Monday, July 30, 2018

Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

When my son got married, it really was a happy day. His wife's parents had a place on a lake, and they had the reception there, and it was beautiful. They hired a bartender who had real squeezed lime juice for my vodka gimlets instead of Rose's, and I wasn't about to let all his hard word squeezing limes go to waste. Reading this book made me think about my son and every other marriage I know that didn't make it. The truth is, none of were that surprised when they split up. It was kind of a quick fire job, and the writing was on the wall. My son is charming and charismatic. He makes great first impressions, but those are usually his best. I guess Perel might say that his desire for emotional intimacy led to a loss of mystery or that he wasn't good enough at harnessing his inner rage, or some other bullshit. My guess is that he wasn't good enough at doing the dishes or keeping his shirt buttoned right or ignoring the adoring gazes of his college students. But what the hell do I know? At least I know well enough not to make up some ridiculous nonsense about why relationships don't work. I was married for 46 years, and it was not all mystery and romance, and that, Esther, is not what it is all about. Trust, respect, reliability, kindness - these are the building blocks, and you don't get those by going to swingers weekends every now and then. I mean, what the hell even is that? Jesus. I'm just glad my wife never read this while she was alive. She was beautifully open-minded, but that made her susceptible to "experts" shoveling her a load now and again, and she probably would have come away from this book convinced that we were communicating too well or some other hooey. No stars.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

I think I may have to give up coffee. I have noticed that after I drink coffee, I usually feel more anxious and stressed out. It is possible that this is related to the people I typically drink coffee with, but I think there is a direct effect of the coffee on top of that. And it makes me sweat. And I'm sure that somewhere along the line from the coffee trees to my cup, lots of people were likely oppressed, so it's probably just the safest thing to do. You would think that my daughter, who won't so much as eat a cashew unless it is fair trade, organic, and was able to live out it's natural cashew life in a cage-free, open air environment, would be able to get behind that. And I was trying to explain to her yesterday morning when we met to talk about this book, which, I should add, was lovely. I mean, they don't just give out Pulitzers for nothing, right? In any case, my daughter refused to really consider what I was saying and thought that I was, and I shit you not, being difficult. She told me that it was too early for me to have the vodka gimlet I ordered, notwithstanding who may have been oppressed where. I told her that I was perfectly capable of making my own beverage choices and that if the worst did occur, meaning that my afternoon plans of pruning the hedges were postponed, I would summon the courage to go on living anyway. She was not amused. But you know what, when I finished my gimlet, I felt neither sweaty nor anxious. Great book.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Britt-Marie Was Here by Frederik Backman

So no surprise that my son is at it again. First I find a note from him in my mailbox saying that he has to rush to get to work (I shit you not) but really wanted to share this book with me. Never mind that my understanding of being a professor is pretty much giving 2 lectures a week and then sitting around your office in a t-shirt trying to impress young people with your witty comments and civil war relics. I guess he had time to walk up my steps but not through the treacherous threshold of my doorway. Or perhaps my doorbell is broken - I should check that. And then there is this book he gave me. It is beautiful. Funny, poignant, sad - almost heartbreaking really - but still uplifting. But with him there is always the message behind the book. I know he is not just sharing a work of art with me, but rather giving a passive aggressive judgment of my life. Look Dad, this person suffered bad shit and still made something beautiful out of her life. As if my response to my wife passing away is that I am supposed to move to Sweden and start a youth soccer team. Thanks, but no.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

Why is it that whenever the weather is good, my daughter receives it as a sign that she should tell me what to do all day? Maybe I'm perfectly happy right where I am, doing exactly what I am doing! Does a little bit of sun make my couch less comfortable or my coffee less good? I didn't think so, but inevitably, yesterday was a nice day so I was told that I "should" go for a walk, I "should" meet her for expensive coffee somewhere, I "should" find a nice place outside to read. So I did these things (wouldn't want to run afoul of the senior citizen police), and I ended up sitting on a bench in the park with this book. Grisham really found some new material for this one - nope, just fucking with you. Same old recycled stuff with less interesting characters. The most interesting character to appear was the dude with the mohawk and the ear spacers who came by on his skateboard. To be honest, I have no problem with mohawks, tattoos, piercings, whatever. It's your body, if you want to fuck it up, peace be with you. But the skateboards, jesus. I believe they are intentionally constructed to be as loud as possible. How can I focus on this terrible law student (I mean the protagonist, not the author, but take your pick) with such a ruckus in a public place? Plus, they are so inefficient! As slow as walking, and twice as stupid looking. On what kind of vehicle do you face sideways? That is just idiotic.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Patriot Games by Tom Clancy

I decided to read something "pro-America" for the fourth of July. It was a good time, and I even had a decent conversation with my son about it at the BBQ, until he loaded up his hot dog with sweet relish, and it all went to shit. It started with his usual passive aggressive stuff, not even bothering to call it sweet relish, but just "relish," as if dill relish, the kind that you should eat, didn't even exist. But I'm used to that by now, so I just reminded him that sweet relish is an abomination and that if he really wanted all that corn syrup, he could just eat a candy bar or put yogurt on his hot dog. Knowing that I was right, he didn't really say anything to that but just asked me more about the book, but inevitably it came out that he didn't even bother to buy any dill relish, claiming that they didn't have any at the fancy food coop he shops at. When I pushed him on it, he suggested that I just go chop up some of the dill pickles he had in the fridge, but when I did that (thoughtfully making enough for everyone), he got all pissed and left to buy more beer. Happy fucking Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

This dystopian novel has an interesting premise involving evolution and child-bearing, which is gradually revealed by the author in a way that would be quite suspenseful if the entire thing wasn't given away by, I shit you not, the VERY FIRST SENTENCE of the dust jacket plot summary! I mean, how many morons did it take for this to happen? First, you've got your intern, and English major fresh from Amherst College, who is amazed by the very idea because she's heard of Children of Men and can't wait to write her first dust jacket. This goes up the chain to the editor, who reads it over with depressed, glazed over eyes, while he repeatedly tells himself that he, too, could have been the novelist, but he gave up the dream for his family and the security of a steady paycheck. Then there's the marketing guy, who is probably the smartest but most nefarious of the lot, who is worried about the esoteric title of the book and figures he needs something to hook people in when they open the cover, spoiler be damned. I'll tell you who was not consulted, and that is the author, who must have been pissed when she found out how the confederacy of dunces had undermined her book with their summary. Jesus.