Sunday 29 January 2017

Just paddle

Another book that I spontaneously requested from the library and then wondered why. I don't know why I keep reading these death memoirs, maybe the idea that people who experience death close up and viscerally somehow have something to say about life. This book is funny because her chatty writing, not because anything she did or experienced was funny. In fact it is all mundane; her life is just so very ordinary. Much of the book is Nora venting her grief at the world, and why shouldn't she, some bad shit happened to her, but mainly I found myself not liking her particularly. The book often comes across like one of those bland lifestyle blogs which seemed out of synch with the subject that she was writing about.

Here she is talking about her youthful need to be liked:

"During the years - yes, years - that we lived together, tattoos were really hitting the mainstream. I know that's a dorky thing to say, but this was right when Amy Winehouse was getting big, and full-sleeve tattoos went from being a sign that you're comfortable on the outskirts of society to being the kind of thing that fat suburban dads in cargo pants proudly sported. So one day, when Ricky made an appointment for a new tattoo, I went with her. 'Really?' she said, and I sensed in her a very, very faint interest in me as a person. 'Yeah,' I lied, 'I've been thinking about it forever so I think its' time.'
Ricky doted on me for a whole week after I mangled my torso. She bought me ice packs and spread Aquaphor across my back to speed the healing process. And then, just as quickly, she was done with me. I think because I once had my boyfriend over at the apartment where I paid rent, and he went pee in the bathroom at some point and she didn't like that.
Ricky and I moved out of the apartment and we never spoke again. But I have a permanent memento of our time together. It's not quite as bad as getting a tattoo that says 'no regrats' but the sentiment is the same." (p.210-11)

But somehow she manages to get across how such an experience transforms not just her life but herself:

"It was the middle of a normal Monday when Aaron had a seizure that turned out to be a brain tumour that turned out to be cancer that turned out to kill him. I'd woken up a normal twenty-seven-year-old woman who still had a hangover from Saturday night, and somewhere along the way, my life had been tilted on its side without my permission. I was not pleased. I had a very important PowerPoint to finish! I worked in advertising! I needed people to click on Internet ads and buy things! I made my mother drive me to the hospital, and I could feel my heart beating through my chest the entire three-mile ride from downtown to south Minneapolis. My mother had things to do at work, so she pulled up to the emergency room, leaned over me to open the door and all but pushed me out of the car.
'Go in there and be a woman,' she said, and even though I had no idea what she meant, I did it." (p.205)

So probably, for some audiences, a more relatable history than 'A Year of Magical Thinking' (Joan Didion) or 'A Widow's Story' (Joyce Carol Oates), but I think they are both much better books.

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