Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’

I read this book on the recommendation of a friend and because it fulfilled the “book with a non-human character” square on my book bingo card. Here’s the review I wrote for the library:

Have you ever listened to squirrels chattering and felt it sounded almost like words? Veblen Amundsen-Hovda is pretty sure she understands them. Her fiancée, Paul Vreeland, wants to trap the squirrels in her attic. The Portable Veblen is the story of Paul and Veblen. He’s a doctor whose invention, the Pneumatic Skull Punch, could prevent the damage that occurs from swelling after a traumatic brain injury. He’s been courted by a mega-pharmaceutical company and is about to oversee a trial at a VA hospital. Veblen is a volunteer translator with the Norwegian Diaspora Project. She loves the work of the economist she’s named for (as you may know, he invented the phrase “conspicuous consumption”) and lives in a simple cottage that was so ramshackle it was uninhabitable when she found it. He wants a house and a boat.

They have in common dysfunctional childhoods – he’s the son of hippies whose guilt over their disabled older child prevented them from really being present for Paul, she’s the daughter of an institutionalized Vietnam vet and a severe hypochondriac. Growing up, he took solace in science, she in words: “When you entered the cavern of another language, you could leave certain people behind, for they had no interest in following you in.” Can Paul and Veblen survive their engagement? Will things implode when their families meet? What is the squirrel saying? A quirky love story, for fans of The Silver Linings Playbook. As a bonus, readers get a crash course in Thorstein Veblen.

Read Full Post »

Last weekend I finished an advance copy of Matthew Quick‘s The Good Luck of Right Now, out next week. If the name sounds familiar, he’s the author of several other books, including The Silver Linings Playbook. If that book is about “love, madness, and Kenny G.” as Quick’s website says, the new one is about love, difference, and Richard Gere. As I read the new book I could picture it — Quick has a very cinematic way of setting a scene — and I’m happy to hear that the directors of Little Miss Sunshine are already lined up for the film version.

Quick has a knack for getting inside the lives of people we see all the time and don’t bother to know. In this case, a thirty-eight year old man, Bartholomew, who’s always lived with his mom, who recently died of cancer. And his messed up grief counselor, Wendy, who needs help herself. And his neighborhood priest, Father McNamee, who defrocks himself and moves in with Bartholomew.

And a guy Bartholomew meets in “group” therapy, Max. Who turns out to be the brother of the woman Bartholomew has admired from afar, who he knows only as The Girlbrarian. Her real name is Elizabeth. Max is mourning his cat Alice, believes Elizabeth was abducted by aliens who are still after them, and dreams of going to Cat Parliament in Ottawa (which we’ve visited — “call it synchronicity,” as Bartholomew might say). Max is a ticket taker at a movie theater and works “what the fuck, hey” into nearly every sentence.

Bartholomew narrates the book in letters he’s writing to Richard Gere. After his mother’s death, he found a form letter in her dresser from the actor, calling for a boycott of the 2008 Olympics because of China’s treatment of Tibet. Bartholomew assumes that is why she kept calling him Richard as her cancer worsened. He played along, so he sets out to explain things to Richard Gere, and himself, as he faces the scary prospect of living alone when he’s not even sure how his bills are paid.

Bartholomew spends a lot of time at his library, where he reads about Richard Gere and Tibet. He also reads the Dalai Lama’s A Profound Mind. His letters to Richard Gere make it clear that Bartholomew is developmentally disabled. The “little angry man” inside him calls him moron, retard, idiot, “miserable failure,” slow, stupid; he’s never held a job, he’s never really had a friend or gone out with a woman.

But he’s very observant, empathetic, and capable of learning — he writes to Richard Gere about Buddhism, Jung, Tibet-China relations. He explains how he senses suffering in others, what he admires about the Girlbrarian, how he’s dealing with the loss of his mother. And he explains her theory of “the good luck of right now,” that brings good for every bad. And how she was good at “pretending” — for him, but perhaps for herself as well.

If you are looking for a quick read (no pun intended), a movie-like story with teary moments but a feel-good vibe, this book is for you. It’s not as lightweight as that sounds — Quick addresses some big questions, like how society treats people who are different, and what family is. It’s not a hard read, until you look around, say at the library, and see people like Bartholomew. And wonder if they’ve been working up the courage, but not quite managing, to speak to someone they see day after day.

And then it’s a hard book in the best sense, because it worms its way into your heart. And makes you see the Bartholomews, Maxes, Elizabeths, Wendys, and Father McNamees in your own life.

Read Full Post »