Monday, 14 August 2017

#AMREADING JAMMI ATTENBERG’S ALL GROWN UP.


This is not your ordinary sex and the single woman story. Well, yes, the heroine, Andrea Bern, is single and has sex, but the question consuming her is: At what point can you call yourself a grown-up? What’s the defining element: marriage, parenthood, emotional survival? The answer (s) are both gut-wrenching and mordantly funny.

Everyone is urging Andrea to read the newest book of wistful memories by a single woman, now married. It’s the ultimate how-to-grow-up book. They are like carrier pigeons, fluttering messages. My coworker Nina, the bangles on her wrist clinking, hands me a copy although I have never expressed an interest in reading it. Old college friends go on Facebook and post links to reviews and say things like “This reminded me of you”. Where is my dislike button? Where do I click to scream?

Andrea has a drunk one-night stand with a guy in her brother’s band. He phoned and asked me point-blank if I was an alcoholic and I said, “No. I’m just young and having fun.” Followed by tears, choking-sob tears, and I made sure he heard it. The trouble is: he brother is right, she is an alcoholic.

What does she get out of sex? I kiss him and he kisses me and we laugh and we are close and I believe so deeply in that moment that I tolerate his bullshit.

Then there is the problem of her aging mother partying with aging men. Is that what I have to look forward to? I am furious with her. I had been tamping it down all night and now my anger is a brilliant, pulsing red, fully blossomed…Talk to us, says one man, some loser. Tell us what’s going on with the kids today.

And last not least there is the problem of her job: Whatever thrill I had in perfecting my job is now dead, because perfection itself is boring: it’s only everything leading up to it that’s interesting.

Welcome to middle age, Andrea!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Sunday, 16 July 2017

#AMREADING EDWARD ST. AUBYN’S A CLUE TO THE EXIT.

Charlie has been given six months to live. What’s the best way to use those last months? Spend all your money? Have torrid sex? Find your authentic self? All of the above, and if you are a bestselling author, shock your agent by writing a serious novel.
First then, find your authentic self, but that's not easy when it is buried under your surrogate self, the carrier of some cherished quality, the vehicle for a certain story that needs to be shaped.
Another problem: friends who will not leave you in peace, friends with a psyche like a wildcat prospector, producing eruptions of unwelcome insight.
But at least Charlie succeeds in finding love/sex with Angelique who also helps him to get rid of his money, gambling on his behalf, while he watches the gamblers drifting past like fish in an aquarium.
Yet he cannot find peace and is plagued by thoughts like a cloud of gnats at sunset, made visible by the dying light. In the end, however, his torment is replaced by the congealing powers of resignation and habit.
Meanwhile the characters in his novel take shape: a woman loyal to her husband who is in a coma (are those feelings akin to necrophilia?). The woman and two fellow philosophers discuss the nature of consciousness while stuck in a train stopped at Didcot. What else was there in the end? A man’s biography was the history of what he had given his attention to, and so it seemed worth knowing what attention was, and how it related to other types of knowledge.

Angelique spends all of Charlie's money and departs. He muses whether it would be better not to wait out the six months and to commit suicide instead. It was less upsetting than this limitless white terror, bleaching every object in its universe …It’s always the same story: if you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

AT THE COBOURG WATERFRONT FESTIVAL

My writers' group, Spirit of the Hills, rented a booth to draw attention to our collected works. Here we are -- Reva and I -- doing our stint minding the table.


Friday, 23 June 2017

#AMREADING: ERIC BECK RUBIN’S SCHOOL OF VELOCITY.

Jan’s career as concert pianist is ruined by auditory hallucinations, a needling high-pitched ringing, a cascade of notes, raining down like hammers from the ceiling of the concert hall. Are they a flood of memories, of words left unspoken between him and his charismatic childhood friend Dirk. 

He was like a new word that, once learned, you heard spoken everywhere. Compelling attention. Mine, yours, anyone’s. Dirk is a consummate actor, but when they two friends are alone, he reverts to his self. The hunch returned. The loping strides. The fiddling with his ear. The sly smile.

This is a novel about music and about a friendship that could be love.

The music: Notes balanced on the thinnest, most fragile wire, ascend and descend. Underneath it all a regular pulse of octaves in the bass clef gives the piece a steady and abiding feeling of hope. And then there is Rachmaninoff: A tumbling that builds up to an explosion of chords, broken and solid, shooting up and sliding down octaves. The tempo increases until runs of notes crash in waves running crosswise. Dirk would like the Rachmaninoff.

The friendship: You and Dirk. I might’ve guessed you two would fall out of touch completely, but it could’ve been the opposite. Pirm smiled and shook his head slowly. You know, Jan, we all thought you two were… He grinned.  Us two what? I said.

There was only one way for Jan to find an answer to that question. To look up his old friend.

A thunderclap runs from ear to ear, like weather starting up again. My arms start to shake. I don’t have much time. I begin to blurt out the words. What I’d meant to say from the moment I stepped in the front door.