Saturday, August 19, 2006

one book down

Well, I finished A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I have to say: it was heartbreaking. And I suppose it's genius--at least all the award people ever seem to have thought so. It's a little bit stream-of-consciousness, a lot memoir, a little bit novel, and a little bit dream. It's kind of bizarre, and takes some attention (it's not just some fluff book). But however well it's written, and however well the "plot" moves, and however interesting it is, it has one major flaw in my opinion:

the central thrust of the book is/comes from the death of both parents within 5 weeks of each other, both from cancer.

And the main character/author has a serious obsession with this (hello, someone didn't work through grief!)...and he constantly wonders what cancer looks like, what it felt like, why his mom was so light when she looked like she should be heavy, etc etc etc. And he has near-constant doom-imaginings RE his little brother, of whom he is the guardian. Whoa.

Now, I fully recognize that this is mostly memoir, and that this did happen, and that the author probably really is this way. And I also recognize that tragedy and the aftermath (also known as climax and that falling-away-after-climax literary word) make for good literature and movies and whatnot. And unfortunately, I recognize that real life is often crappy like this.

BUT: I wish I had known before I picked this book up. In some ways, it hits a little too close for comfort. Like the scene when he scatters his mothers ashes (which he recently found at the funeral home after several years) at the beach, and he can't decide if this is the right place or if he should take some somewhere else, and in the meantime the wind has blown some of the ashes back on him and his clothes...

Or his imaginings of what cancer looks like--is it like caviar? Like worms? Like rocks? Pebbles? something else entirely?

And now for what I consider a breakthrough: I did not cry once during the reading of this book. It was heartbreaking, yes...but in some way, it wasn't me. Or else in some way it was me and that made it easier. I don't know exactly, but in any case, i didn't find the book to be sad. Maybe that's weird. Sorry. But I think it's a good movement for me, especially in this place where my mom is everywhere and yet not here.

Having said all that, I think I'm going to read a totally different book next. something that CLEARLY has no cancer in it. Just saying.

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