Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We Need to Talk About Kevin

It’s taken me quite a long time to write this review.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is brutal and unforgiving. It’s terrifying. Disturbing. To the core. It will make people ask you if you are ok. And you will not be ok. Trust me.

The novel is comprised of a series of letters that Eva – mother of Kevin – is writing to her (ex?) husband Franklin. Kevin was the perpetrator of a high school massacre and is now serving time in a detention facility. Eva is looking back over her son’s life, trying to figure out if she was to blame…what she could have done differently along the way. What was wrong with Kevin? Was he “wrong” from the start, or did something happen that made him the way that he was? Shriver’s novel shocks over and over again…and even when it feels to be winding down, finally coming to “Thursday” there are still more shocks to come.

It’s not often that a novel can really, really stir up emotions…particularly emotions that are completely contained, shall we say, within the action of the novel. This isn’t a case where I’m reading my own life – thank god! – into the action, seeing myself in the characters. This is sheer rage, sheer sorrow over what Shriver puts to us. You have to have the stomach for this novel. And even after every twist and turn, I had to restrain myself from balling my eyes out at the ending. I did not see that coming, though I should have…it was hinted at but I chose to think, “no…it cannot happen.” It did. I’ll leave it at that.

It’s rare – very rare – that…that what? So many things – that you meet a character that is so horrifying in a very human way. I know what I’m trying to say here, but it’s a difficult idea to form and verbalize. A story might be scary – even horrifying. A ghost story. Halloween, the Ring, the Shining, whatever. But a lot of what is horrifying isn’t real…on a human scale you know it’s going to hurt you. Michael Meyers might be a sociopathic psychokiller… but the idea that you can’t kill him? It’s not real, and on a human level you know that.

Kevin is the type of person you hope that you never have to meet in life. I’ve seen pieces of him in others before, but this full-on sociopath who is so bored with life that the only things that they find interesting are things that hurt other people. And they just don’t give a shit.

In my mind, I’m comparing this to the villains in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo…they were very real – their crimes were human. And they were sociopaths. But the horror is different than in We Need to Talk About Kevin. Where Dragon Tattoo’s villains too one dimensional? Is it that they were seeking out victims in a relatively random way? Kevin is targeted: he will tell you the thing that will make you want to kill yourself. He will do to you what will damage you most, and then let you live. Or, maybe, he’ll just kill you himself. He’s terrifying on a primal level: as a homo sapien, I think we have evolved to be horrified and repulsed to the gut by people like this…who don’t get that we are supposed to work together as a society, who just say fuck you to the social contract.

But while it’s Kevin that I am scared of, it’s his father – Franklin – that I was angry at. Franklin is so completely in his world of Andie Griffith, Oh gee pop that sounds great - that he completely misses his son. He is not seeing Kevin, he is seeing his dream child. And anyone who dare suggest that the dream child isn't the dream child, there is something wrong with their assessment. I know people like this. I know people who have almost gotten people fired from their jobs because their kid is a hellion and they refuse to see it. Even when it's on video. I understand loving and being awed by your kid. What I do not understand is being so utterly blinded by it, or by your own weirdness that you don't see your child at all.

Children don’t come with a manual. And the best advice is conflicting at best. Every child is different, and the trick of parenting seems to be figuring out your own kid – what they need, when, how, by whom. The trick is, though, that this isn’t something you simply light on when your child is 3 months old, and it serves you the rest of your life. It’s not that simple. This story of watching Eva struggle as a mother to find how to interact with and control her son is unsettling, and I found myself measuring Brendan's quirks and outbursts with Kevin's...this book will not allow you to escape the idea that you too may have raised a murderer.

As I mentioned earlier, this is definitely not for everyone...you really have to be able to stomach it. Shriver is cruel, and her cruelty will take a toll on you. But I'll tell you, when I finished it I immediately went and bought some other Shriver novels, and they look about as bleak as We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Mustache

I've been taking a lot of recommendations from The Millions these days. The description of Emmanuel Carrere's The Mustache  in this article was too much for me to resist.

Imagine Rod Sterling's voice here. Meet ____ (we don't know his name). About to set out for a dinner party, he decides to shave off his mustache. In this ordinary act, something extraordinary occurs. When he walks out of the bathroom, he will be entering - The Twilight Zone.

Ok, that was lame. But imagine you had a mustache for years. And you decide to get rid of it, just to see. But no one notices - not your wife, not your friends, not your coworkers. Your mustache, you thought, was such an obvious feature of your appearance that someone would comment on its disappearance...especially since some, like you wife, have never seen you without it. But no one notices. You begin to suspect they are all playing a trick on you, an elaborate joke. One night you ask your wife (named Agnes) why she hasn't said anything. And she informs you that you never had a mustache. !

You call some friends, and they say you never had a mustache either. ! You produce some photos from a trip to Java you and Agnes took, with your mustache, and Agnes dismisses them. In the morning, the photos are gone, and she informs you that you never went to Java, with or without mustache. The friends you visited the night before - Agnes tells you that you not only spent the night at home but that she never heard of these friends. !

Through all this, you find out that your father died the year before, but you don't remember...you thought he was alive and well. !

So...what do you do? Are you insane? Is Agnes insane? Is Agnes trying to convince you that you are insane for some reason?

___ runs away - hopping on a plane to Hong Kong, where he spends a few days riding a ferry back and forth and shaving over and over and over and over again. He moves on to Macao, and one night coming back to his hotel - there is Agnes, talking about going to the casino again, as if she had been along on the entire trip. He goes into the bathroom, and cuts off his face. There. All better.

The Mustache certainly isn't for everyone.  I actually really, really liked it. Sometimes I apparently have trouble relating to people who think differently than I do, to the point where it seems there are two different realities. So the concept of The Mustache - that what we feel constitutes our life, our reality - could be very, very wrong is extremely creepy. What if reality as I perceive it is as it is for the unnamed narrator? Not that I actually think it is - I'm not that crazy (I don't think!) but it is eerie nonetheless. There are tracts of Sartre and Nausea here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Comedy in a Minor Key

How do you do dispose of a body you aren’t supposed to have in the first place?

That is the central problem for Wim and Marie, an average young Dutch couple who agree to hide a Jewish man, Nico, during the Nazi occupation. And then he dies.

Hans Keilson’s Comedy in a Minor Key is a slim, somewhat simple novel that easily shows the anxiety and issues arising from having someone in your house that you aren’t supposed to have in your house. At first they think that they can do it without anyone knowing, including family and the cleaning lady. But slowly – purposefully and accidently – a lot of people end up knowing. Through it, they come to learn that many of their own circle that they thought they knew well were also concealing secrets – which end up helping them in the end.

What I liked most about this novel is the averageness of its characters. Wim and Marie don’t take Nico in out of some high purpose…there isn’t any moralizing about “the right thing to do,” or Schindler’s breakdown (“I could have done so much more!”). They do it because it has to be done, out of some vague sense of duty to their country. Someone asks them and they say, well sure. And Nico is so ordinary himself…a single perfume salesman, parents are dead, and no real relatives or importance. As much, I suppose, as any person could be said to be unimportant.

That Nico died in such an ordinary way underscores this. There is a sense that he didn’t need to go into hiding just to die from an illness; he went into hiding so he could live - so the three of them could come out the other side. That comedic irony, as well as the simple way in which his disposal is bungled (a mere oversight of a monogram and a laundry tag on a pair of pajamas) is what makes this novel almost humorous. It has a slapstick, Waiting for Godot quality about it. One review I came across called the novel’s subject the “goofy, quotidian kindness that is one possible response to violence.” The everyday-ness of the novel, the, “yeah, sure we’ll do that” is what’s amazing. There aren’t many light-hearted novels on this subject.

Comedy in a Minor Key is a small novel that doesn’t deal with any of the larger issues that I have come to expect in a story of occupied Europe. It’s about muddling through and figuring it out as you go along. But perhaps its publication in 1947 is a reason for that – it takes decades to truly process the totality of such a disaster. At this point I could start to go on angrily about our expectations of the 9/11 novel by extension, but I’ll save that for another post. It’s perhaps the ordinary stories that often come first, the stories that would be familiar to most people. The overarching epics that make us proud to be humans – in spite of what we humans sometimes do to one another – seem to come later.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Enduring Love

Sometimes in my life, I get feelings about things. I don’t mean everyday coincidences, such as the fact that today I e-mailed a consultant about grass (my life is so exciting, I know), and it turns out he was on the job site at that moment looking at the grass. That’s a coincidence.

By feelings, I mean connections between people, often before they are aware of it themselves. I often am able to pick up when a person likes someone else…not obvious flirtations, but those secret things we don’t always like to admit. The way they throw a snowball, or the slight, so easy to miss twinkle in their eye at the mention of the person’s name.

Once, I don’t remember the situation, but I shared a very personal story with a friend of mine. There was some subtle something in the way she reacted to the story, and I thought, I think she (yes she) is in love with me. Months later…maybe four or five months later, she tells me that she is in love with me. Here was the rest of the conversation:

“I know.”
“You know?”
“I’ve known since November.”
“But I didn’t realize it until March.”
“I’ve known since November.”

I usually try to keep these feelings at arms lengths, especially when there is a desire for them to be correct. So I try to ignore them, and let things go where they go. And also because every now and then I seem to be off.

In Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love, Jed Parry gets it very, very wrong.

I loved the first few paragraphs, setting up the story:

The beginning is simple to mark. We were in sunlight under a turkey oak, partly protected from a strong, gusty wind. I was kneeling on the grass with a corkscrew in my hand, and Clarissa was passing me the bottle – a 1987 Daumas Gassac. This was the moment, this was the pinprick on the time map: I was stretching out my hand, and as the cool neck and the black foil touched my palm, we heard a man’s shout. We turned to look across the field and saw the danger. Next thing, I was running toward it. The transformation was absolute: I don’t recall dropping the corkscrew, or getting to my feet, or making a decision, or hearing the caution Clarissa called after me. What idiocy, to be racing into this story and its labyrinths, sprinting away from our happiness among the fresh spring grasses by the oak. There was a shout again, and a child’s cry, enfeebled by the wind that roared in the tall trees along the hedgerows. I ran faster. And there, suddenly, from different points around the field, four other men were converging on the scene, running like me.

…I’m holding back, delaying the information. I’m lingering in the prior moment because it was a time when other outcomes were still possible; the convergence of six figures in a flat green space has a comforting geometry from the buzzard’s perspective, the knowable, limited plane of the snooker table. The initial conditions, the force and the direction of the force, define all the consequent pathways, all the angles of collision and return, and the glow of the overhead light bathes the field, the baize and all its moving bodies, in reassuring clarity. I think that while we were still converging, before we made contact, we were in a state of mathematical grace. I linger on our dispositions, the relative distances and the compass point- because as far as these occurrences were concerned, this was the last time I understood anything clearly at all.

What were we running toward? I don’t think any of us would ever know fully…it was an enormous balloon filled with helium, that elemental gas forged from hydrogen in the nuclear furnace of the stars, first step along the way in the generation of multiplicity and variety of matter in the universe, including our selves and our thoughts.

We were running toward a catastrophe, which itself was a kind of furnace in whose heat identities and fates would buckle into new shapes.

One of the men running was Jed Parry. Our narrator, Joe Rose, has an odd encounter with him when one of the people trying to hold down the balloon is lifted up and eventually falls to his death. Jed asks Joe to pray with him there over the body. Joe refuses, disgusted at this reaction and leaves. In the middle of the night, Joe receives a phone call from Jed: he knows that Joe is in love with him, and he just wanted to call and let him know that he was in love too. So it begins.

Jed follows him – staking out his apartment, interpreting the movement of curtains for signals from Joe. And Joe’s wife Clarissa misses all of this. Jed hides when he sees her coming, and his handwriting is close enough to Joe’s that Clarissa thinks Joe is making it all up. Until he tries to kill them.

I thought the book got off track when Joe goes to find Jean (widow of the man who fell), and she asks him to find the girl that must have been in the car with her husband. She believes he must have been having an affair with whoever left the scarf behind. This plot line was then seemingly forgotten about to return to the original plot – so wholly forgotten that I had to go back and make sure I didn’t skip a chapter. It is introduced again at the very end for what seemed like no purpose. After thinking about it, the purpose obviously was to give a non-psychotic twist on the case of getting it wrong. Jean believes – based on evidence she interprets – that he husband was having an affair. In actuality, he had picked up an illicit hitchhiking couple who flee the scene when it takes its deadly turn.

In the end, I don’t think that I particularly cared for Enduring Love. I think I really enjoyed the Jed Parry/Joe Rose story…maybe “enjoyed” isn’t the word. I was freaked out, kept interested. But the other portions of it seemed superfluous. I thought for certain that when Rose looked into the mysterious scarf left in the car, he would find another reason to fear Parry. Instead, he found what amounted to a strange and unnecessary feel good ending – or at least feel good in context. The end, generally, all neatly tied up, was really just feel good in context. And I suppose that that is where my disappointment lies. Not because I didn’t want it to end well for Joe and Clarissa, or anyone else, but it seemed both rushed and dragged out at the same time. I found myself skimming through conversations on Keats to find out what Parry was going to do next.

So, something like The Mustache is happening here with my reaction to the book. It was, as a whole, just ho-hum...the ending like a deflating balloon (pun intended). The ideas that the novel presented and explored, however, were interesting and disturbing. McEwan writes, “No one could agree on anything. We lived in a mist of half-shared, unreliable perception, and our sense data came warped by a prism of desire and belief, which tilted our memories too. We saw and remembered in our own favor, and we persuaded ourselves along the way….believing is seeing.” How much do we see about the world, and our relationships, simply because we believe it? How much of the stuff we see as symbolic, or “meaning something” is just coincidence? What’s disturbing here is to see those pattern-seeking tendencies we have as humans blown up into something deadly. And where is the line between generally reading evidence and drawing a wrong conclusion, and just being certifiable? Probably somewhere around the time you start following someone around. Creepy.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Summer 2011 Soundtrack

It's been a crazy summer. Here are the lyrics:

--Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before

--Check this hand cause I'm marvelous

--I don’t know what you mean to me, but I want to turn you on, turn you up, figure you out, I want to take you on

--You’re standing in the places…that bring to mind traces of a girl that I knew somewhere/I just can’t put my finger on what it is that says to me watch out, don’t believe her…And if your love was not a game, I’d only have myself to blame…

--Is it my turn to wish you were lying here...

--I see your lips moving but I don't hear nothing/Everybody talking like they really wanna know about us

--Do you feel what I feel? Can we make it so that’s part of the deal?

--What if you could smile? What if I could make your heart ignite just for a while?

--You might think that I’m crazy but you know I’m just your type…if I said my heart was beating loud...

--Give me everything tonight, for all we know we might not get tomorrow (Is it weird that I think this song is sooo incredibly sad?)

--I never dreamed that I'd meet somebody like you...

--There ain’t no reason you and me should be alone tonight/I need a man who thinks it’s right when it’s so wrong…

--And now I know just why she keeps me hanging around/she needs someone to walk on, so her feet don’t touch the ground/but I love her…

--He’s a wolf in disguise, but I can’t stop staring in those evil eyes

--You’re so hypnotizing/could you be the devil/could you be an angel? You’re not like the others…

--Can’t believe you’re taking my heart to pieces

--At night you hang about the house and weep your heart out, and cry your eyes out, and wrack your brain…you sit and wonder how anyone as wonderful as he could cause you such misery and pain

--Child of the wilderness, born into emptiness, learn to be lonely…learn to find your way in darkness

--One begins to read between the pages of a look...I saw you coming back to me.

--In this world, if you read the papers, you know everybody’s fighting with each other…so if someone comes along who’ll give you some love and affection, I say get it while you can

Monday, August 15, 2011


It’s funny how a casual mention of a novel in an article can lead one to a very creepy reading experience.

I saw this article on The Millions two weeks ago, which notes Erlend Loe’s Naïve.Super. After noticing the shipping time on amazon, I marched myself to the library and filled out the interlibrary loan request. Book came on Thursday, I started to read it yesterday and finished it this morning.

My first impression of the novel – as I was reading it walking through the library parking lot – was that it would be cute; right up my alley. As I started to read it seriously, though, it began to feel a bit derivative – a little too much like a combination of Wittgenstein’s Mistress (in structure), and a hero from the Jonathan Safran Foer/Jonthan Letham/Mark Haddon mold. Though that really isn’t fair, since Naïve.Super was published in 1996, and the quirky, neurotic and/or autistic characters were all created (or published) in the decade after. So maybe they are the derivative work. Don’t know. I just feel like I’ve been encountering this voice quite a lot.

But then on Sunday came the moment where I had to put the book down. This feeling had been slowly creeping up on me, but I didn’t catch it – identify it – until this moment:

TV is a good thing. I ought to watch TV more often. I get pleasantly diverted. I can’t quite tell whether the thoughts I’m having are my own or if they’re coming from the TV. Animal programmes are the best. David Attenborough explaining that nature is intricate and that it all fits together. Wasps that navigate according to the sun. they know what they’re doing, the wasps. They know a lot better than I do.
OMG this person is just like me.

Yes Yes Yes on David Attenborough. Does anyone else do this – watch nature documentaries for perspective – to feel that everything is just part of the grand parade of life? Or is it just me and this unnamed character? Is that where the feeling of derivation came from – not from Foer or Lethem or Haddon, but from my own head? I think, really, it’s a combination. Still. FREAKY.

This character is having something of a quarter life crisis. He quits college and moves into his brother’s apartment while his brother is in New York. He’s going somewhat crazy, and finds comfort in throwing a ball against a wall, playing with a hammer-and-peg set, and reading about the universe. I do that too – read about the universe that is – when I’m feeling out of sorts. Nothing, really, is more comforting for me than the stars and string theory. Have you seen the Google Sky Map app? These last few months I’ve been looking at it a lot, just moving my phone around and seeing what I’m surrounded by whether I can see them or not. Does this sound strange? Maybe. But you should try it sometime.

This is that feeling that was creeping up on me. I have never encountered myself in a novel as much as I have here. And that’s really, really freaky.


“I think he’s got problems with time himself, but that he still hasn’t found out. One day he’ll be the one who hits the wall.”
Things have been weird for me the last few months, though they are working themselves out. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and a lot about how I deal with other people, and how my own limits and suspicions both protect me and hinder me.

I think quite a lot. I have very few waking moments during which I’m not thinking about anything; and usually those few moments of “quiet” are interrupted by someone asking, “what are you thinking about?” Perhaps I’m most deep in thought when I look like I’m not thinking. And vice versa. Sometimes this is a problem – when I need that quiet and am unable to get it within my own brain, or when the constant din goes off the rails and the only respite is to listen to AM radio from Quebec – the more static the better. Perhaps that makes me sound crazy.

It’s taken me most of my life to understand that not everyone thinks as much – or about the same things – as I do. That not everyone is as concerned about what the universe is expanding into, or if hell is a state of mind can you think yourself out of it? And what is color and does it exist objectively? (I don’t believe that it does – I’m a color subjectivist...there are others out there with me on this one. People smarter than me and you.) When I talk about these things which genuinely interest me and sometimes keep me awake at night people mostly just stare at me. Or tell me I think too much.

Well, damn it (here’s where my frustration of the last three months comes out…) maybe I think just the right amount. I should start telling people, “Maybe you don’t think enough.” Maybe the world would grind to a screeching halt if it were filled with people who think as much as I do, but most people could probably use a little more sincere reflection on themselves and the universe and their place in it.

So in this little crazy tornado, I came to realize that thinking too much isn’t necessarily a problem. It can be, but it isn’t necessarily. I’m not an extrovert. I never will be, and it’s silly of me to try to pretend that I am or could be - or even that I understand extroverts. I don’t. I’ve given up. But by giving up on trying to be what I’m not, I’ve accepted (at least a little bit) what I am. My personality certainly has its downsides, but it also has its upsides. And I wouldn’t give one inch of my ocean of contemplation for one more extra of extroversion. Somehow Naïve.Super brought that home.

A parting thought from Loe’s too-familiar-for-comfort novel:

“There is no time. There is a life and a death. There are people and animals. Our thoughts exist. And the world. The universe, too. But there is no time. You might as well take it easy. Do you feel better now? I feel better. This is going to work out. Have a nice day.”


Monday, August 1, 2011


"Life is sad. Here is someone."

I've said before that things are weird. I don't know how else to describe my life right now. Just weird. (Getting better, though, a bit.) I'm always particular about what books I read when, in what mood, but when things are like they are now, that selectivity is heightened. I cannot read just any book, and I will flit between ten or more books until I find the one that feels just right. For that reason, in times like this, I find myself going back to my happy places: Kerouac, Ondaatje, The Virgin Suicides,The Great Gatsby. The English Patient has been calling to me like a siren in the last few months, but I have had to resist the temptation. I know what happens when I read that book...despite what some may believe, sometimes I really do know what's best for myself. I'm not always into self-sabotage.

Anagrams was a test for me. I would pick it up, read a few pages, and put it back: "Not now." A few days later, I would pick it up again and read a few more pages, and put it back. "Not now." Well why not now, damn it? Because it's too upbeat? I want to say, yes, too upbeat, but to call this book upbeat is, well, to be Kristin I suppose. Turns out, I needed this book.

I'll admit, at first I thought I got this book. I became slightly more confused with each chapter…ok, so Benna teaches geriatric aerobics, AND teaches art history at a community college, AND is a nightclub singer. And Gerard teaches aerobics to kids AND is a nightclub singer AND in a rock opera version of Dido and Aeneas...hard economic times, you know? (FYI...Dido and Aeneas are EVERYWHERE for me right now.) It all, sort of, made sense in my mind...first Gerard must have been Benna's student, married with a daughter, then gotten divorced and started up with Benna, and eventually moved into her apartment house. Then they broke it off, but still drink near beer together every morning. But then I get to the second part, and Benna says that her friend Eleanor is imaginary. Wait – what? And where did this daughter – who is also imaginary – come from? At first I thought this was one of Benna's witticisms, because it seemed the type of quip she would make. But I kept going, and it was clear she was serious. So, I had to look it up. Duh! Sometimes I read into things too much ("I'm cool? What does that mean?") and sometimes I accept too much at face value. There must be a middle ground somewhere that I just cannot seem to find.

So here's what's really going on: Benna teaches poetry at a community college. She makes friends with Gerard. She has an affair with one of her students. She has an imaginary friend Eleanor, and an imaginary daughter. This is all learned in the second half of the book. The first half of the book is a series of short stories, really, about people named Benna and Gerard and Eleanor, etc. in parallel lives, essentially. It's derivative of reality, or nonreality since Eleanor is imaginary anyway.

The writing was amazing. Yes, this story is desperately bleak. Benna is so lonely and isolated that she makes up imaginary children. But it's funny as hell. I get this humor. I could have written this. Well, not really, but three quarters of it is stuff that would come out of my own mouth. Even in the depths of despair, sometimes, I cannot help but be sarcastically funny. Here are some examples that I underlined. (I underlined a lot in Anagrams.)

  • "Yes, well," said Gerard, attempting something lighthearted. "I guess that's why they call it work. I guess that's why they don't call it table tennis."

  • Eleanor and I around this time founded The Quit-Calling-Me-Shirley School of Comedy. It entailed the two of us meeting downtown for drinks and making despairing pronouncements about life and love which always began, "But surely…" It entailed what Eleanor called, "The Great White Whine": whiney white people getting together over white wine and whining.

  • "I think a few well-considered and prominently displayed uncertainties are always in order."

  • "...Remember: It's important not to be afraid of looking like an idiot." This was my motto in life.

  • Aeneas shouldered his guitar and riffed and whined after Dido throughout the entire show: "Don't you see why I have to go to Europe?/I must ignore the sentiment you stir up." Actually it was awful. But nonetheless I sniffled at her suicide, and when she sang at Aeneas, "Just go then! Go if you must! My heart will surely turn to dust," and Aeneas indeed left, I sat in my seat, thinking "You ass, Aeneas, you don't have to be so literal."

  • Things, however, rarely happened the way you understood them. Mostly they just sort of drove up alongside what you thought was the case and then moved randomly down some other way.

  • No idiocy was too undignified for me.

  • I didn't want my life to show.

  • He also has a cold, and has pulled the hood of his sweat shirt up over his head and tied it. "You look like the Little League version of The Seventh Seal"

  • ...feel my heart fluttering. It's a Tennessee Williams heart. A bad Tennessee Williams heart. I don't know what to say. The music urges love on you like food.

  • "I've never put much store by honesty. I mean, how can you trust a word whose first letter you don't even pronounce?"

  • It is as if our separate pasts were greeting each other, as if we were saying, This is how I have been with other people, this is how I would love you. If I loved you. Everything always seemed to boil down to boil down to Rodgers and Hammerstein. Off you would go in the mist of day and all that.

  • You have a choice," she told her class. "The whorish emptiness of lies or the straight-laced horrors of truth."

  • "You made her up? You made up an imaginary daughter?"
    "Of course not," I say. "What, you think I'm an idiot? I made up a real daughter...I don't go around making up imaginary daughters...That would be too abstract. Even for me."

Shawn has been showing more of an interest in what I'm reading; I know why he's doing it and I really appreciate it. And he's asking me about this book that I will not put down, and why it's called Anagrams, and what it's about. As I'm trying to describe it, and how it's a bunch of stories about the same people, but not the same people, etc., and he says, "like Mulholland Drive?" YES. THANK YOU. EXACTLY LIKE MULHOLLAND DRIVE. Except funnier. But the basic idea of doppelgangers living tangential lives is the same.

So, why did I need this book? I can't explain it. I love Benna. I love Gerard. I love Eleanor. I want a friend like Eleanor, who would yell out of cars at joggers, "Hey, go home and read Middlemarch." In college I had a friend who would have done something like that, but it wouldn't have been about Middlemarch. No, seriously, I need someone in my life who will yet at random people at George Eliot. Who will know who George Eliot is to begin with. That is why I needed this book. Thank you, Lorrie Moore.