Life Among the Savages

Friday, February 6, 2009

Today has been a busy day again. This whole week has been a bit of a challenge, and I'm looking forward to next when I have nothing on the schedule other than work and blogging.
Today's book; "Shirley Jackson, author of the classic short story The Lottery, was known for her terse, haunting prose. But the writer possessed another side, one which is delightfully exposed in this hilariously charming memoir of her family's life in rural Vermont."
Today's book kind of reminds me of Erma Bombeck's books. I thought I needed a happy, funny book to read after yesterday's bleak book. I'm finally getting better at balancing the kind of books I read so I don't get stuck in a rut.
Shallow thoughts on today's book:
Mid-way through the book the author describes her efforts to learn to drive as an adult - which produced horrifying flashbacks to drivers-ed class in which I was stuck in a car with someone who almost slammed into a tree on her first driving attempt, provoking those of us in the backseat to yell out, "We're all going to die." Her second attempt didn't result in any serious injury, but we did end up in some one's yard. At the end of the story she tells about how the first thing she did after getting her license was take her children for a drive - with the baby riding in the front. Safety first. I was under the impression that this book was written recently up until that part - but then I checked the front of the book and realized it was written in 1948, which meant I had been picturing people's clothes and hair all wrong up to that point and I had to go back and re-imagine it. Well, that's okay, I prefer imagining them in the 1940's anyway - any story instantly become more elegant and interesting to me when I can picture the women wearing hats and gloves and the children in bonnets and pea-coats.
The author goes on to discuss her children's names which are, I'm afraid to say, Lawrence, Joanne, Sally and Barry. I probably shouldn't even be saying on the blog that I don't like those names, because it seems that every time I say I don't like a name it ends up being the middle name of the person I'm talking to, or their child's name. In high school I was complaining to some girl that I didn't know that I hated my middle name because it sounds like the kind of name that belongs to someone who should be jumping out of the top of a cake - and naturally that turned out to be her name. She then went on to tell of how her daughter Joanne doesn't like to be called that - that she likes to be called Jean, Jane, Anne, Linda, Barbara, Estelle, Josephine, Geraldine, Sarah, Sally, Laura, Margaret, Marilyn, Susan and Mrs. Ellenoy the second. I really must tell my mother about that - perhaps it would give her some perspective about my junior high habit of trying to change my name according to my mood. Here's where having a name that is versatile comes in handy. I decided that I wanted to be called either Angela, Angie or Ang - depending on my mood - Angie for when I was in a good mood, Angela for a bad, and Ang for when I was feeling in between. My friends indulged me in this and would say every day at school, "Who are you today?" - which probably sounded to a casual observer as if I had multiple personalities. But my mother didn't go for the name change plan, she said, "That's annoying. Just pick a name and stick with it." So I settled on Angie at home - and whatever my mood dictated at school.
My favorite part of the book was when the author and her husband were attempting to rent/buy a house. Here's a brief excerpt from those pages;
"She took us to visit a house which she called the Bassington house, and which would have been perfect for us and our books and our children, if there had been any plumbing.
'Wouldn't take much to put in plumbing,' Mrs. Black told us. 'Put in plumbing, you got a real nice house there."
That part reminded me so much of the show House Hunters. For those of you who have never watched that show it's a show that follows home buyers as they look at three different houses, and then decide which one to buy. I love that show - but the realtors almost always annoy me with their responses. The couple look at the house will say, "I don't know, this house needs a lot of work. The kitchen will have to be completely remodeled" and the realtor responds with, "That's a simple change, no big deal." The all-time most annoying House Hunters comment goes to an episode where the people were trying to tell the realtor that the house wasn't big enough for their family. Her response was, "That can be changed. All you'd have to do was knock down that wall and extend the house out six feet and it would be perfect." Then the home buyers always smile and meekly say, "We could do that." Just once I want them to turn to the realtor and say, "And will you be paying for and supervising this renovation." But, alas, it never happens. The closest any episode has ever come was when one woman pointed out that removing an entire kitchen and renovating it would be "kind of expensive."
Tomorrow is going to be a big blogging challenge, a family birthday party that's probably going to last for 5 or 6 hours. So, join me tomorrow dear readers when we're all going to find out if I'm still sane after attempting to blog, work, and go to a 5 hour party - and we'll also find out if any of my relatives are still speaking to me after I spend 5 hours ignoring them so I can get the book read.