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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hug Your Spouse for Me

In my last post I made a reference to there being no happy marriages in literature. Isn't that weird? I kind of think it's weird. There are books that end with what we assume will be a happy marriage, and yet the ones in the other books that are on their way out refer to an early time when it seemed nothing could go wrong. This leads me to surmise that the books that end in happy weddings eventually become the other kind. It's interesting, is all I'm saying.

Discussion question number 1: Why are happy marriages boring?

While you're thinking about that one, let's talk about short stories. Short stories, are, by their nature, not long. Long stories I think are called novellas because usually any story longer than a novella we call a novel or a trilogy or (even) a series. Now take that list of increasingly long stories and reverse it and we're now looking at general trends in sales numbers.

Discussion question number 2: Why do we want to read series when they are objectively dumb?

Follow-up question: Why does everything have to be a trilogy when they are almost always one story split up into three books with a lot of filler and no real ending to books one or two?

A statement: I read Bark: Stories by Lorrie Moore.

Follow-up statement: Most of these stories are available online for free but I got it at the library so it was better than reading them on a computer screen though I am not the type who is snobbish about a book needing pages because I think words are words and e-readers are light and I don't have a lot of muscle mass.

Now that you've been thinking about question 1, there is one story about a happy marriage in Bark: Stories (there are 8 stories in Bark: Stories). I found it rather lovely. There are a lot of the other kind. I would give them mixed reviews.

There are fine quotes:
“Tears, she had once been told, were designed to eliminate toxins, and they poured down her face and slimed her neck and gathered in the recesses of her collarbones and she had to be careful never to lie back and let them get into her ears, which might cause the toxins to return and start over. Of course, the rumor of toxins turned out not to be true. Tears were quite pure.”
Trite ones that you have almost certainly heard at church:
Surely that was why faith had been invented: to raise teenagers without dying. Although of course it was also why death was invented: to escape teenagers altogether.”
But mostly there are these smug ones. The characters in these stories are often so devastatingly wry in a way that makes them interchangeable.
“Oh, the beautiful smiles of the insane. Soon, he was sure, there would be a study that showed that the mentally ill were actually more attractive than other people. Dating proved it!”
Many characters in these stories are just so bemused. They get it and everyone else who disagrees is unworthy of analysis. In real life I meet these people in coffee shops busy not having jobs.

I liked this collection of mostly free short stories, but didn't love it. I left wanting to read more from this author, but with trepidation. I love fiction for its ability to let me see the world through someone's eyes, but if those eyes are this jaundiced with loathing of general humanity, I'm not sure if I'm getting much.

We're basically born thinking we're the best baby in the nursery. That the other babies just don't get it. Somehow we came into this world the only one who sees through the tricky obfuscations of the world, refusing to be tricked. "I Don't Trust the Liberal Media", a sticker on one baby's crib says. "When Did Jesus Become Pro-Rich, Pro-War, and Only Pro-American?" a bespectacled infant retorts. One's says "Just Ledoux it" and "Git 'r Done" but we don't really talk to that baby because what is that even.

You know what else babies do? That's right. They poop their pants. But they also explore. They examine and taste and feel everything they can, they obsessively probe. At some point most of us stop doing the first thing, and that's good, but if we stop doing the second, well that's a shame. The self-congratulatory critic of general humanity has stopped exploring.

Discussion question number 3: Why?