Sleeping Arrangements

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Today's book, ""Inside our apartment, we are gradually creating customs and inventing our own special language." So eight-year-old Lily describes life with two bachelor uncles in the Bronx of the 1950s. The unorthodox arrangement came about after the death of Lily's mother, Rosie--who invented a war-hero husband, improvised his death in the Korean war and bequeathed to her daughter a persistent hunger for information about him. We follow Lily through her adolescence, aided and abetted by uncles Len and Gabe, who keep house, cook erratically, pursue their own dreams and tend their precocious niece. This odd, yet creative, household was a happy one, even as they coped with the ups and downs of Lily's schooling and her indoctrination into junior high-school society, where she learned the sexual ploys of her peers, entertainingly detailed here. In an effective memoir that delineates a real, if idiosyncratic, world, Cunningham captures a special slice of New York with humor and integrity."
Shallow thoughts:
  • I have mixed feelings about today's book, I think it was well written and yet I didn't really enjoy it. I read a movie review once for The Hours that said it was the kind of movie a person would admire but not love - and that pretty much sums up how I feel about today's book. It's always strange to run across a well written book that either has a story that bores me or characters I can't stand - but that seems to be happening to me quite a bit lately.
  • The beginning of today's book was the typical "I had such a screwed up childhood" memoir, filled with dysfunctional stories. Book that like that always leave me wondering why stories about screwed up childhoods seem to sell so well. Aren't there any writers in the world who had happy childhoods? Or is the problem that the public doesn't want to read about happy lives? I personally would find it refreshing to run across a memoir about someone who had a really happy childhood - but I have yet to find one. If anyone knows of a happy childhood memoir please tell me about it in the comments section, I would love to read it.
  • The part of the book I identified with the most - actually it was the only part of the book I identified with at all - was this sentence, "We'd toured so many model apartments that our dream wafted this specific scent: new pine and shellac." If you substitute the word house for apartment and paint for shellac it's like the author is describing my childhood. My mother has a fascination with moving into new homes, touring new homes (at the annual Parade of Homes), talking about building new homes, looking at house plans - she's slightly obsessed with moving to new houses or as she puts if "If I ever stop wanting stuff, I don't want to live anymore." And so now the smell of new wood and paint is the smell of home. I wish there was a candle or room spray called "New House," I would buy it by the case.