Friday, October 26, 2007

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

By Anne Tyler

My first taste of a contemporary American great. The initial impressions are of a certain quaintness, a chronicle of everydayness turned slightly crooked, of a peculiar sense of irony, wicked almost. It’s an interesting read, one that makes me want to explore further.

Tyler thinks this is her best work (though her most famous is certainly, The Accidental Tourist that was made into a Hollywood movie) and it is a superbly crafted one. The Homesick Restaurant is what Pearl Tull’s second son Ezra runs in American suburbia. It is where an ill-ordered and messy family gather every once in a while for family meals that never get completed. Pearl is a memorable character, proud and prickly, left to fend for 3 children when her salesman husband ups and leaves. She is not a perfect mother and her foibles leave their mark on her children, each of whom grows up to flawed adulthood. Cody the oldest is convinced that his younger brother Ezra is his mother’s favourite and lives his life in competition with him for everyone’s affections. Ezra is the calm saint, trying to get the family to act like one, yet with an unaware ‘ungood’ side to him. And Jenny is the beautiful and erratic youngest, whose irregularity is spawned by her mother’s strict and mostly irrational rules of behaviour. There are some intense and sharp moments in the book, and it takes the final dinner at the Homesick restaurant at Pearl’s funeral to get the complete family (now including the absent father) to finally finish a meal.

There is a Jane Austen-esque quality to Tyler. With no grand themes or plot lines, characters in this novel live ordinary mundane lives spiked with endearing eccentricities. That seems to be Tyler’s calling card – making the everydayness of life worth delving deeper into.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lazy Poetry II

Slumber awaits
A window turning orange
It is tardy


Noisy shiny night
A thousand dreams flutter
And die in sleep


Mind says silly
Heart begs to disagree
The war goes on


Sun beckons flower
She responds hoping fruition
But withers when he sets


Close ones turn blurry
The world turns upside down
And unreal clarifies

Monday, October 15, 2007

Eve Green

Susan Fletcher

This is a lovely book with a distinctly fresh young voice. Her writing does remind me a bit of Arundhati Roy, though - unapologetically poetic in her use of words, there seems to be no holding back. There is something of the boldness and recklessness of the first novel in it (it is a first novel and a Whitbread prize winner at that). The language combined with the setting – the rough-hewn landscape of Wales, makes for pure theatre.

The plot itself is less electrifying - about a girl Eve Green, now pregnant and 29, reminiscing about the 8 year old she once was, brought to rural Wales from Birmingham when her young mother’s heart gives up on her. It describes her initial years at an unfamiliarly harsh and beautiful place that she grows to love; her slow discovery of her mother’s grand love story, her own conception and her father’s desertion; her friendship with Billy, the village idiot, who knows more than anyone else she knows and who still is in love with her mother; her grandparents, their losses and their unflinching love of her; a school girl’s disappearance, Eve’s own role in it and how it changed her and the town, robbing it and her of innocence; her childish adoration of a man that grows into the love of her life; and her growing acceptance of life and the pain and the happiness it brings with it.

What stand out for me are some breathtakingly beautiful, and for a 27 year old writer, unusually wise and adult lines. Like ‘Influenza. It should have been a girl’s name – a sultry, hot-eyed girl from somewhere tropical, with flowers in her hair and swaying hips.’ Or, ‘..we all want our lovers to see us that way – unaware, natural, serene. We want to change their world with one glance, to stop their breath at the sight of us.’ Or her mother talking about seeing her father for the first time - ‘I don’t think beauty is neat anymore. It’s unordered. It’s unbrushed hair and a torn back pocket.’ Eve justifying her mother’s giving up everything for a man who ultimately betrays her – ‘He showed her seven months of what life should always feel like.’ About a mother whose daughter just went missing - ‘..ex-wife, ex-lover. Can you be an ex-parent at all?’ Lines that make you wish you had written them.