Baffling. This is incredibly difficult to rate. So why 5 stars? Foremost, it's utterly superlative as a work of art, almost moving to the point of teaBaffling. This is incredibly difficult to rate. So why 5 stars? Foremost, it's utterly superlative as a work of art, almost moving to the point of tears at times. On the other hand, once in a while Elizabeth Smart (not to be confused with the abducted Mormon memoirist by the same name, as Goodreads does! see "Books by [this author]" on page) drops a bomb that you cannot help but laugh out loud at. And the befuddling part is I'm still not clear whether these lines are introduced for the sake of their own ridiculousness and whether the response Smart begets (from this reader, at least) is intended.
See ALL THIS (not necessarily appearing chronologically):
"Yes, but I get confused. One day she saw a golden oriel in the orchard. One day she said, Then have your orgy with Blondie, work out your passion on her." [WHO IS BLONDIE? The effing golden BIRD?]
and in the paragraph directly following:
"I see it all, the poop of burnished gold. If I got angry and made a scene?"
Yep, orgies and poop.
Poop. Though it's quite possible she intends the deck of a ship. But come on!
"Were you intending to commit fornication in Arizona?" (Gotta admit this is at least slightly comical, universally, yes?)
"The anaesthetist was an artist, he had armpits just like chalices, just to see a top hat gave him an erection, he'd have no trouble getting into the army." (Non sequitur, much?)
"Oh, I'm old, I'm 23." "Really! I wouldn't have thought it. I'm 35. I have a bedroom suite and a parlour suite and lace doilies and a mahogany rack for magazines: we're ambitious, my husband and I."
"...Quite a gal. Her saucy repartee conceals alluring tragedy. Once she could feel, she could weep. Once she too was human. But you see what can be done? Why, she's making $15,000 a year." again, non sequitur? At the time written, $15k would be a grand salary, so presumably it's in there to demonstrate the self being spoiled by money, perhaps? And perhaps also to demonstrate the denseness of the person speaking? It sure sounds silly to me (perhaps not the message, but the tone, for sure).
"...my shame copulates with every September housefly."
On the fence re: how I feel about this line: "My love, why did you leave me on Lexington Avenue in the Ford that had no brakes?"
However, open up the book to any page and plop your finger down on an arbitrary sentence and you will experience a thing of pure beauty in isolation. But there are a good number of absurdities littered throughout, even more than those I've cited. But the mesmerizing vastly outweighs the absurd, in both potency and frequency. Many excerpts copied below.
I would be remiss to neglect the fact that the text is extremely difficult to process and interpret. Feels very academic but also indulgent. By my estimation, there's no real plot, per se. Its aim seems more to communicate the depth of feeling with action and event only serving as a cleverly alluded to instrument to do so. I highly recommend it as it will probably not torture you (!) but, at the same time, it may also fail to delight you. Which may suggest 3-stars, but this was anything but average. In a way, my laughing outbursts, perhaps an unintended consequence amid all the goosebumps I was hit with, served only to enhance my experience reading this. This work will certainly stick with me and, after writing the review, I can now reconcile my tendency to a 5-star rating.
Also to love: something about it is reminiscent (for me) of Edgar Allan Poe.
Lastly, let's pit the above har-har quotes up against this splendiferously poetic indulgent goodness:
"...the pity after all, not the love, fills all his twenty-four hours."
"On the grass, under the pines, I sit up starkly, for even to recline reminds me of the stances of love, and I am unable to bear the pain of so much remembering. Then I wander uphill, contemplating my feet with a desperate fierce lack of all feeling, and I say, O is she too pressing her feet into the service of sedative monotony?"
"But quia amore langueo. I am dying for love. This is the language of love."
"My dear, my darling, do you hear me where you sleep?"
"Nature is using me, I am the seedbag."
"The young say, Why not die before such ignominy?"
"Pull down the blinds, my embryo, over my eyes."
"Across the room she lies livid with grief and love, legendary and stony as a Catholic Cathedral."
"Their disciplined tears will grow grass so green it touches untouched hearts."
"Every brick was blood. The spire gored her for christening, even while her upturned face expected the kiss of Christ. The stones are smooth because her agony rolled them out... Three times she was martyred, but the third time she truly died."
"My room echoes with the screams she never uttered, and under my floor the vines of remorse get ready to push up through the damp... I mislay any items of cruelty's fiendish inventory."
"I am blind, but blood, not love, blinded my eye. Love lifted the weapon and guided my crime, locked my limbs when, like a drowning man with the last lifeboat in sight, her anguish rose out of the sea to cry Help, and now over that piercing face superimposes the cloudy mask of my desire."
"Will there be a birth from all this blood, or is death only exacting his greedy price?"
"I wonder why no one has noticed I am dead and taken the trouble to bury me" [...] "I lounge with glazed eyes, or weep tears of sheer weakness."
"I writhe in desperation, screaming his name, as my germ dwindles, as the whole universe withers, like a corolla no bee ever found."
"It says, I remain, I AM, I shall never cease to be: your memory will grow a deathly glaze: you will forget, you will fade out, but I cannot be undone."
"For who plans suicide sitting in the sun? It is the pile of dust under the bed, the dirty sheets that were never washed, that precipitate fatal action."
"I am electrified with with memories of dangerous propinquity."
"The dogwood is dropping its ears. It is overpowered by summer. So is coquetry overpowered by procreancy. I grow too unwieldy to dance the minuet."
"The sight of that mad face in the half-lit room drove me to prayers and loud noise. Your own shadow meeting you announces the end. A too likely and too imminent feature gnawed that face to death. But then the electric light burned out, and the bleak dawn showed only enlarged pores and the remnants of yesterday's cosmetics."
"...I dare not grasp either life or death from the ghoulish palm that offers them."
"Under the redwood tree my grave was laid..."
"No, no one will pity you here where failure is the same as shame, and tears anachronisms, out of place even in cinemas."
"So there will be no obsequies. There is to be no mention of that which was to have conquered the world, and after the world, death. Not one of all those martyrs nailed to every tree in the western hemisphere will find favour in the editor's measuring eye. On the amusement page, to fill up space, one inch and a half, perhaps, of those who were forced to die. Butter is up ten cents. The human being is down."
"The pain was unbearable, but I did not want it to end: it had operatic grandeur."