for my new friends to come,
Oh, I don't care if I'm hungry or freezin' cold
I gotta get me some of them!
Cuz you gotta have frieeeeennnds....!"
What I'm trying to say here is that I grew up in a household where it was perfectly normal to me that a grown woman did not have a single friend to call her own, outside of her two sisters, my aunts. My grandmother, my mom's mother, didn't have any friends either. And that was the way it should be. What my grandma did have was three daughters, my mother and two aunts, and the four of them seemed to (and still do) spend significant amounts of their lives calling each other on the phone and bitching about the other three. Bitch, bitch, bitch, gossip, gossip, gossip. This is all I've ever known, all I ever had to pattern myself after. Is it any wonder that I often feel so conflicted and confused about my own friendships, both past and present? For so many years growing up, I literally sat at my mother's feet of a Saturday morning and listened to endless variations on, "Oh really? I didn't know that! She didn't tell ME....Well you KNOW how she is. She'll never change." Etc., etc.
Holy crap. Really, I'm pretty lucky that anyone will talk to me at all, now that I think about it.
Like I said, I think about this stuff a lot. And I could go on and on and tell some pretty awful tales on myself and my friends, of past behaviors and lies told and trusts betrayed. However.
It's just about 11 o'clock at night -- time to go to bed and read more of the novel I'll write about soon. And it's another busy day tomorrow: after dropping Lily at school and coming home to clear the breakfast dishes, Tucker and I have a playgroup to attend, where I'll get to sit and share some hot coffee and conversation with some of my
(spit it out, spit it out...)