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05 June 2008 @ 03:02 pm
Long Entry Is Long  
The shutting up thing is not working out so well for me.  Wonder if there's medication for that.  Other than duct tape.

Spent the first two hours of my day in my pajamas, because my mom keeps it obscenely cold in my house, and I didn't want to put any real clothes on.  Everything since has felt a little bit hazy and relative, time most of all.  In addition, the mantra of SamSamSamSamSam running through my head is not helping in my futile quest to concentrate on things.  I was going to write down every single tiny detail I could think of, because I have this persistent paranoia revolving around forgetting things, but I think I will try to do this the organic way and let my good, old-fashioned memory hold on to things.  I'm such a good Berkeley hippie, being organic.  Hoorah!

If you remember that book that eltea lent me, which you probably don't, I decided to pick it up this morning, and then, quite predictably, I read the whole thing.  I really should just buy her a new copy and keep this one, because I blanketed the thing in thirds of Post-It notes (thirds, as whole Post-It notes are much too big, and it's a waste of paper, so I tear each one into three pieces, and... um...  /freak), because I found an absurd amount of quotes that I had to mark, as they were either amazing or pithily articulated something that had always been fluttering around in my head or both.  I was warned that this book would make me go, "Wait... someone other than me thinks about those things?", but I wasn't prepared for how much.  I mean, damn.  DAMN.

It's a good thing I didn't read it earlier, though, because it would definitely have skewed my Script Frenzy, and Justin, instead of being the harmless, naive, wounded little puppy that he is, would have absorbed a great deal of the sardonic discontentment that rightfully belongs to James.

...and I'm going to sound a bit like Peter Cameron today.  It is inevitable.  I do this osmosis thing when writers have a really strong narrative voice.  The best was Margaret Atwood; she made me sound fantastic.

Time for more gushing.  It doesn't even really count as a review, so much as just me squeeing, but in a paragraph format, probably integrating enough quoted material to count as copyright infringement.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You
Peter Cameron

Let's start out with the basics: this is easily one of the most amazing books I have ever read.

All right, so maybe I'm a disaffected, borderline-clinically antisocial cynic, but at least people out there write books for me now.  Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Parts of this book scared me, because I saw myself far more clearly than I would have liked.  It was also wickedly funny, in the sort of way that makes you flinch inwardly even as you start laughing aloud.  It's all extraordinarily painful, but in that glowing, pulsing, have-to-touch-it kind of way.  It's fantastic.

This part really terrified me:

I wasn't surprised that the marriage had failed... but I had thought it would last longer than a few days.  My mother was married to my father for fifteen years, and she was married to her second husband for three years, so I supposed this marriage was proportionate.  I tried to figure out what percentage of fifteen years three years was so I could figure out what the corresponding percentage of three years would be -- might it be four days?

My dad was married to my mom for ten years, and to my first stepmother for five, so my brother and I figured that it was a consistent decrease, ergo my dad's third wife would last a year and a half.  Six years and a month later, evidently that's not the case, but I still had to read that paragraph twice.  Which was slightly unsettling for its conclusion as well:

Unfortunately I have never been good in math.  Numbers simply do not interest me or seem as real to me as words.

If I tried to enlighten you with all the incredible parts, I'd have to transcribe the whole book.  I'll try to limit myself to a few... and probably fail miserably...

I hate when my father makes remarks like this about my mother or when my mother makes them about my father.  I think that when you divorce someone you forfeit your right to comment on their actions or character.

Could they PLEASE?  'Cause that would be AMAZING.  kthx.

I have had days like the following.  Um, disturbingly many of them.

I only feel like myself when I am alone.  Interacting with other people does not come naturally to me; it is a strain and requires effort, and since it does not come naturally I feel like I am not really myself when I make that effort.  I feel fairly comfortable with my family, but even with them I sometimes feel this strain of not being alone.

The offhand statements of the sorts of things I've always vaguely thought about but never quite hammered out basically made this book for me, as if it needed to be further made:

I didn't answer.  I knew my mother was right, but that didn't change the way I felt about things.  People always think that if they can prove they're right, you'll change your mind.

More of seeing too much of myself for full comfort... doesn't help that I went on a partly-school-sponsored trip to D.C. junior year, a somewhat similar excursion settling cozily right by the core of the book:

Breakfast was fine -- a buffet in the hotel's Excelsior "Ballroom" at which many people chose not to appear, so there were many empty tables, and even if you had to sit at a table with someone, they didn't expect you to say anything besides good morning, and that I could handle.  I wish the whole day were like breakfast, when people are still connected to their dreams, focused inward, and not yet ready to engage the world around them.  I realized this is how I am all day; for me, unlike other people, there doesn't come a moment after a cup of coffee or a shower or whatever when I suddenly feel alive and awake and connected to the world.  If it were always breakfast, I would be fine.

On stand-up comics:

I think funny is something you are, not something you desperately try to be in front of a room of obnoxious people.

There's this feeling permeating the book of a kind of very quiet, insidious melancholy threatening permanence.  It's amazing and beautiful.  The dialogue is fantastic, particularly when James is talking to his therapist, and James is just...  There's this subtly recurring theme that too much intelligence is a bit of a curse -- that you really can be too clever for your own good, and that it makes it virtually impossible to slot right into the little societal niches that are so comfortable for everyone else.  This also terrifies me at a bone-marrow level.  My brother and I once had a conversation to that effect, probably when I was about twelve years old, but it stuck (faintly conceited as it sounds and undeniably is) -- I said, "Sometimes I wish I was stupid, so I wouldn't know how much was wrong with the world," and he said, "But you wouldn't know to appreciate it."

...A boy who I could tell was younger than I was pushing a lawnmower almost as big as he was across the lawn.  He looked at me and smiled as I walked past, smiled in a very happy, friendly way, exposing his beautiful white teeth, as if he was proud of being seen mowing the lawn.  I smiled at him, and he waved.  It's odd to connect with people like that and then just walk away.  I don't get it.  And it's weird because I'm antisocial, but when I connect with a stranger -- even if it is only exchanging smiles, or waves, which I suppose isn't really connecting, but for me it is -- I feel like we can't both go on with our lives as if nothing has happened.  For instance, the Mexican boy, cutting a lawn in Hartsdale, how did he get there, where did he live, what was he thinking?  It's like there's this pyramid of his life, an iceberg, and I see just the tip of it, the tiny tip, but it spreads out beneath that, spreads out and back and back, his entire life beneath him, inside him, everything that ever happened to him, all adding up to equal the moment, the second, he smiled at me.  I thought of the lady beside me on the train reading the Bible.  Where was she now?  In her home?  I know I shouldn't have gotten off the train at Woodlawn and followed her home, but what if I should have? What if she was meant to be, or could have been, someone important in my life?  I think that's what scares me: the randomness of everything.  That the people who could be important to you might just pass you by.  Or you pass them by.  How did you know?  Should I turn around and talk to the Mexican boy? Maybe he was lonely like me, maybe he read Denton Welch.  I felt that by walking away I was abandoning him, that I spent my entire life, day after day, abandoning people.

I realize it makes no sense to feel that and yet never make any attempt to interact with people, but I am beginning to think life is full of these tragic incongruities.


There is much, much, much more, but I'll leave you to read the book.  And probably to realize that I am a little bit psycho.  Really, though, it does concern me a bit on occasion -- the fact that the characters I'm most often drawn to are young men who are legitimately psychologically damaged, like Donnie Darko and Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway and Tayo in Ceremony, and what they say makes perfect sense if you just know how to listen.  Which I flatter myself to think that I do.

.../freak...

Go on, go read the  book.  It has restored some of my faith in modern literature, find out that a book can be as true as this one.


...in the rather less-stunning literary world, there is more Sam and Adrian to be found and perused.

I might have had more things, but I got all distracted thinking about Someday again....

 
 
Feeling: thoughtfulthoughtful