Poor Holden Caulfield. In Catcher in the Rye, he muses, â€śGirls. You never know what theyâ€™re going to think.â€ť How right he was! In Elissa Schappellâ€™s new short story collection, the old blueprints for Appropriate Female Behavior — the name of a vintage etiquette manual, 1963 edition — have all been tossed away. And now the girls and women are forced to muddle through with the new rules: Be yourself but also be what your boyfriend, parents, and girlfriends want you to be as well.
LET’S TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME is, at its core, a love story. Itâ€™s a story of how a close connection with a friend can ground us and provide us with a life worth living. And itâ€™s a story that any woman who has ever had a friend who is like a sister â€“ I count myself among those fortunate women â€“ will understand in a heartbeat.
In this artful, cerebral novel spanning four decades and encompassing the tribal conventions and counterculture movements of the 70′s and 80′s, the reader is plunged into a cunning world of philosophy and hedonism that is best described as baroque rawness or stark-naked grandiloquence. If these terms appear to be incompatible pairings, the reader will grasp the seeming polarity as axiomatic soon after feasting on Edie Meidav’s complex narrative style. A carnal vapor infuses every provocative page of this unorthodox psychological crime thriller.
NEXT TO LOVE starts out very strong. We meet three childhood friends in Massachusetts â€“ Babe, Millie, and Grace â€“ whose men are on the cusp of going off to World War II. Ms. Feldman deftly juggles their stories and breathes life into their characters. Grace is the beauty who is married to the heir of one of the townâ€™s most illustrious citizens and has a young daughter; Millie is married to Pete, the pharmacistâ€™s son; and Babe is the feisty wrong-side-of-the-tracks gal who is in a committed relationship with an upstanding man who wants to become a teacher.
A few years ago, a new phrase burst into our vernacular: “the bucket list,” based on a movie in which two men confront their limitations and prepare a list of things they must do. The list is predictably exotic: skydiving, flying over the North Pole, eating dinner at Chevre dâ€™Or in France.
In JOY FOR BEGINNERS, itâ€™s the womenâ€™s turn to enact that list. On an uncharacteristically sunny day in Seattle, six women assemble to celebrate their friend Kateâ€™s clean bill of health from breast cancer. Unbeknownst to them, right before arrival, Kateâ€™s daughter had suggested an exhilarating white water rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. Her friends urge her on and she agrees to go on one condition: that she gets to choose a challenge for each of her friends to overcome.
A couple of weeks ago, I watched the film “The Social Network.” I expect most of us know what the film is about, but for those who donâ€™t, itâ€™s the fictionalized account of the creation of the social networking internet site: Facebook. I liked the film a lot, and one of the things that remained with me after the credits rolled is the changing idea of friendship. In the age of the internet, what does friendship mean? It used to be that we made friends in school, at work or at university, but now many of us have friendships with people online that weâ€™ve never actually met in person. Are these relationships real? Are they substitutes, or are they a facsimile of the “real” thing.
The authenticity of relationships is just one of the many things that trouble the protagonist of Jonathan Coeâ€™s latest novel, THE TERRIBLE PRIVACY OF MAXWELL SIM.
March 11, 2011
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: 21st-Century, Friendship, Jonathan Coe, Knopf, Virtual Reality Â· Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Contemporary, Drift-of-Life, Humorous, Reading Guide, United Kingdom