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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Inner-city Dendrology, or How a Title Can Destroy a Blog

I've started this entry a few times and it keeps refusing to go anywhere. A big problem is trying to find book quotes from it. Cause the book I'm going to talk about in a bit has great quotes, but all the ones on the internet are not my favorite. This is because I'm essentially better than the internet.

"Better than the internet!" Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's going to be the catchphrase for this blog from this point on.

Oh wait I found the quotes I wanted. Sorry, Internet. Friends?


Anyway, the other reason is because I didn't have an intro, but man oh man did I just kill it just then. Killed. It.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith


For most of my life the only thing I knew about this book was that it existed and was probably a classic because it was in a Looney Tunes episode "A Hare Grows in Manhattan." I tried to embed the video but every version of it is broken. I think there's another gag where books are all literal and like a tree grows out of the book or something? I watched a lot of Looney Tunes as a young kid but I was also doing a lot of drugs back then so I might not remember everything and it's possible that I made some of it up.

So there you go, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. There's a tree in it. Good morning everyone, enjoy your day. I hope my humble lil' blog cheered you up a little.

“If there was only one tree like that in the world, you would think it was beautiful. But because there are so many, you just can't see how beautiful it really is.” 
OK, I did actually read it. There is a tree in it, but guys, the tree is a metaphor. Get this. Francie Nolan, who I have now learned is one of the most beloved characters in American Literature, is a little girl growing up in severe poverty in Brooklyn. Her parents are described like this:
“Katie had a fierce desire for survival which made her a fighter. Johnny had a hankering after immortality which made him a useless dreamer. And that was the great difference between these two who loved each other so well.” 
Francie's mom is a pragmatist
“I hate all those flirty-birty games that women make up. Life's too short. If you ever find a man you love, don't waste time hanging your head and simpering. Go right up to him and say, 'I love you. How about getting married?” 
And then there's Francie:
“And the child, Francie Nolan, was of all the Rommelys and all the Nolans. She had the violent weaknesses and passion for beauty of the shanty Nolans. She was a mosaic of her grandmother Rommely's mysticism, her tale-telling, her great belief in everything and her compassion for the weak ones. She had a lot of her grandfather Rommely's cruel will. She had some of her Aunt Evy's talent for mimicking, some of Ruthie Nolan's possessiveness. She had Aunt Sissy's love for life and her love for children. She had Johnny's sentimentality without his good looks. She had all of Katie's soft ways and only half of the invisible steel of Katie. She was made up of all these good and these bad things. 
She was made up of more, too. She was the books she read in the library. She was the flower in the brown bowl. Part of her life was made from the tree growing rankly in the yard. She was the bitter quarrels she had with her brother whom she loved dearly. She was Katie's secret, desparing weeping. She was the shame of her father staggering home drunk. 
She was all of these things and of something more that did not come from the Rommelys nor the Nolans, the reading, the observing, the living from day to day. It was something that had been born into her and her only- the something different from anyone else in the two families. It was what God or whatever is His equivalent puts into each soul that is given life- the one different thing such as that which makes no two fingerprints on the face of the earth alike.”  
You guys I love Francie. I love her mom, and her brother, and her dad, even though her dad is a drunk and her poor mother has to work her beautiful hands to callouses to make up for his drunkenness. You guys her dad does something so sweet for Francie that I can barely write about it. It's one of the loveliest things that has happened in a book that I've ever read. Please read it and tell me what you think.



Post-script:

So I Googled "Brooklyn kittens" and what I came up with was a gem. According to this article, two kittens were on the Brooklyn subway and it was shut down to rescue them. This turned into a fight between two mayoral candidates over whether liking kitties was a good thing which included one candidate posing with a tiger cub and then, surprisingly, a debate about Muslims where "Moses never killed anyone." Listen, I've seen The Prince of Egypt. Don't mess with Moses, is what I'm saying.