Monday, November 9, 2009

The Accidental Tourist

On Friday night, my book group meets to discuss The Accidental Tourist, and I can't wait. Although I am not quite finished, I know this book will make it to my Top 10 Favorites list. This is not a new book, but I have avoided it for two reasons. First, I associate it with Geena Davis who starred in the movie...not my favorite performer. Second, I just don't like the cover. Now don't go all cliche on me here and start with the "You can't judge a book by its cover," business, because sometimes you can, and that will be left for a later discussion.

My predictions for Friday: Loved it...Valerie, Jess, and me (which is unusual, since Valerie and I generally disagree; hated it...Nancy and Mary (which is unusual since Mary and I always agree!); for Angie, this will be a take it or leave it book. Steph will say she disliked it, but her comments about it will show differently. We'll see.

Tyler's style was play-like which was it's first appeal for me. Then there was the Waiting for Godot theme. Macon and his wife divorce after their son's death. Many marriages are vulnerable following such an incident, but these two never had a warm relationship to begin with. And Macon...what a guy. He's OC, as is his entire family. He organizes instead of deciding. His over-intellectualizing dulls his emotions, and worst of all, he has never committed to his life. When a quirky, gypsy type invades his space, Macon finds his life going in unexpected directions, and for the first time in his life, he might have to make a decision that could result in accepting shades of grey as life's norm. Pretty disturbing for a guy who spends his life negotiating for perfect balance.

I wonder, is any decision better than no decision? How careful is too careful? If all our actions are always in perfect balance, is there a place for reactions? Don't be dissuaded from reading this book if all this sounds way too serious. Tyler's storytelling is actually quite light-hearted, with family foibles, and eccentricities becoming the platform for the more esoteric thoughts she constructs.

For some reason, I also thought it was time to tackle Anthony Burgess's dystopian novel, A Clockwork Orange for about the 10Th time. The invented language, a symbolic blend of English and Russian challenges me, and slows the reading down. The title comes from an old British saying, "queer as a clockwork orange," and now that I have finally bulldozed my way through, I understand. Fifteen year old Alex Madsat looks like a normal kid, but inside, he is anything but. He is programmed for violence, and Burgess uses his novel as a sort of warning of what the world could become if we don't attend to the ills of society. Even though Burgess, an an avowed anarchist, wrote "Orange" in 1962, his amplification of societal dysfunctions resonates strongly today. Alex, the anti-hero, is totally unapologetic about the mayhem he stirs up with his three companions. They burgal, steal, beat, rape, and eventually murder. Alex is enrolled in a experimental treatment program to cure him of his taste for violence. He is released into society where his victims seek revenge. Although Alex is now repulsed by violence, his victims lust after it, and the tables turn. How successful was the treatment?

Happier thoughts.....last week while browsing at St. Vinnies, I stumbled across 1915 edition of Under Canvas or The Search for the Carteret Ghost. Think about it. This book is almost 100 years old. Inside was the funniest inscription I have ever read - "Merry Christmas to a little boy with a fat neck. Jane and Phil."
What could that possibly mean? Who was the boy with the fat neck, why did he have a fat neck, and more inportantly, why did Jane and Phil think it was Ok to imortalize that fact?
Thanks for stopping by.

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