Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Yeah, childhood bites, what else is new?

What kind of swimsuit do you wear to wallow in the self-pity pool?
Who was that silly optimistic woman who blathered on about her and the kids being a quiet, contained island of mutual adoration and contentment? We're sinking into a slum of despair. There are footprints on the wall, the powder room smells like pee and I have a creeping rash on my torso (overshare? -- sorry). Today Eve told me the soap in the powder room was empty and she had to change it, in much the same tone she might use to tell me there was no food in the house and she had to go out and slaughter a moose for dinner. Angus and I tried to practice his book talk for tomorrow and I made him cry. How much do I suck? Let me count the ways. To top it off, now I'm watching the end of House before I put the kids to bed when it's already ten minutes past their bedtime -- I'm a monster. I will now give a bitchy, mean-spirited book review to match my mood. A person I dislike quite strongly recommended this book to me (five years ago -- I didn't read it on his recommendation). I wonder if that has anything to do with me not liking it. Or maybe it's all the filth and premenstrual hormones.
Childhood
by Andre Alexis
To put it as succinctly as possible, I thought the writing in this book was great, the characters were unlikeable, and the story was annoying. Tom is dumped on his cantankerous, volatile grandmother as a baby, experiences a loveless childhood until her death, when his mother Katarina returns to reclaim him. He then experiences a confusing adolescence with his mother and Henry Wing, a gentle and peculiar man who adores his mother and gives Tom free reign in his large library and laboratory. Tom now lives a peculiar adulthood in Henry's house, following a strict regimen of sleeping, waking, eating, reading and writing. He mentions a "you" whom he allegedly loves, to whom he is telling the story of his life.
I find the process of memory interesting. How we remember and mis-remember, different people having conflicting accounts of the same event, this kind of thing is interesting. It seemed to me that for every period of his life, Tom would say "I don't remember much of these years" or "I remember so little of this period it might as well have been lived for me". This is not interesting. This is obvious and unnecessary to say. Perhaps the lack of affection shown to him in his formative years by his strange and demanding grandmother explains his detached, rather cold view of others. Certainly it's not surprising that he would be ambivalent towards his mother, but he doesn't give the reader enough to form an independent opinion. I found his attitude towards Henry, the man who never treated him with anything but tenderness and respect, annoying also. It's not uncommon for children to view permissive adults with a certain contempt, but later when Henry is older and infirm and asks for his help he doesn't show any more affection. The narrator may be troubled, but he comes across largely as a cold fish, and while that may have been the point, it left me cold as well.

2 comments:

Ilana said...

Hey Allison! Thank you so much for commenting on my blog, and your blog is terrific--smart and funny and totally engaging. And we know each other, yes? Mostly I feel like I know Angus and Eve through years of stories, my favourite of which involves Jeremy and a hunk of cheese. At any rate, thank you for stopping by--I basically feel like I'm writing only for my mom, who can't even figure out how to get on the blog most times she tries, so it's such a terrific surprise to find someone reading it!

All best,
Ilana

alison said...

I think wallowing in the pity pool is best done by skinny-dipping, either that or a severe navy-blue maillot.

And if you're a monster, then I'm one too. Thursdays are usually grocery night. Coincidentally, Thursdays are Mummy's TV night, wherein the kidlets are supposed to be in bed dreaming of sugar plums or Bratz by 8 p.m. to allow me my weekly indulgence in CSI, Grey's Anatomy and ER. Lately, we've been a bit late getting everything done, so they get thrown into their beds at 8, and I watch CSI, running in to tuck them in and read stories in 90-second commercial increments. Nice, eh?