Monday, December 27, 2010

Reading my disappointing new novel by Jonathan Franzen, Christmas gift to myself

I am thinking am I insane?  This novelist was on the cover of Time.  Says here is the winner of the National Book Award.  I buy this novel for myself for Christmas.  I start to read and not very far into the book I have to put it down.  I don't see how anything can make me pick it back up again.  If my son was acting like the guy in this novel I would be so worried I would not sleep at night. Let's see he is a youngish professor not yet tenured who has an affair with a student who keeps tempting him, is suspended and fired, so starts borrowing copious amounts of money from his younger sister.  First of all I can't imagine any sister I know lending that much money that frequently to a brother who has screwed up.  After he gets completely broke, he starts stealing food at the grocery store.  Here is about where I stop.
And I have been worried about my son who simply cannot stop working.  If he has to change jobs he goes out and finds another one so fast your head whirls and starts working 12 hours a day again.  He has done this ever since he went to work full time at 15, so he could afford a car, cigarettes, and beer.
I worry about him drinking too much.  But I never have to worry about him not working.  He loves to work.  And it's hard mysterious work in the construction business he has learned to do after many years experience.  First he was a backhoe operator, and then he gradually got promoted to foreman jobs, and then to supervisor and project manager jobs.  Then he said he wanted to learn how to bid jobs, so he agreed to take a job for two years in Tucson for the construction company if they would let him learn the bidding business.
Let him learn to bid!  He is still bidding, but now he has had to practice his computer skills at home, because he no longer has a secretary that types the bids, he has to do it.  Oh, so he will learn that, too.  Let's see he is 57.  No problem. 
On the way from his house back to mine, when he was taking me home from dinner, he was looking at a crane.  He once tried very hard to get a job learning to operate cranes, but just could not make the transition.  He did it for a while and loved it, but he said the business of crane operating was too hard to get into.  He said if he had another lifetime to do it in, he would find a job operating a crane while young.  His house looks like a construction worker's house.  There are models of cranes and other big equipment an ex-wife gave him as gifts.  He has canvases set up around the house in various degrees of completion, of cranes.  There is even a half finished portrait of me.  I recognized it by the blond hair and rather beefy arms.  I recognized another ex girlfriend of his by her mop of wild black hair.  That was Jessie who once tried to cut him with a knife.  He got a kick out of her violence for a while, but got tired of her tearing the rented trailers apart when she got angry, breaking windows and such.  And kicked her out, but that didn't work so he left the state and came back home to Phoenix. And for some reason or another she couldn't leave.  She had little dogs.  Years later she found him and called and asked him to send her money and she would come to see him.  So he didn't.
I have lost all respect for the son (yes, he is somebody's son)  in this novel because he has acted irresponsibly in too many ways.
I was going to give it to my other son Raymond to read after I got through because he is surviving by doing all kinds of things including singing for his supper.  Can you imagine how much nerve it would take to sing for a bunch of people with the confidence they would tip you enough money to last you a few days.  When he was in Austin, TX  he said he was going to try singing on a street corner, but decided he better head back home.  I saw a brave little lady down town the other day who was playing her violin on a street corner. I hope she earned enough money for her supper and more.
My son Raymond has quit drinking a number of times, once for 7 years, other times for a year here and there, because when he is directing or acting in a play he says he can never drink.  It is only when a production is over that he sinks into some kind of let down like is this all there is, and might drink, but this December he celebrated one year of sobriety again.  He has quit smoking many times.  I asked a girlfriend of his if she had ever known anyone who quit smoking so many times, she said no.  But the important thing he never stopped quitting smoking and it has now been quite a long time since he smoked.  Besides, he finally got too broke to afford cigarettes.  He would rather eat.
I have another son Dan who was so into sports when he was in high school and living clean that he left a bottle of champagne someone gave him for graduation in my fridge a whole year before I insisted he take it out.  I was never going to drink it.  In the navy he did finally learn to drink but I have never been able to think of him as a fright to drink as I have my two older sons at times.  He seems to be able to leave it alone, or drink with his navy buddies, whatever.  He never gave me a moment's worry in high school for which I will always be grateful since I did not know if the other two would survive those years.
My daughter graduated from college, didn't like teaching Spanish, said the kids didn't want to learn, left teaching, found other jobs, and after she got married, she went back to college and got a degree in nursing.  She also studied one of her issues, breast feeding, took a test that cost $578, passed, and was qualified as an International Lactation Consultant, which education she now uses in a nursing job she just loves. She was too health minded ever to smoke and as far as I know does not drink to excess, although once she got rather tipsy to a Margarita party my son Dan's wife gave him for his birthday (Angelina was the world's best little bartender at the time).  She said as we all left, Mom, I hope you don't intend to put that I got drunk on the family site!  But she is so perfect that I am telling it now so she will seem more human.
I mean where is this Franzen getting his material from?  I wrote a novel when I was 29 and when I finished it, I thought oh, oh, publishers will never buy this novel, the protagonist is too concerned about doing the right thing (they didn't).
Doc was still drunk when I went down to his apt. on Christmas Day from celebrating all by himself the night before until after midnight. I was so disgusted because his brain was working so slowly.  You know how it is when you are trying to have a conversation with an inebriated person and they just can't get any thinking going?  That was Doc. He started calling me verbose.  Only a drunk would call a normal person verbose because her normal heightened brain activity hurt his head, and he could not respond in kind.  I ended up raving for about 40 minutes and he wanted to put that all on You Tube on his channel, I suppose to try to show people what a nag I was, but actually I was recalling my childhood with a father who got drunk every weekend.  My mother turned to food, not realizing she could become an 'olic' too.  (foodaholic) And she fed us candy, cake, cookies, butter, until we were heavily addicted, too.
I was telling Doc in the 7 min. video we did put up on his channel that a woman diabetic in here had been going off her diet for Christmas, eating pies, etc, and ended up in the ICU for Christmas.  I heard they had to amputate one of her legs that was very bad, but it turned out to have been a stomach operation instead.  So alcoholics aren't the only ones tempted to binge at Christmas.  Foodaholics may kill themselves sampling a thousand desserts coming their way for days.  Tis the season to 'celebrate oneself to death' as I insisted Doc call his video.
His step daughter back in St. Louis watched it and I could tell she could hardly stand the nagging I was giving Doc, so I told him he absolutely could not put 40 more minutes of my raving up there. Nobody could blame us irritated souls trying to talk to drunks whose brains are seriously out of commission from alcohol, but nobody else wants to hear us rave, it seems.
I decided years ago somebody had to restrain themselves in the family or we were all going down.  I recall my mother in a fit of rage jumping up and down and yelling, "I want to be bad, I want to be bad."  I really think that she decided if my dad was going to be bad, she was too, and although she did not smoke or drink she found plenty of other bad stuff to do like lying and cheating and having affairs with married men.  She had such a bad temper we could not talk to her about it.  I tried once when I was around 22, when she was driving us somewhere together, and she told me if I did not shut up she would run the car off into the ditch! Even though I had her grandson in my arms.  I was scared she might do it, so I shut up.
Doc is an outlaw, too, basically, who thinks being bad is more fun and less boring than being good.  He equates being good with being 'religious', but that is just poor thinking.  He has not seriously tried to control himself enough to concede that takes more strength, intelligence, and dedication than just letting all holds go and becoming an alcoholic who fixes himself a drink when he wakes up and drinks all day on the grounds he is not hurting anyone but himself.
Well, he is still attached to somebody, and I am always trying to change my eating habits, and have had some success, but still have to keep trying.  My life is all about trying to affect the addicted including myself and get better habits going.  I go to the dentist 3 times a year and he hasn't been in years.  So who cares the most about their danged gums? He says well, you knew I was a bit of a hedonist when you met me!
I am afraid one of these years, all too soon, Doc will be gone from having celebrated Christmas to death.
I suppose guys who like to binge might like this novel "Corrections."  They would have the fun of reading about a guy letting all holds go and just becoming a complete shit.  But I have lost interest in the guy while he is still in his downward fall.  I cannot make it to the Corrections. 
Even publishers are prejudiced against more controlled people trying to do the right thing, even though the world keeps on turning probably more from the efforts of this branch of people.  I stopped writing novels when I realized that people trying to control themselves are perceived as not that interesting, exciting, tolerable. But so what, I don't like this hedonist's novel either.  The protagonist is already too out of control for me to keep tolerating.  Franzen has lost me.  I told Doc I liked the book I gave Raymond better about a man and his 'thinking' dog.  That dog was magnificent.  I know my dad's horses brought out the best in him.  Sorly was one magnificent cow horse, and he never ever got drunk!
Oh by the way Connie made the magnificent header for me.  Isn't she talented?What a worker she is!
Here is a little bit of the "Celebrating Christmas to Death" video so you can see what I mean. 

No comments:


Blog Archive