My latest house/pet sitting gig has been relatively quiet and I’ve had a great deal of alone-time during which to read. In some ways, now, I read like I gym – to avoid thinking, to avoid life; but that’s okay.
Today, I finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. It’s a very fast read, less than 200 pages. Best summed up by Erin Morgenstern, author of another book I loved, The Night Circus, whose cover blurb said, “It feels as if it was always there, somewhere in the story-stuff of the universe.” Indeed. The story revolves around a middle-aged man returning to his childhood home to attend a funeral, and while there, he needs an escape from the existential quandaries in which he feels he’s drowning and so he heads to the site where his childhood home – long demolished – once stood, and is drawn down the long lane at the end of which lived the remarkable Lettie about whom he has not thought in decades. We go back in time to their magical childhood adventures and then, the final chapter returns to the present day, where he experiences revelations and remembrances that are literally universe-altering. I almost NEVER cry at a book, but the final chapter of this brilliant novel took my breath away and broke (and opened) my heart. Read it. I implore you.
From that, I moved on to Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club, a sort of memoir of the time he and his mother spent together as she was dying of pancreatic cancer, and a history of the books they had read and the life they lived together. I am halfway done and it is quite beautiful, and reminds me of my aunt (what doesn’t?) Sissie, who read the adventures of Babar to me when I was a child and bought me – quite literally – stacks of books, all the time, inculcating and encouraging my love of reading. She gave me Dorothy Parker and we discovered Jane Bowles together – though I could never get her to love Paul Bowles as I did. I miss her. But I love this book, and too, it again makes me grateful for the time I am now getting to spend with my mother. So, despite the ways in which life has been a bit disappointing the last few years, some very large blessings – and time with her is one.
And then I saw on the news that Karen Black had died. I loved Karen Black. She was in one of my all-time favorite films, Robert Altman‘s Nashville. I have watched that so many times and when I still believed in heaven, I used to think that along with seeing opening nights of Streisand in Funny Girl and Jennifer Holliday in Dreamgirls and Mary Martin in EVERYTHING, I would also get to see all the hours of un-used and lost film from Nashville, of which I read there were hundreds of hours. Ms. Black was also in the classic TV flick – Trilogy of Terror, chased by a crazy little doll and – well, I loved her. She was a campy, crazy, balls-to-the-wall courageous nutcase of an actress with a one of a kind look and energy. And lest we forget, another Robert Altman flick in which she gave an amazing, life-altering performance, Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (which is STILL not available on DVD – and which also starred EQUALLY ICONIC Cher, Sandy Dennis, Sudie Bond, and Kathy Bates – I mean – WHAT ARE THEY WAITING FOR? -what the fuck is wrong with this world?) Ms. Black was 74 and died of cancer.
Long day. And too, lots of other stuff went on about which writing would be silly or invasive or something, and so, I won’t, except to say, I am trying to look at the blessings in what feels like – NOT blessings. It’s funny how life changes shapes, funny how it takes shape, funny how we find ourselves in situations we never imagined or dreamed, and how people surprise us and disappoint us, and turn out to be human when we expected them to be magical, and sometimes – rarer – magical when we expected them to be human.
I could use a magician at the moment. But, I will try to do my own incanting and see what comes of it.
Goodnight my loves, even you lost ones, and even you ones with whom – between us – have only been traded false names.