I haven’t been on Twitter in five days, which may well be the longest I have not checked in there since I started Tweeting however many years ago that was. For me, Twitter was a method of replacing InRealLife interactions, a place I came closer to being the me and living the life I had long imagined. Except, I didn’t really do that, did I? I live with a foundational loneliness (we all do, I know) that I don’t think can be assuaged, and, for reasons for which no one but myself is to blame, when that distraction from the loneliness and sense of failure stops working, there is an almost chemical surge of disappointment and sorrow, the pain of, “Shit, I’ve done it again — I am, still, after all, alone and who I am/was/will ever be.” Twitter was starting to make me feel that way. Again. It was sort of like being on Grindr or Tinder and swiped over. And over. And over. Over and over. I am relatively certain I will return to Twitter — it was where I got a lot of my “what to read” information, but I was also sure I’d reactivate my Facebook some day and it’s been five years (I think) so, who knows? I can’t go back until I am not in a place where I am looking to Twitter and the people on it for unfair and unreasonable amounts of affirmation — which is what I need to take care of for myself. Maybe my new glasses will help. We’ll see. Or, I’ll see — way better than I did before I got these new glasses. Which is a lovely thing. And great, because now that I am (temporarily, I think) off Twitter, I have even more time to read. So, here I am, going.
RAZOR GIRL, Carl Hiaasen, hardcover, 333 pages, Knopf Seems I read a Carl Hiaasen novel every three years or so; 2010 was Star Island; 2013 was Strip Tease, and now, 2016, Razor Girl.
Makes sense that a batshit crazy state like Florida would be the setting for novels whose characters are defined by personality disorders. There is a surfeit of quirky, kinky, kooky unto clinically idiosyncratic characters jostling for the crazy crown. Many of them commit or pay for violence to others as casually as ordering at a fast food drive-thru window.
Why is it then that Mr. Hiaasen manages to make me laugh? His writing is fleet, his gift for capturing type in a few brief sentences phenomenal, and his intricate plotting full of surprises, including gobsmacking moments of tenderness and insight.
This is redneck noir at its best and from the opening scene in which Merry Mansfield, or, the titular Razor Girl — neither of which is her real name — rear ends Lane Coleman, agent to Duck Dynasty-ish Buck Nance — not his real name — while shaving her genital region — well, you know you’re in for a wild ride with multiple rear-endings, fender benders, smash-ups, and pile-ons of many varieties.
That said, the majority of these folk would probably be Tr*mp voters, which makes me feel almost dirty even to type. Mr. Hiaasen exposes their ignorance, never approving of it, but for me, at this point in time, I don’t know that I’m ready to joke about these jackholes who outside the pages of a comic novel would happily open-carry blast me to their notion of kingdom come and feel okay about doing it.
CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD, Caroline Leavitt, hardcover, 352 pages, Algonquin So, while I have now read three novels by Mr. Hiaasen, somehow this eleventh novel of Caroline Leavitt’s is the first of her work I’ve read.
Set in the 1960s amidst Vietnam protests and campus uprisings, the massacres by the National Guard at Kent State and by the Manson family in the Hollywood hills, Ms. Leavitt’s story about two sisters and the older relative who ends up raising them after their parents die surprised me.
The title spells it out; this is a story of the ways in which love and life can be both shatteringly harsh and breathtakingly exquisite, even sometimes all at once. This cosmic dichotomy is framed in the story of Lucy Gold, who at sixteen runs away with her high school teacher, leaving behind her older sister, Charlotte, and the relative who has raised them, Iris. All three lives stagger and lurch in unexpected, painful ways, careening toward endings tragic, happy, and to be determined.
Ms. Leavitt’s prose flows effortlessly (which I know requires quite a lot of effort) and the story moves along at a steady clip. The characters are full of self-recrimination and doubt, and the reader is taken inside their heads and hearts in ways that don’t excuse the sometimes repugnant behavior, but does explain how it happened.
Which I’m not sure I care for.
The thing: As with Mr. Hiaasen above and my disinclination to spend time with Tr*mp voters, one or two of the folks in this novel are so horrifyingly delusional and dangerous, with all the abuse going on in the world today, I am not sure I want to spend any time knowing what is inside the head or heart of a killer, an abuser, or the abettors to such behavior.
And so, there. The past few days in reading. I hesitate to mention that I have now started the latest Tana French novel, which will, no doubt, also contain awful people. I am not certain why this aversion to reading about awful people even when the writing is damn good, but, perhaps it has to do with my italicized intro and need to find affirmation of the good in me — too many less than good people in books keeps reminding me of the less than good I have been, or fear being, so, there’s that.