Monday, August 15, 2011

Under the covers

One of my favourite reads this summer included the latest Franzen novel, 'Freedom'.  Some deliciously bizarre and ironic moments, such as the detailed account of the cheating husband who swallows his wedding ring and has to lock himself in the bathroom when trying to seduce the "other woman"  so he can retrieve the ring barehanded from the toilet (talk about spoiling the mood!).  Or the two lovers that commit their infidelity while the woman feigns sleepwalking.  Yes... there is a fair bit of infidelity in the novel; thus the title.  I was a bit dubious about this one because all the book jacket does is blurb about 'The Corrections', but I did enjoy the storytelling.  It carries the theme of dysfunctional family to a new set of characters.

'Incendiary' was another novel I quite enjoyed.  In an afternoon, I read the book from cover-to-cover, racing through the pages.  The narrator rang true.  It wasn't until a day or so later that I realized that particular narrator didn't have a name, yet the voice and story were so strong in the telling her identity didn't need a label.  I read this right after 'The Room', which seemed to be the polar opposite in so many ways.

I pulled out Hemingway's memoir,  'A Moveable Feast' after watching the latest Woody Allen film.

Hem relays a deep remorse for pursuing an affair with his wife's friend that led to the end of their marriage.  The remorse doesn't seem to stem from causing Hadley pain so much as of the stupidity of the whole escapade, that resulted in the loss of the woman he loved truly.

When it comes to his accounts of F. Scott Fitzgerald, I can't help but wonder if Hem is competing here by offering up some unsavoury details:  portraying a drunken hypochondriac taking to his bedcovers with worry he'd contracted consumption, needing Hem to escort him to the Louvre to view classical male nudes to reassure him he was of 'normal' size in manly respects, and of course the troubles with Zelda.  After revealing all this, Hem quickly sums up in a sentence or two the great and reliable friend the sober Scott was, and continued to be, for so many years. Interesting, the details he chose to elaborate.  In many ways I think they say far more about Hem than F. Scott.

Hemingway had a profoundly deep respect for Ezra Pound and held back any criticism here, instead talking about what a great friend Ezra was to many poets, and recounting Ezra's efforts to rescue T.S. Eliot from a career in banking by taking up a monetary collection on his behalf called Bel Esprit.

Papa also took some love-making tips on how to please women from Gertrude Stein, but there is also the disturbing scene that causes him to sever his deep ties.  It puzzles me... what exactly is going on here, and why can he not continue their friendship?  Is it her weakness he cannot bear?
... the colorless alcohol felt good on my tongue and it was still in my mouth when I heard someone speaking to Miss Stein as I had never heard one person speak to another; never, anywhere, ever.

Then Miss Stein's voice came pleading and begging, saying, "Don't, pussy. Don't. Don't. Please don't.  Please don't pussy."

I swallowed the drink and put the glass down on the table and started for the door.  The maidservant shook her finger at me and whispered, "Don't go.  She'll be right down."

"I have to go," I said and tried not to hear any more as I left but it was still going on and the only way I could not hear it was to be gone.  It was bad to hear and the answers were even worse.  pp 118-119

Lastly, I want to mention the easy entertainment offered by 'The Third Pig Detective Agency.'  If I were in the business of optioning properties I'd nab this series.  It is from the UK and centers around fairytale characters.  The third pig, you'll remember, is the one smart enough to build the strong brick house.  He's also the detective hired to solve mysteries that involve Aladdin's lamp, orcs, elves, and the Wicked Witch of the East Side.  An animated HBO series would be perfect!


Annika said...

I read the Paris Wife last week, which is a fiction about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife. I got intrigued by the book so A Moveable Feast is on my list for the fall.

Freedom sounds like a good read as well.

Carô said...

What a voracious reader you are!