The thing is, though, when your boat is rammed by a massive croc, you realize that while you thought that the river (your life) was tranquil (normal), that mutant (secret/feeling/desire/tension) was always lurking just below the calm surface (lost track of the analogy, should have gone with a flowchart; don't blame me, my brain is frozen) -- shit was always going to go down, it was just a matter of when (there it is). Whew, I've been in a dark place, guys, a dark place indeed. Well, without further terrible analogies here is a looooong overdue Friday Fiction, books about shit going from good to really quite terrible:
Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara -- It gets weary reading all these novels about middle-aged, upper-middle class white, straight, bored men going through mid-life crises, huh? Where they crash and burn and drag everyone else down with them? And you're like "dude, seriously, just buy a damn Porsch already and save everybody the trouble or here's a thought, get a real problem!" but you keep going back because every bloody top literature list is filled with Roth and Salter and Updike and Ford and Cheever and Delillo and Yates. And they're all worth it really (for the most part...). They are. Then you read fucking Brett Easton Ellis and it's the same but worse. But I digress... Where was I? Oh yes, Appointment in Samarra, a middle man crashes and burns so gloriously you feel sorry for him. You want him to be OK which in my mind, is the mark of a genius in that genre.
Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich -- What a beautiful family; three gorgeous and talented children, the artist father and his muse, the mother. Too bad dad is reading mum's diary and she found out. Time to get even. Duh duh duh. Very dark and perfectly rendered, heartbreaking. I, and please don't tell anyone, it's important that I maintain my tough as nails persona, I teared up a little at the end.
Ice Storm by Rick Moody -- I tried to read this a few years ago and every time I started I fell asleep but don't take it as a reflection of the book, just a reflection of the empty shell my life had been reduced to whilst working at an evil giant bookstore cultural department store (wtf?) -- a job that ironically zapped my will to read (that is irony right, Alanis?). At least right after work. Moving along, if Ice Storm taught me anything it's that one should never swing with one's mistress and her husband.
Music for Torching by A M Homes -- I kind of feel like all the best "things are not as they seem" novels are set in the cookie-cutter suburbs where everyone is putting on these masks that are exactly the same but really they're probably more twisted than any city-dweller. At this point though, doesn't every suburbanite assume their neighbour is into auto-erotic asphyxiation while wearing a Reagan mask and smearing cream cheese on his chest? Is it just boredom? That's what leads Homes' characters to smoke crack in Music for Torching. What PTA and the country club aren't enough?
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates -- Of all the gin joints in all the world this is the ginniest. And by gin I mean bitter and by joints I mean novels so really I mean this is one bitter novel. It starts out and April and Fred seem to have a pretty nice little life: two kids, nice house in the suburbs, they're easy on the eyes (I picture them to look like the couple from Titanic). Even better is that they know that there is more out there, they know that their middle-America suburban life ain't all that and so they make plans to move to Paris where Fred will stay home with the kids (scandalous! My pearls, I am clutching them!) and April will work (quick, I need smelling salts!) but then the frakking crocodile hits the damn boat. Aaaargh, it's so perfect! Aaaargh!
Happy Friday everyone! May your weekend be blood-thirsty crocodile and revenge-crazed maniac free!
Alex Snider is a Toronto-based writer, a Contributing Editor for the Little Red Umbrella and the co-creator of the Once Again, To Zelda blog, which is where a version of this post originally appeared. You can read the rest of her posts here.