Friday, September 16, 2011

Book: Wise Children by Angela Carter

"I've got a tale and a half to tell, all right!
But truthfully, these glorious pauses do, sometimes, occur in the discordant but complementary narratives of our lives and if you choose to stop the story there, at such a pause, and refuse to take it any further, then you can call it a happy ending." - Angela Carter, Wise Children

This book is an old woman. It rambles and tells the family history and is a bit lewd in all the wrong places. I was recommended the author by a friend and picked up the only book by her that exists within circulation in San Diego Library system. Since then, I've renewed it twice because I kept shifting it off for more appealing books. It's not the writing that kept me from cracking it back open. The first person narration speaks with distinct character and humor you might expect from the over-the-hill song and dance girl it portrays, complete with slips of memory (in one case, the punctuation of a play What? You Will? shifts throughout the story - What! You Will?, What You Will! What? You Will!?! and so on) that point to the fluidity of how we remember the past. There are wonderful pieces where the writing is completely top notch.

If I read too far in one go, I often got bogged down by the rambling of the narrative, the insubstantial details brought up in order to be recalled again with purpose far later in the book, and the relentless cataloging of whom had sex with whom. Given a little room, a break from the narrative, I was able to enjoy the rambling and laugh at the narrator noting things like the cum in the mustache of the man who recognizes her at a run down theatre showing her one and only film.

Mostly, It seemed like there's something not entirely real about the story, like the narrator has succumbed to her theatrical roots and made each person a little more Shakespearean than they had any right to be, puffed up the set dressing, and added in sequins and sex. In the end, I was left with the impression that I'd seen the stage show rather than the documentary, but I doubt the story could have been told any other way.