Some books inspire me to write more. French Exit is one of them. Patrick deWitt also wrote Sisters Brothers (made into a feature film starring Joaquin Phoenix). This novel has been described as a ‘tragedy of manners’. The characters are social outcasts; one, a tart widow, and possessive mother; the other, her grown-up son, mired in a permanent state of arrested development.
Here’s a passage:
Susan thought of Malcolm as an exotic pet, a stopgap antidote to postcollege doldrums, but then something terrible happened, which was that she fell in love with him. It was like an illness coming on; it loitered on the edges of her consciousness, then pounced, gripping her mind and heart.
Frances had had enough. She pulled a bottle of perfume from her bag and began spritzing the bouquet of flowers in the center of the table. The waiter looked on from the sidewalk, wondering what she was playing at. Malcolm knew, and he studied his mother admiringly as she removed her lighter from her coat pocket: click! She held the flame to the bouquet and it went up in a ball.
He writes with a droll wit, and some passages will make you laugh at loud. I know I will be reading this one again and again, as I did with Sisters Brothers.
There is a psychic space that this book exists in that is in the same arena as the show Arrested Development, which showcased similarly eccentric and dysfunctional characters.
When you are genetically perfect on all levels, it becomes a problem. One must manufacture imperfections just to fit in! The rest of us must purchase gym memberships or, worse, go on long walks wearing outrageous ‘exercise’ clothing (which is usually what you wear around the house anyway).
My parents are still around, and visit the gym three times a week. There’s incentive right there! My father is 95 this year, he swam all his life – that accounts for his blessed lack of knee and joint problems, outside of the inevitable aging issues. Maybe I should get in the pool? Right now, I’d rather ruin my legs by running. The lack of scenery (and podcast listening) when swimming has always been problematic for me.
Every once in a while we drive down to Steveston fishing village, and buy something off the docks. It is usually crowded, close as it is to Vancouver, about a 30 minute drive south. Right now, however, it is the slow season.
It is a very photogenic part of the lower mainland, and has been used for many TV or film productions, including –
Power Rangers (2017)
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
Psych: The Movie (2017)
The Interview (2014)
Once Upon a Time
Border Security: Canada’s Front Line
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
We love it there. They also have chartered whale watching into Georgia Strait.
We go there about every two weeks to buy, you guessed it, fresh fish off the dock and boats. If you hang around long enough, you will see seals pop up their sleek heads (not unlike dogs wearing panty hose over their heads, I always say). If you are unlucky, a seal may pull you into the briny deep, like that little girl a few years ago, in a viral video. That put Steveston on the map, clearly in a very good light.
If you are ever in the region, do drop in! We love the vibe here, away from the hubbub and tumult of the city proper. Tell your Uber driver (hopefully by then we will have full-fledged ride-hailing) to take you to Steveston Village, and you’ll buy them some sea urchin, right off the docks.
NOT my photographs by the way. If they were, (heh heh) you’d know.
These two are very popular in North America right now. 15 year wait for these titles at the public library. Might as well read them inside your local bookstore. (if all else fails, buy the thing) I know that Woman in the Window will be a film very soon. Both of them have their merits – highly readable for lovers of the genre, of which I sometimes am. Both have a bombshell plot device embedded within. Shall I tell you what they are? I will not.
The Silent Patient (I keep wanting to say Partner) is written by an author with Greek extraction, and there is Greek Mythology folded into the story. It is told mainly from the therapist’s point of view.
Woman in the Window is about a woman who is housebound, essentially agoraphobic, and is a film buff, especially, and not surprisingly, Hitchcock. Elements of Rear Window prevail. (book shortly to be a feature film which is usually the kiss of death – perhaps this will be another Gone Girl, but I doubt it)
I will not qualify further, just that I roared through these books rather quickly. They kept me guessing, as is the purpose of these books, I suppose. I’m pretty easy to fool, all you mystery authors out there! Good thing I did not try to be a homicide detective – with my abysmal solve record, I’d be busted down to writing traffic tickets.
By the way, now that I’m on a mystery kick, Jane Harper has had me mesmerized of late. She is an Australian author and her books all take place in the outback, a favourite setting of mine. There should be more books set here. Also, the Antarctic. Perhaps, I’ll write that one, since I saw that Werner Herzog documentary.
Back in the ‘naughts’, (2003 or so) we drove down to Crescent City from Vancouver Canada. That is about 1,000 km or 10 hours straight driving. That is standard op for us – we have driven to San Francisco, and Edmonton on occasion. Good thing I dig driving, and with an infinite number of podcasts in existence, it is even more pleasurable.
We stopped by the Trees of Mystery (spoiler alert, the mystery are some really big trees, like redwoods and sequoia, which grow like weeds in that area).
Our 4 year old daughter, at the time, was quite captivated by the giant Paul Bunyan (who speaks extemporaneously) statue that is there. The trees, of course, are giant and unsettling, as are all living things that have been present since the years were in two or three digits.
Before turning around, and driving northward toward home, I bought a glass tube with a sequoia seedling within.
Planted it in my parents backyard, subjected it to our West Coast climate for 17 years or so.
Pretty confident that it is sucking all the ground water for miles around. Anyway, it will serve to remind them what a great son they have in me!
This a harrowing first person account of mental illness. An extraordinary peek into that hellish world.
Here is a short passage:
When I return, the room is as still and silent as it was when I left, nothing moving but faint dust motes in the lamplight. Not one of the men looks at me, yet I have an unnerving sense that they have been waiting for me to return.
Then it hits me: they know I am a dead man walking, a ghost already in their midst. What are they going to do to me? What have they done? What have they set in motion? How am I to die?
And it is so blindingly obvious then: the car, it is the car; while I was in the bathroom they placed a booby-trap bomb under my car and it will explode and kill me when I turn the key in the ignition. It is their guilt at my impending execution that causes them to avert their gaze: they feel remnants of guilt already that they have killed me.
A sudden sob escapes me. I momentarily break down in front of them, in fear of what is about to happen, and in self-pity. Defeated, deflated, totally abject and bereft now, I accept my fate.
This is a lived reality of mental illness and is frequently gripping throughout. Highly recommended.
I have long tried to understand this illness, given that we have two close family members with the disease. The stigma is still strong, but a lot more understanding of the disease is out there which is breaking down long held barriers.