Wednesday, January 12, 2011

All Families Are Psychotic

"You don't know," said William. "Life is boring. People are vengeful. Good things always end. We do so many things and we don't know why, and if we do find out why, ti's decades later and knowing why doesn't matter any more."

I do, in fact, totally agree with Douglas Adams. Classic title.

"Tell me something - how do you deal with so many responsibilites? How? I really mean it. We've sort of talked about htis before - when you visited me in Kansas. I can barely arrange dinner reservations at Jessie's Catfush Grill, and I can't even order Disney World tickets over the phone. I've never had to actually do things before. I never had any reason to. And I finally want to accomplish things, but don't have a clue how. Meanwhile, you're orchestrating DNA strands in outer space, fosteerding wolrd peace and landing the single most complex artifact ever made by the human species out in the desert."

Sarah took a second. "I never think about it like that, Wade. There are simply these things that need to be done, and it's simpler to do them than to not do them."

For the first 200 or so pages of this book, I was a bit bored. I kept thinking that I would have liked it so much more back in my teenage/early 20s years, just as I loved Hey, Nostradamus! so much that after reading it on New Year's Day at a friend's apartment I went out and bought my own copy immediately.

Our lives are geared mainly to deflect the darts thrown at us by the laws of probability. The moment we're able, we insulate ourselves from random acts of hate and destruction. It's always been there - in the neighborhoods we build, the walls between our houses, the wariness with which we treat the unknown. One person in six million will be struck by lightning. Fifteen people in a hundred will experience clinical depression. One woman in sixteen will experience breast cancer. One child in 30,000 will experience a serious limb deformity. One American in five will be victim of a violent crime. A day in which nothing bad happens is a miracle, a day in which all the things that could have gone wrong didn't. The dull day is a triumph of the human spirit, and boredom is a luxury unprecedented in the history of our species.

However, the last 75 pages had the plot line get so completely and utterly absurd that I was drawn into the excitement. This book is about family relationships, about what it means to live with a terminal illness, about loss and hope and what it means to make a success of your life.

re. Disney "It could be 2001, it could be 1986, and it could be 2008. And all these young parents - so much younger than me - no old people save for Dad. A few bored and embarrassed teenagers. This is supposed to be life-affirming? This place is like some cosmic dream crusher. All you can get out of a place like this is a creepy little tingle that lets you know your kid is never going to be anything more than a customer - that the whole world is being turned into a casino."

And, my god, does it make the entire state of Florida sound like an absolute wasteland!

"Lately I've started to think that blame is just a lazy person's way of making sense of chaos."

"People are pretty forgiving when it comes to other people's family. The only family that ever horrifies you is your own."

"She drove west towards the sunset; the news had said that a forest fire on Vancouver Island was going to transform the sky into spectacular colors, and it was right. There in her car, Janet felt that she was for the first time driving away from the people in her life, their needs, their lovers, their flaws, their lists of unmendable wounds, their never-spoken-of unslakeable thirsts, their catalogues of wrongs."

"As far as I can see, Janet, life is just an endless banquet of loss, and each time a new loss is doled out, you have to move your mental furniture around, throw things out, and by then there's more loss, and the cycle goes on and on."

"Wade, say you didn't have AIDS. Say you weren't sick, that you learned you had a false positive the way Beth did..."

..."Wade considered this at some length. "I wouldn't have any excuses, would I?"

...Janet herself thoughta bout this question. She's had no time to herself since Cissy had transoformed her life at the restaurant. What would be the difference between death at sixty-five and death eat seventy-five? - those ten extra years... what oculd they possibly mean? Or eighty-five - twenty extra years. She'd wanted those years so badly, had mourned for their loss, yet now she had them again, and she couldn't decode their implication. Well, for that matter, what was the purpose of my first sixty-five years? Maybe the act of wanting to live and being given life is the only thing that matters. Forget the mountain of haikus I can write now. Forget learning to play the cello or slaving away for charity. But then what?

She thought about her life and how lost she'd felt for most of it. She thought about the way that all the truths she'd been taught to consider valuable invariably conflicted with the world as it was actually lived. How could a person be so utterly lost, yet remain living? Her time with the disease had, to her surprise, made her feel less lost. That was one thing she knew was true. Sickness had forced her to look for knowledge and solace in places she might otherwise not have dreamed of. Sickness has forced her to meet and connect with citizens who otherwise would have remained shadows inside cars that idled beside her at red lights. But maybe now she'd continue looking for ideas she' never dreamed of in places once forbidden - not because she had to but because she chose to - because that had proven to be the only true path out of her brittle, unlivable life-before death.

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