The apocalypse didn’t come this weekend, even though, judging by the weather, it seemed like a feasible possibility. Somehow talking about the weather in The Netherlands is never a cliche. We need to talk about it to survive. So I met with friends and they complained and I complained until everything has been said and we stopped and had tea and talked and laughed about more meaningful matters. And after that I did what I do best, wrote a bit, read a bit and watched a couple of films.
I read this review in The New Yorker of Catherine Lacey’s novel Nobody is Ever Missing and it convinced me to buy the book and that was a bad decision. The book is the story of this troubled woman traveling by herself to New Zealand, leaving her life in Manhattan for a new adventure meant to replace a painful past. And despite the author’s eye for certain details and illustrative formulations out of the box, I ended up being rather irritated with her writing and with her main character, someone called Elyria. Ms Lacey seems the typical result of nowadays creative writing schools, coming up with endless creative twists and phrases, captivating (if you never read this kind of writing before) and ultimately disconnecting and empty.
Main (irritating) thing is that her characters have unusual thoughts, and people in general have unusual thoughts, but putting them on page the way she does makes me feel the thought don’t belong to the characters but to a writer that purposefully wants her characters to have unusual thoughts. Let me exemplify:
‘… and I imagined my dozen fuck-up possums gathered around me, a personal audience, and I wondered which things inside a person might be indigenous or nonindigenous, but it isn’t as easy to trace those kinds of things in a person as it is in a country. I wished that I could point to some colonizer and blame him for everything that was nonindigenous in me…”.
‘…during that silence I thought of that night when my husband and I were having one of the arguments about the way we argue and I went into the kitchen to get a glass of water but instead picked up a knife because I was thinking about stabbing myself in the face – not actually considering stabbing myself in the fact, but thinking that it would be a physical expression of how I felt – and I picked up a chef’s knife, our heavy good one that I used for everything from cutting soft fruit to impaling pumpkins and I looked at it, laughed a noiseless laugh, put the chef’s knife down, poured myself a glass of water, and drank it fast, until I chocked a little, and I went back to arguing with my husband and he didn’t know about my face-stabbing thoughts and it made me even angrier that he didn’t know about my face-stabbing thoughts, that he couldn’t just intuit these things, look me into my eyes and know that the way he spoke to me was a plain waste of our life…’.
Who thinks that? Like that? And where’s the feeling? Except awkwardness coming from the writing not from the character and the situation? I don’t know. Finally, after 50 pages I concluded that even though The New Yorker was impressed and couldn’t stop reading, I am not impressed and I can easily and happily stop reading.
Some films I saw and didn’t regret: A Most Wanted Man – in which Philip Seymour Hoffman makes a great part, unfortunately one of his lasts. And Fury – with Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf – which manages to avoid some war film cliches and instead makes a feel-for portrayal of army camaraderie and of how war crushes everyone’s spirit.
Some things I didn’t do and do not regret: finish my latest article, which I’m going to do today.