pp. 86 – 87 SHUGGIE BAIN!!!! (Do Not Read Unless You Want to Know EXACTLY What Happens)

SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT

The way Agnes leaves:

She rouses her sleepy children, gets them dressed (in their Sunday best), flicks on the light in the bedroom where her husband is fast asleep. He wakes, mouth slack, and stares at the apparition of his wife and his two children staring at him from the foot of the bed. She’s wearing a mink, something he gave her in the hope it “would make her happy and hold her at peace from want, if just for a while.”

She: “Right. Thanks for everything, then. I’m away.”

This is really solid, over-the-top, a-hair-short-of-melodramatic writing.

A chapter or so ago, Agnes’s daddy gave her a solid thrashing. Self rather enjoyed how he did it, with a minimum of fuss. He waited until she was 39 and an outright lush, why couldn’t he have taken action sooner!

There have been other jaw-dropping scenes.

It may surprise dear blog readers to know that despite the rough scenes, highlighting the injustices of the world, self is finding this book enormously entertaining.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Agnes: SHUGGIE BAIN, p. 85

Toted this novel to the de Young! Cannot put it down.

It’s Joyce-an. Should have been called Agnes Bain.

  • She went to the mirror in the hall and ran her fingers through her hair; the black curls bounced and folded back on themselves tightly. She ran a line of fresh red lipstick across her mouth. Not bad for twenty-six, she thought. Twenty-six years of sleep.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Agnes in SHUGGIE BAIN (Spoiler Alert)

Self hungrily read almost all the Shuggie Bain reviews because she hates to become vested in a character only to have it end with that character committing suicide.

She’s just past p. 50 and it almost seems as if Agnes is dead. She sets fire to her room when she hears her husband come home. Then she holds Shuggie in her arms and pretends like it’s a game. Shuggie, who has to be the most dysfunctional mama’s boy in the long line of literary mama’s boys, lies passively (but observantly!) in his mother’s arms as the room gets smokier and smokier.

The husband comes in when he smells the smoke, doesn’t say a word, rips the burning curtains off the rods and tosses them out the window. Self thought Agnes was dead until the very last line of the chapter.

Next chapter, point of view switch to Catherine, Shuggie’s older sister. Catherine’s almost home when she sees a pile of scorched curtains on the ground and “recognized them to be the same as her mother’s, burnt and still smoking.” Catherine being a very smart girl, she puts two and two together and thinks to herself: This is not a good sign.

Self doesn’t know what the hoo-ha is about Thatcher in the reviews. Mebbe Thatcher is responsible for this family’s dysfunction, but it’s boring to think that way. She’d rather read a book about family dysfunction without having to blame the dysfunction on politicians. Self’s enjoyment of angst depends entirely on whether she believes a family has agency in its own self-destruction.

So far, the Thatcher references have been minimal. Thank the Lord!

Sentence of the Day: Shuggie Bain

  • She got her teeth from her daddy’s side and the Cambpell teeth had always been weak, they were a reason for humility in an otherwise handsome face.

Even though she’s just starting, self can see why this novel won the 2020 Booker Prize. It’s the voice.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Poetry Saturday: Carlos Bernardo Gonzalez Pecotche

from Bases for Your Conduct, a compilation of teachings the author passed on to his son, Carlos Federico Gonzalez, and published posthumously by the author’s widow. This is from the 3rd edition, published 2012.

The End of Life

I have a friend whose elderly mother lives with her and is driving her crazy. Her mother was once a talented artist, an intellectual with myriad interests. Now, my friend says, “she gets up in the morning and makes a cup of coffee and she’s so slow, doing it. I mean, I just watch her sometimes to see how she can possibly be so slow. Then she sits at the kitchen table and talks about what might be for lunch. I just can’t stand it! All she talks about is her cup of coffee in the morning and the weather and what her next meal will be. I really wonder . . . is there any meaning to the end of life?

I’ll Be Seeing You, p. 193

Gah. This is a depressing book. The author’s final reflections are “How young and strong and beautiful they were” and she remembers telling her mom, “I’ll miss you.” (To which self is tempted to say: HA. HA. HA.) To her readers, she says that her parents “belonged to each other more than they did to us.” (Imagine! Incredible!) The last page talks about love and blah blah.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Paragraph, p. 187, I’LL BE SEEING YOU

The author sounds so patronizing here, it is driving self crazy:

  • My mother says no, she will stay where she is. She also says she would like to try embroidery, and so I send her some skeins of floss and some needle and a hoop. I also send her some yarn and knitting needles, in case she would like to join the group of women who knit sweaters for charity every Friday. She has made a new friend named Betty who still drives, which is the high school equivalent of being head cheerleader and prom queen and president of the student body and highest-ranking member of the National Honor Society. My mother has also signed up to go to Byerly’s grocery store on the bus, and sometimes she sits at the kitchen table to play double solitaire with my dad. When I hear all this, Cat Stevens comes into my head. Morning has broken like the first morning.

Only a chapter to go. What an excruciating read this has been. Next up is Walter Moseley’s Blood Grove. Haven’t read Moseley in such a long time, happy to re-discover him.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The System

The system is broken. When you have adult children hustling parents off into “assisted living,” and giving up the home they’ve lived in for four and a half decades.

The parents give in because, at the end of life, we all become children again. We become helpless. It makes me angry.

3/4 of I’ll Be Seeing You is about what is past. The past is very pretty. The present isn’t. And the future doesn’t even bear contemplating.

Me thinking as I read: Why would anyone want to look at a bunch of total strangers and do crafts? What is so damn delightful about living in a place where you have the crafts option? Who cares about keeping busy? Why doesn’t “assisted living” have a library?

At the same time, the parents are such a burden to the author. She has meals with them, every gesture delicately described.

To me, the parents are functional. Childish, but functional. In the home, they become truly lost, not themselves. They have to adhere to meals at set times, and talking to people. Isn’t the fun of growing old the fact that you can do whatever you like? Because you’ve earned it, right?

And then the big end-of-life talk. Which comes, deadeningly, at the end. It’s so predictable, and really sad.

This is the third week that my mother has been in hospital in Manila. She got COVID. No one in the family has seen her. No one can visit because COVID is raging through the Philippines. She has a trach.

But she is a fighter to the very core. She is somehow hanging on, and a few days ago they transferred her out of the “critical” section of COVID patients. What I think I am trying to say is: Don’t count the very old out. Never, ever count them out. Give them that last shred of dignity, and don’t count them out.

I am nearly through with this book. On p. 171, author states she hopes her 90-year-old father “will find a friend.” His “assisted living” place offers the author a partial schedule of the father’s daily activities:

  • current events
  • exercise
  • lunch

The children auction off of all their parents’ precious things: “the auctioneer arrives promptly” and offers them five hundred dollars.

I am outraged by the author’s nostalgia for all the events that happened in her parents’ house. How dare she indulge in touchy-feely emotions while her parents aren’t allowed to have them. She expects them to be “objective,” to accept that what is happening is inevitable.

REALLY?????

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

I’LL BE SEEING YOU: A Memoir

The author persuades her aged parents to go into assisted living. She tells them to try it, they can always move back home if they don’t like it.

Self will never. Ever. Especially after the past year.

You set foot in a certain kind of river and you know that as soon as you do, the current will have you.

I’ll Be Seeing You, p. 30

Things About Sandman Slim

Things that are cool about Sandman Slim:

  • He is Nephilim.
  • He has a flaming sword called Gladius (like a light saber, but cooler).
  • He has PTSD from being in Hell.
  • He can go anywhere, anywhere in the world, as long as he can find a shadow.
  • His ride is called the Hellion Hog.
  • While in Hell, he developed a taste for Malediction cigarettes.

Things that are not cool about Sandman Slim:

  • Janet
  • Janet
  • Janet again
  • Just, in general, Janet and their lack of ambition. She works in a donut shop. (This does not seem like a “transitional” phase.) She explained to Sandman Slim that she is against binary pronouns — he/she. He must always refer to them as “they” or whatever.
  • Janet is tiresome. They are the type of woman who likes their men to rescue them. Notice I have to submit to calling Janet “they/them” because that is how they want Sandman Slim to refer to them. And they are mixed up. Did self say already how weird they are?
  • They belong to a club where people find sexy ways to commit suicide, such as rushing straight across a freeway during rush hour traffic. To get into this club, Sandman Slim must show how adventurous he is by killing a vampire. He does it handily because of supernatural ability. Also because of flaming sword. Mostly he just does it to impress Janet. Which is lame, boring. Because they are boring.

Anyhoo, self is reading fast now and hopefully will get to her next book, a memoir by Elizabeth Berg, about aging and how we all must go through it, blah blah blah. Hopefully it will NOT be depressing, because nothing’s worse than reading a book about aging and being depressed. Also, it’s about a real-life couple who have a great love, and sometimes it’s depressing to read about that.

But oh, it’s such a gorgeous day. And oh btw, she edited a story and sent it out. Her story’s about exploration, and discovery, and about how a one’s character can pretty much dictate the arc of one’s life, and when you get to the end, do you say, What’s next? Or do you say, What was that all about? Or do you say nothing.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

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