Monday, March 23, 2015

Fuller




We were at another lake this weekend, this time for the same reason every literary person goes on holiday: a basketball tournament.  That's right, I attended a March Madness gathering.  I was once invited to this gathering with the promise of movies and yoga but since the town we were in didn't even have a coffee shop, I wasn't holding out for any Bikram studios.  Not that I do Bikram!  I have attended two Bikram classes in my life.  During the middle of the first class the instructor answered his cellphone.  He stood in those strange underwear-pants Bikram instructors wear, in front of all those Jazzercise mirrors, and coached his wife through disconnecting their house alarm.  I returned the next morning because it was part of a free package and, also, because the instructor complimented my yoga skillz.  (I am not immune to compliments.)

I finished reading Alexandra Fuller's new book this week.  It's called Leaving Before the Rains Come and is about her divorce from the man she married as a young woman living on her family's farm in southern Africa.  If you haven't yet read Don't Let's Go To the Dogs Tonight, you must!  It is drenched in beauty.  It also has quite a bit of sadness, but if you can take it, it will honestly make your heart bigger.  Oh life!  Why so large and crushing sometimes?  Sighhhhhhhh.  




I really do love Don't Let's Go To the Dogs Tonight.  More importantly, as I rediscovered in the new book, I love Fuller's prose.  I found myself nibbling at Leaving Before the Rains Come like a delicate dessert, moving slowly, leafing back and forth between sections, wanting to taste every word.  The book moves between the progress of her marriage and some of her family's personal history in southern Africa.  The sections about her family were my favorite, a delightful reminder that no matter what genre I read, I hunger for character.  If you do it right, some family members make wonderful characters.  I'm thinking here of David Sedaris, obviously, who sort of takes the cake for this sort of trick.  On a different part of the memoir spectrum, the less beguiling Molly Wizenberg crafts a loving portrait of her larger-than-life dad in her first book.  And though Bill Bryson is, it seems, a bit of a controversial figure in both wilderness and literary circles, who can forget his outrageous send up of his longtime friend Katz in A Walk in the Woods

Some decisions are easier than others
If I'm being honest, I think the real reason I did not move quickly through Fuller's newest book was not just because I savored every word.  It was because I could feel the long slow car-crash of her marriage and was not ready for the bloody end.  The author herself took sweet time getting to her point and, in that slow, circling-in-on-itself way of the book, I knew I was in trouble.  There was not a huge story, or rather, there were plenty of dramatic events, but the way Fuller told them, I desired as much time to process the information as she herself had clearly been doing for decades.  No matter how resolved the writer tried to appear, I simply did not want to see one of my heroes go through the slaughter of divorce. 

Speaking of slaughter, we made the mistake of going to a brewery on St. Patty's Day.  I don't really go to bars, period, so to wade into one on an official drinking holiday, with a baby strapped to my back, was one of my dumber moves of 2015. But we were meeting new friends and I'm so glad we made it.  The conversation was lovely.  We discussed writing, reading, and how stressful a room full of drunk people is to all of us, not just to my young child.  Don't worry - no babies were harmed in the making of this celebration, only our vocal chords as we shouted over patrons arm-wrestling nearby.  For better or worse, our daughter is emerging as the social butterfly of the family and seems genuinely entertained by rooms full of buzzing activity. 



During barroom conversation, I was reminded of a novel I read in the fall.  One-third of the way through it, two of the main characters divorced.  I did not see it coming and it sort of undid me, as a reader.  I was Just So Sad.  I never really recovered.


Divorce is a super tender subject.  I haven't gone through it personally but something about it really slays me, and not for any of that silly judgmental religious business.  Obviously there are times when it is necessary and important, but it must be hard to find an example where it is not a heart-wrenching trial.  My response to it may be as simple as understanding what it means to lose your footing, your foundation, your trust in the world.  I could cry just thinking about people having to go through this in addition to all the other pain-in-the-rear things adults have to go through, and when kids are part of the mix, just hand me the whole box of Kleenex, please. 



Wading into Alexandra Fuller's account of her divorce was, I suppose, not too different from clasping a woman's hand you have known a long time, going to that difficult place with her when she unpacks bad news.  Even though she isn't really my longtime friend, what are books if not an opportunity to know another life, to sit with another being, watch them grow and change and reveal and share and dance themselves into being, out from sadness, into light, right in front of your eyes?

Tender.  All of it.  The story of loss, the grief of divorce, the pressures of life no matter who stays together and who doesn't.  All of us in this big stew at once maybe, just maybe, comforting one another through the darkness. 

XOXO
Kara

2 comments:

  1. Hi Kara! NOTE: I had to skim through this because I've been wanting to read that memoir for a while now!
    p.s. Can't wait to bring home my deer head!

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  2. Hi Amerzzzz. Yes, SORRY I did not put in the spoiler note! That deer head's gonna look so good above Teddy's crib!!

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