Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ending Things Badly

Finished reading Dope by Sara Gran last night. It was definitely a page turner, but on the very last page, I wanted to throw the book across the room. The story is set in Manhattan in the 1950s and the female protagonist is a former junkie in her mid-thirties. The story is told in her sardonic and jaded voice, and the plot revolves around her trying to track down a missing girl, a blond Barnard College drop out who has started shooting up and gotten mixed up with a low life drug dealer/pimp. Searching for the woman takes the private eye back to her old haunts and temptations; she meets up with her ex-husband who got her hooked on drugs and he's still using, having shrunken down to a skeletal version of his younger, healthier self. Etc., etc., and I was relieved that the author didn't let the narrator give in and start using again, though she's thinking about it all the time.'s where I tell the ending, okay? Just skip forward to the Huffington Post blog is you don't want to know what happens. However, as the story begins to wrap up with all the mysteries solved and the lost girl found, a twist occurs--one we may have seen coming or not, but definitely an ah-ha ending that I think detracted from the whole rest of the story.

First, I don't need all of my endings to be happy ones. And this story wasn't going to end happily. The narrator didn't come into a great amount of money or suddenly get offered a job by the police force or meet the man of her dreams. She was going to keep struggling with her addiction, but she had the slight possibility for redemption because she had found this drugged up drop out, someone not totally unlike herself, a nice parallel. The book could have ended with the two of them together in this cruddy little apartment while the younger girl starts to undergo withdrawal and the narrator gets ready to wait it out. Instead, the narrator's half sister shows up at the last second, reveals that she was the real villain all along, and shoots the narrator in the stomach.  The last few paragraphs show us the narrator dying; gradually losing consciousness and returning to memories of the first time she snorted heroin. The end.

I guess maybe that happens in some Raymond Chandler hard boiled stories too, maybe. But killing off your first person narrator is the work of a trickster writer--one who pulls out the rug at the last second and goes, Gotcha! I bet you didn't think she would die, did you? It's the worst kind of implausible ending, the type new student writers pull (along with the story being all a dream or discovering the narrator is not really a person, but a rutabaga).  If the rest of your book deals in hard, gritty reality, you're not allowed to change the rules and reveal the narrator is dead all along. I mean, where is she writing this from? Is this whole thing a detailed journal entry where the last words trail off the page as she uses her dying breath to finish up the tale?

I don't like it and I don't recommend it. I checked out another one of her books and lent it to my friend Liz. She says she started it, but found it to be depressing. Maybe we need a break and I should check out Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel, which is the next book on my list.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


My mom is moving to Philadelphia at the end of the September. She's been here all along, at least in pictures. Here's a sampling from around my house. The last one is her and me on Christmas. I believe I have been just given a toy blender. I'm as mystified by kitchen items now as I was at age four.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer Reading

My friend Liz lent me a library book that I devoured in two nights, Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran. It's a first person female detective novel sent in New Orleans shortly after hurricane Katrina. Funny, depressing, engaging. Go get it. My plan today is to hit the Penn library for Dope, an earlier novel.

Here is the cover:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Saddest Thing in the World: Old Dogs

I saw one this morning on my way to work--an old terrier of some kind with arthritic back legs and white muzzle. The day before, it was a fuzzy golden retriever named Cooper (if I must talk to the owners to be allowed to pet the dog, I try to find out the animal's  name). Lisa Marie lived with an old dog at her last place and I had to ask her almost every day if the dogs was still alive. Luckily, she moved out before the dog died and I can now pretend that Sweetie lived forever--I never have to grieve for this dog I barely knew when she dies.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Train to Trenton

On my way to see Dan and Luke and to look at more apartments. This idea of moving again is becoming more and more real and a little freaky. Boxes. I will begin to obsess about boxes. Books. I am determined to be ruthless about giving away books. As much as I might like the idea of reading it, I will never crack the spine of The Collected Letters of E.B. White. Or that biography of Sylvia Plath. Knick-knacks? I will keep moving those small items of sentimental value, like the china doll my grandma gave me, my high school yearbooks, a little wooden block from my first boyfriend.

We keep moving forward. Eddington next stop.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Four Things

1. Yesterday, I spent $19 on a magic shampoo and about the same amount on hair-shine gel from Blue Sapphire or whatever it's called--this beauty product store near where I work. I do not care, because I am not the type of person who does this often. I don't get manis or pedis or massages or body waxes, so sometimes, I spend some money on hair care. And, if you must know, I have a trip planned to the MAC store at some point in the near future.

2. Ernesto still loves his perch and uses it to escape Emma Carol, who chases after him when she gets overstimulated (which happens at least three times a day). EC can't get him when he's up there, because she has a little bit of weight problem.

3. I recently learned how to sync up my phone with Dan's i-Tunes account and so have been able to listen to tons of Bruce Springsteen. I've also come to realize (somewhat late in the game) how easy it is to download single songs myself for a mere 99 cents or $1.29. Here's the latest song I added, Rilo Kiley's "Better Son or Daughter:"  It sort of makes me want to weep every time I hear it, but I think that's good for a person.

4. Liz and LUke and JJ are coming in from Brooklyn to see me and Dan this weekend and I can't wait!!!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Other things to remember from childhood according the Lynda Barry:

Doing projects on the planets with Saturn being the hardest planet to draw.

Christmas pageants after hours at school and how totally different school seemed at nighttime.

Making clay vases in art class that tipped over under their own weight.

Book reports done the night before and trying to make the illustrations really large to take up extra space.

Playing Ghosts in the Graveyard in the dark in someone's yard.

Slumber parties.

Making long fingernails out of Scotch tape.

Candy cigarettes (do they even still make those)?

Spelling bees.

Getting in trouble at school and feeling like it's going to go on your permanent record for the rest of your life: "Frankly, we'd hire you in a second if it weren't for that nasty business about your behavior at a certain spelling bee."

Drawing princesses and trying to find ways to avoid drawing the hands and feet like perhaps having the hands clasped behind the back and the feet hidden by a giant hoop skirt.

Making dioramas out of old Payless shoe boxes.

Trying to make friends with the mean dog in the neighborhood.

Parades where the paraders throw bad candy at you, but you still feel bad if you don't get any.

Drawing pictures for the boy you like or getting pictures from the boy you like (for example, in third grade, Rawl Brown, he of the freckled nose and Tennessee accent, drew me an entire set of the members of Kiss. My favorite, of course, was Peter Chris, who wore cat make up).