Thursday, January 8, 2009

My Book Affair(s)

In case anyone was wondering, "Lowdown" is still in my head. And did you know there is a TERRIBLE Youtube video of Taylor Hicks singing "Lowdown" in the Philippines? There are certain songs that should be banned from being covered by American Idols.

So yesterday, as my daughter Kiddokabiddo happily played at her activity station and worked on her abdominal muscles (sitting up, you guys, sitting up. She's not on an exercise regimen), I tore through The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. It was one of those books I had been meaning to get around to (even though I didn't have it on my Goodreads to-read list) and finally, FINALLY remembered when I went to the library. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about--even if you don't go to the library because you're soooooooo beyond library books, you know the sensation when you walk into a book store, or a CD store (ha. ha. do those still exist?) and suddenly, MIND GOES BLANK and you can't remember all those authors/artists you had recommended to you, and you stutter over to the letter "A" and hope, by scanning the titles, it will come back to you?

Or maybe it's just me. I've always been REALLY overwhelmed when I walk into a book store. There was this amazing book store the last time we lived here that was CRAMMED full of used books--we're talking two floors of oddly-shaped aisles, low ceilings, and the funk of 40,000 years--and while I "loved" going there because, if I am nothing else, I am a true bibliophile, I also got EXTREMELY agitated if I stayed longer than 20 minutes. It was like this terrifying Raggedy Ann and Andy movie I remember watching as a kid where this sea of taffy kept trying to eat Raggedy Ann (you'll just have to trust me on this)--you can't possibly consume all of it, and it threatens to consume you.

ANYWAY, where I was GOING with this was the book, The Namesake. After having read Interpreter of Maladies when it first came out, the subject matter (struggling with one's Indian identity in melting-pot-America) wasn't surprising, but I found myself really fixating on the affair (I hope that doesn't give anything away about the book for those of you who haven't read it yet) and then thinking back over how the central twist of basically every story in Interpreter of Maladies is an affair, or near-affair, between married people, and how even novelists tend to work in subject matter that they really KNOW, and how awkward it must be for Jhumpa Lahiri's husband and family to be constantly reading about AFFAIRS in her books and everyone either KNOWING about one that occurred or, maybe worse, ASSUMING that one occurred.

Margaret Atwood, my favorite of favorites, ALWAYS works an affair into her books too (as well as several other descriptions or turns of phrases--rather than judge her as UNCREATIVE, I love them and look for them now) and THERE'S NO WAY IN HELL she didn't have one. She's written about affairs so many times I'm pretty sure I know exactly how they happened in real life.



Shawn said...

Hey! Thank Kevin for telling me about your blog. In defense (?) of Lahiri and others, I can see why affairs are a natural place for authors to fall back on. If you're writing about relationships, and you want them to be exciting, it's an easy way to add conflict, a new character, and some extra sexin'.

I get what you're saying about "writing what you know," I just prefer to think of it as more akin to screenwriters who always insert car chases who haven't necessarily been in car chases themselves. Why? Can you call it "the benefit of the doubt" if I prefer to assume people are lazy and uncreative rather than immoral?

kristine said...

Hey Shawn!

I don't know, I guess what I meant to say about affairs and the way they pop up in someone's body of work is the WAY the affairs are presented. Like when they show up THE SAME WAY, multiple times, with more emotional underfolds that you would expect. MAYBE THE AUTHOR DID "RESEARCH" ONCE and is constantly referring to it.