Friday Fiction: Everything Is NOT Alright by Alex Snider

Have you ever been cruising down an Australian river, relaxing and taking in the sights, thinking, "this, this here, is the life", when your boat is rammed by a massive crocodile? An crocodile it turns out you ran over last summer and left for dead on the side of the road? An crocodile with a deadly thirst? A deadly thirst for revenge? Then you've probably lived through my soon to be completed fan-fic mash-up of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Rogue, a charming Aussie thriller about, you guessed it, a giant crocodile with separation anxiety (it's anxious about separating you from it's stomach). Also, this is a pretty awesome analogy of life and incidentally, this week's Friday Fiction, that is: everything is all fine and dandy until it isn't and then it turns out it hasn't ever really been fine and dandy; ignorance is bliss, life sux, you don't love me anymore, blah blah "my eyes are tired from crying" blah.

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:

Desperate Characters by Paula Fox -- Sophie and Otto are perfect on the surface. They have a vacation home in some cape on the ocean and their dream home in a up and coming gentrifing (what is the verb of gentrified? The active verb? Is an active verb a thing? I don't do grammar. Obviously) urban neighbourhood. A couple of random acts of crime and vandalism sends them into a tailspin of paranoia that challenges their whole identities, relationship and lives. Whew, really puts the theft of my bike bell into perspective, not that that doesn't totally stick in my craw. This book blew my mind. Plus Paula Fox is Courtney Love's biological grandmother. So...

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.

Remembering Laughter by Wallace Stegner -- What happens when the little sister comes to stay, bangs your husband, pops out a kid and then no one talks about it ever? Ever? Well, the kid will never even know what the fuck happened to cause his family to become the walking dead. I may have just given too much away but who reads Stegner for the plot? PS How amazing is this cover? It's so lascivious! Totally belies his writing and the plot. Kinda makes me want to check out that copy of The Restless Redhead I picked up with a similar cover.

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.


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