Tuesday, March 6, 2012

If George W. Had Bought the Brewers

Some of my favorite passages from the book, American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, which I just finished this weekend. It's completely fiction, but is based loosely on Laura Bush's background though the couple lives in Wisconsin rather than Texas. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I didn't take it very seriously as the characters were somewhat two dimensional. It was far from being a book I will consider one of my favorites, but I did find myself marking a few passages where I thought the author had really nailed a concept. 

Concerning how I feel about growing up in the Midwest: 
            Admittedly, the area possesses a dowdiness I personally have always found comforting, but to think of Wisconsin   
            specifically or the Midwest as a whole as anything other than beautiful is to ignore the extraordinary power of the 
            land. The lushness of the grass and trees in August, the roll of the hills (far less of the Midwest is flat than outsiders 
            seem to imagine), that rich smell of soil, the evening sunlight over a field of wheat, or the crickets chirping at dusk 
            on a residential street: All of it, it has always made me feel at peace. There is room to breathe, there is a realness of   
            place. The seasons are extreme, but they pass and return, pass and return, and the world seems far steadier than it  
            does from the vantage point of a coastal city. 

Being around those huge families that seem to encompass half the town:
            Still, I could tell that he was geared up for the night ahead. And I couldn't blame him--it was obvious that for the  
            Blackwells, family reunions not only involved competitive sports but were a kind of competitive sport in themselves. 
            Being around the Blackwells...filled me with a jealous wonder at their clannish energy, their confidence, their sheer  
            numbers, and also with a gratitude that I had grown up in a calm and quiet family. So many inside jokes for the 
            Blackwells to keep track of, so many nicknames and references to long-ago incidents, so much one-upmanship: 
            Surely I was not the only one who found it tiring. 

I think I've said this a time or two to someone about my own family. Sittenfeld is right, I do take a little bit of pride in it:
            But he was the one who approached me on the porch, saying, "I hope you haven't found us overwhelming." (Of 
            course, they took pride in their overwhelmingness, as all families that are both large and happy do.) 

Brutal imagery concerning the suffering of others:
            I have often felt, observing the world, like a solitary person in a small cottage looking out a window at a vast dark  
            forest. Since I was a little girl, I have lived inside this cottage, sheltered by its roof and walls. I have known of people 
            suffering...the unlucky have knocked on the door of my consciousness, they have emerged from the forest and 
            knocked many times over the course of my life, and I have only occasionally allowed them entry. I've done more 
            than nothing and much less than I could have. I have laid inside, beneath a quilt on a comfortable couch, in a kind of 
            reverie, and when I heard the unlucky outside my cottage, sometimes I passed them coins or scraps of food, and 
            sometimes I ignored them altogether; if I ignored them, they had no choice but to walk back into the woods, and 
            when they grew weak or got lost ore were circled by wolves, I pretended I couldn't hear them calling my name.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that last quote is intense, but so true! I don't know why we ignore the needs of others so often. Or when we do act, it's with such minimal resources compared to what we have. Shame on us! Just have to keep trying to do better. Hope all is well with you! Look forward to seeing you again soon :)