In this post I discuss The Pisces by Melissa Broder, and Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton. But mostly, I talk about myself and my place (or lack thereof) in the world today.
If you want JUST the book talk, skip down to the red headlines and book-jacket photos below. It won’t hurt my feelings. I get it. I’m not always in the mood for 800 words of someone’s personal journey either.
Trigger Warning: This reading recap is more personal than most of my book musings. I find it increasingly difficult to suspend my disbelief when daily life is more implausible and unthinkable than any fiction could be, and as the balance of vileness versus decency tilts ever more toward the despicable, it’s difficult for me to see or write anything through any lens other than that of my horror at the wretched, stinking, sleazy, vulgar bigotry and hatred being promulgated by 45 and his jackbooted supporters, they who are the creations of the last fifty or so years of republican strategy to assure that hetero-cis-white-men maintain power and keep the rest of us in subjugation.
So, there. That. I don’t apologize for my rage. I apologize for having quieted my rage through the decades when I saw this coming, experienced it in micro-ways day after day, but allowed myself to be cowed into silence and complacency by those with more power and privilege scolding me for my over-reactions and paranoia.
To all those who insisted things weren’t that bad, I told you so. I wish saying that made me feel better, but, somehow, the threat of my human rights being further abrogated and children being torn from their parents and sold from concentration camps to adoption racketeers undoes any satisfaction having been right all along gives me.
Satisfaction on any front is difficult to come by lately. Things. Fall. Apart. The center does not hold. The best lack conviction and the worst are full of passion without mercy.
So, why am I reading? Why am I not constantly marching? Protesting? Resisting? Good question, and one with which I have been struggling since November 2016 when the russians installed this criminal family.
If you area regular reader of this blog you know events of November 2016 caused me to spiral into a depression so extreme that after many years resisting medication, I began taking bupropion, the result of which was relief from the dysthymic disorder I had been suffering for decades. I’d had no idea just how depressed I was, it having been a slow, creeping invasion of sorrow consuming more and more of who I was, my thoughts, my energy, but in such small increments I didn’t know the fullness of it. I thought I was a naturally melancholy person. I was not. It was an illness and it was kicked over the edge into manic depression with suicidal ideation by the horrors of November 2016.
So, ironically, in what is easily the ugliest era politically and for humanity in my lifetime, I am more balanced and able to reason and cope than ever I have been. I no longer feel responsible for the entire world because I have come to understand the world does not revolve around me. I rarely ever become angry with anyone for their actions or words because I only spend time and love with people who I trust are coming from a place of love and light, whatever they do, even if it seems to me at first glance to be hurtful. And, equally important, they offer me the same grace. It is as powerful a medicine as the bupropion, after far too long spending time with people who were always finding me coming up short, a disappointment to them, not fulfilling the role they’d written for me, this blessing of knowing I have a tight-knit circle of loved ones amongst whom there is no need for forgiveness because we don’t judge in the first place. We believe in and see the light in one another.
It is incredibly liberating to let go of feeling as if everything you do, think, or say might be misconstrued, might be used against you as evidence you are less than, flawed, wrong.
It has also changed my behavior. I no longer do things I don’t want to do. I don’t do things because I fear someone will become angry with me if I don’t go to their party, or begrudge me my introvert-preference to stay in with a good book.
A good book. There’s the key. Because this new me doesn’t feel obligated to finish every book I start. This new me doesn’t think he has to agree with the literati’s opinion of a book. This new me reads what I want, as I want, and write about it only if it in some way pleases me, or, in some cases, brings to my attention something I feel like sharing. Which is the case with this post, which, since last I talked about a book, I have finished reading two and cast aside two more after 35 and 50 pages. Here are the ones I finished.
The Pisces, Melissa Broder, Hardcover, 270pp, May 2018, Hogarth Press
Okay, up front I say, if you are going to kill a dog in a novel I want a trigger warning on the cover. And if the death is going to be result of neglect and/or abuse, I am not going to read the book.
No one warned me about The Pisces, so, I’m doing a public service and warning you.
I suppose it only fair to tell you I spend a great deal of my time dog-sitting, so, reading about someone who is dog-sitting and finds it okay to not walk the dog when it needs to be walked, lock it in a pantry and tranquilize it so she can get it on with a merman — look, you don’t do that. You don’t bring strangers into someone’s home AND YOU DON’T TREAT A DOG BADLY.
And what is it with everyone falling in love with fish lately?
Anyway, that said, there were some really lovely lines in this novel and it was sometimes funny and here and there touching, insightful about loneliness and lust and longing and self-delusions, so, had it not featured dog-abuse, I think I would have very much liked it. But, as a wise woman in publishing once said to me; “Life is too short and ugly enough. I implore you, if a book has an ugliness that makes you miserable, stop reading it.”
So, despite lines like:
I heard myself talking to the dog, and it reminded me that I existed. Existence always looked like something other than I thought it would.
And this, when the main character is trying to get drugs for the UTI she’s gotten from merman-sex, she tells the doctor that she and her husband have been having a lot more sex lately in order to conceive a child. Then this, from the doctor:
‘Any chance that he could have been exposed to any sexually transmitted diseases?’
Was she implying that my fictitious husband was unfaithful? How dare she!
I did laugh out loud there, but it was only page 97, before I began suspecting the dog was going to meet a bad end. And, like I said, despite lines like that and some exquisite passages about aching loneliness — and some very uncomfortable passages about longing for someone because they don’t want you — there was not one truly likeable character in the entire book; they were all, to one degree or another, horrible, mean, selfish, unkind people. So, wish I hadn’t read this book.
If you’re okay with dogs dying from neglect, go for it. Also, never get anywhere near me.
Social Creature, Tara Isabella Burton, Hardcover, 273pp, June 2018, Doubleday
Dear literati-lords, please, I beg you, stop comparing novels to Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. And for good (bad) measure, these blurbs threw in Edith Wharton, Bret Easton Ellis, and Donna Tartt. Now there is a goulash certain to have at least one ingredient to turn everyone off.
Again — and these things seem to come in bunches — there is not one pleasant character in the entire novel. They range from being emotionally dishonest to committing murder.
It’s very fast. I read it in a day. But, honestly, when we already have an illegitimate president who is utterly lacking in any redeeming qualities, who surrounds himself with equally contemptible sleazeballs, I seriously don’t need that kind of repellent goings-on in the things I’m reading to escape the real world.
I suppose I ought be grateful no dogs were murdered. Better to kill off haughty, unkind, wealthy socialites and their milquetoast, obsessed devotees.
So, there it is. I’ve seven more library books stacked by my bed, waiting for me to dive in. All I can say is, nice it up people. Life is full-to-overflowing with assholes as it is, let’s not revolve novels around them.
And on that note, here I am, going.