This did not work for me. The period detail was, as far as I know, accurate. The lifestyle of the main character’s family was vividly rendered. In facThis did not work for me. The period detail was, as far as I know, accurate. The lifestyle of the main character’s family was vividly rendered. In fact, I liked the idea of the plot all around, and it could have been done very well. The concept was solid, but the execution was flawed.
To say that the male character who is the villain of this work was set up as a straw man is a staggering piece of understatement. This man’s capacity for inflicting humiliation and abuse, his intense narcissism—it was all so heavy-handed as to draw me out of the book entirely. When Maureen, the wife, began to stand up to him, it became even worse. She would give him these retorts, which for some reason always left him speechless; yet, they were not strong. They were not eloquent. They sounded like the feminist fan-fiction rantings of a fourteen-year-old, who creates a male character who spouts offensive things so that she can deliver these self-righteous diatribes in the voice of her lady protagonist.
I’m all for tearing down patriarchal idols, rewriting history to foreground the woman’s story, and so on. When women have been oppressed and beaten down (figuratively and literally, politically, socially, bodily) for centuries and continue to be so to this day, yes, I want to continue to hear their stories. In fact, I want to witness their redemptive, “screw you” moment when they tell their oppressor that he just won’t get to be one any more. But it has to feel like reality; it has to not strategically disarm the oppressor at that moment so that her victory feels unearned.
David Sedaris is easily the best memoirist working today. He has this way of employing bright, charming prose to tell stories that are as funny as theDavid Sedaris is easily the best memoirist working today. He has this way of employing bright, charming prose to tell stories that are as funny as they are poignant. Also, listening to his works on audiobook (he reads them himself) are a special treat; Sedaris is a gifted performer, especially when reading in the persona of his own family members.
My favorite selections in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim were "Rooster at the Hitchin' Post" and "Put a Lid on It"--each about one of Sedaris's particularly odd siblings--and "Hejira," an affecting story about Sedaris being kicked out of his parents' house for being gay. He assumes, heartbreakingly, that he's been removed from the house because he's always stoned and refuses to get a job; only when his mother tearfully apologizes does he recognize the actual situation.
"Six to Eight Black Men" is also a (holiday-themed) classic....more
This was about a young woman whose mother was bipolar, as I recall. I remember zero other facts about the plot.
That's the problem with Kaye Gibbons noThis was about a young woman whose mother was bipolar, as I recall. I remember zero other facts about the plot.
That's the problem with Kaye Gibbons novels: they are all (of the three or four that I read before I gave her up for good) narrated in a continuous first-person monologue/remembrance that renders the entire story a secondhand experience for the reader. We're not "there" when anything happens; we don't "witness" anything. The experience of the book is sitting across a table in any empty room while the main character sits across from you and tells you her story.
I get the tradition of vivacious Southern storytelling. But I cannot abide by this narrative style, regardless of how well it's executed, and here it was not even done well....more