THE CLASP, Sloane Crosley, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 384pp, 2015
INNOCENCE; or, Murder of Steep Street, Heda Margolius Kovaly, Soho Crime, 256pp
PRETTY GIRLS, Karin Slaughter, William Morrow, 397pp, 2015
Okay, one more time stealing from Mrs. Parker, copping to my “congenital lowness of brow” and confessing: I have never read anything by Guy de Maupassant.
I had also never read anything of Sloane Crosley’s work, although a copy of I Was Told There’d Be Cake populates my massive TBR collection. Ms. Crosley’s [visit her website HERE] The Clasp was brought to my attention by Twitter-pal mentions and recommendations, after hearing of which, I read reviews, all of which talked of Guy de Maupassant’s short story, The Necklace, as if everyone who was anyone and had ever thought to read a book had studied this classic example of short-story writing in college.
Listen dear ones, I only learned the proper pronunciation of Proust in my twenties. Tortured by thugs and personal demons and as unskilled at suicide as I was at coping, I was lucky to be alive that I might leave high school and home at sixteen. I got a GED, played now and then at college, but my declared major from age twelve or so to this exalted pedestal from which I rule at age fifty-four has always been fighting conventional and cultural should do & must be & ought to. Still, nothing would do but that I read The Necklace so I could — like all the smart, with-it, MFA-ed, literary marvels I follow — get the most out of The Clasp.
So, even had I gotten nothing else out of The Clasp, its reading prompted me to make another stop on my eclectic, autodidactic journey. de Maupassant tale of Matilda Loisel’s acquisitiveness and its cost, the ruination and waste of her life due to posing and specious desiring, was told in less than ten pages. The Clasp was rather longer, three-hundred and fifty pages longer, and, perhaps that difference in length explains my ultimate impatience with its main trio, Kezia, Nathaniel, and Victor.
Ten pages of Matilda’s grasping, or, rather, the results of her spoiled, petulant pose one night, were little enough time to spend with a vacuous, unpleasant woman of little insight ad less character. By about a third of the way through The Clasp, the shallow, self-involved yearnings, manipulations, calculations, and machinations of its characters made me antsy, angry, and curious why I was wasting my time reading about these people.
In its favor, it is insightful about these folk. Ms. Crosley writes with wit, style, offering penetrating and often funny observations. It is a fast read. As I said to a friend who began reading along with me, but left the book halfway through in disgust with the shallow folk about whom it was written, “I have trouble reading and caring about people who I suspect, in real life, would likely never see me, or, if they did, would dismiss me as not important enough a person with whom to bother.”
Which is my judgement and my problem. Ms. Crosley is a fine writer, and loads of people have warmly praised the book. They are probably above me on the food (and/or literary) chain as well. I didn’t have a life of privilege, so, reading about those who have had and make such messes of their lives, care so little about anything outside their circle of privileged-self, exhausts and angers me.
Funnily enough, I read this while house-sitting in a home where the people have great privilege but manage to interact with the world, with others who’ve less (like, say, ME) and are kind, down-to-earth folks who engage with others because of the content of their souls, not their bank accounts. As luck would have it, they are also readers, and have a complete Easton Press collection of classic works including The Tales of Guy de Maupassant. Funny world.
And there that is, now these:
Innocence; Or, Murder on Steep Street, is a translation of a novel by a famed Holocaust memoirist. Another book about which I had read from literary sources was a must read. I should know by now that sometimes (often) a book written about with such vigorous and similar praise is well-liked, heralded in certain circles for reasons other than being a cracking read. I am sure were I more familiar with the author’s background or, were I interested in history of Prague-writers, exiles, on and on, this would have done more for me. I wanted a mystery, a procedural, a good read, and, well, it really wasn’t.
Pretty Girls while indeed a mystery, a procedural, was repugnant to me. The whole tortured and in danger thing, it was too much. I should have known, but I’ve read other of Karin Slaughter’s books and liked them. However, as I age, reading about someone being bagged over the head, the bag sprayed with urine, further violent torture ensuing, just, ugh. No. I don’t see the point in the world in which we live of adding to the misery. Pass.
On the recommendation of Elizabeth McCracken — I have begun a Sue Miller novel, and I am feeling much better about things thanks to that. Already highlighted some lovely sentences. Enjoying stories in which people have some self-awareness, concern for others and the world, and there are no cattle-prods or branding irons involved, stories I can read and enjoy and get lost in without having to have an MFA, do a background check or read a thesis.
And here, in fairness, the sort of crisp, hip, cultivated clever and cool trailer for The Clasp. Lots of folks loved it. Maybe I’m just bitter about being poor? Could be.