Friday, July 31, 2009
"In the Woods" by Tana French
My grade: B-
I have really mixed feelings about this one. Generally, it is a good mystery/crime novel; more or less typical in its setup. There is a crime, or a few, and the hunt is on for the answers. The book, however, is a bit stretched in all of its almost 600 pages. I read it, though, mostly with a great interest.
The worst part is the ending, which I found terribly disappointing on all fronts, including personal (as in, relating to the fates of the main characters), as well as the outcomes of the mysteries, or lack thereof. Note: I don't want to give too much away, in case someone decides to read it. Having said that, I did think at one point to myself that if this book, too, will have a happy ending, I'm going to give up on such novels. Also, I like to think that if a book is capable of arousing emotions, whether negative or positive, it must have done something right!
Overall, I say this is well-written and has a good plot, although it won't change your life. If you read a lot of books, have fun with this one. If you will only read 2 this year (ahem, you know who you are), I wouldn't make a better pick.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
She runs over to the window, suddenly, without a warning. The cottage is tidy and silent, hardly lived-in. Two pillows are propped neatly at each end of the 3 couches encircling the wooden table. An old-fashioned lamp stands in the corner, unlit. The street outside has been quiet for decades; so quiet, that even the trees have stopped listening. Yet, she gets up from her chair and she runs to the window. She is a mess of a person. "Listen..." she hisses at no one.
From the outside, she looks like a madwoman. Her gaze alone gives her away. On the inside, I have no idea who she is. She is the wack I watch from my bedroom window on days and some nights. She gives my life a kind of purpose it never had before. I must protect the community from her in case she turns violent. The problem is, she has never showed any inclinations towards violence, and there is no community. There is only me and her on the street, and the nearest neighbor is a 7-minute jog away. The rest of the houses are deserted. A bunch of loons.
She is organizing 3 magazines sitting on top of her wooden coffee table. They are all National Geographics from various months and years. She places the yellow one first, then the other yellow one, and then the white. After a few seconds of stillness, she picks up the white one and puts it at the front, followed by the two yellows. What a wack! Why not arrange in the most obvious way? Chronologically backwards. Well, she never has visitors anyway, so why she bothers with the tidying in the first place is beyond me.
I wake up from an uneasy sleep and grab my binoculars, as has become the custom. She has, at this ungodly hour, bought a hamster. He is a furry crawly thing, discomforting to both sight and feel. But she pets him harmoniously without interruption.
There is a knock on my door. Who could that be?! I never get any visitors. I start to look for my gun, but after 15 minutes, I realize I don't have one. The knocking has remained consistent, relentless. I fling open the door.
There is a woman standing there, a beautiful young woman, handing me a bouquet of flowers. No, they are not flowers, they are poison. She tells me to take the pills, but I see right through her. Her intention is not to heal. I try to tell her, to warn her about the woman across the street, but she just rolls her eyes and walks away. She walks...down the hall. Where did this hall come from? Perhaps this is a tunnel, but I see no light at the end. Where is my quiet street?
Friday, July 24, 2009
Does ever a good conversation begin that way? Or continue, for that matter, for any length of time? We stare at each other for another few seconds, my mind racing for a legitimate excuse to skedaddle.
"So, really, red wine? That's your drink of choice? Personally, I was never really into wine, until I was done with college. I don't know what happened then exactly, but I started drinking wine. I always go for white, though; I don't do too well with the red. It goes straight to my head, and in general, I'm not crazy about the taste. I don't even eat red grapes, really. But I'll take a good Riesling any time." She continues to talk. At least, I'm fairly sure of that. I wonder if there was anything in this girl worthy of my attention.
I take a look around the room, this time not caring about being inconspicuous or polite. As far as I was concerned, our friendship was over. There are plenty of people at the party, the room is really beginning to fill up. There are faces there I recognize, but I can't quite remember where from... someone I went to high school with? College? Perhaps an old colleague? Well, I suppose it doesn't really much matter. I haven't been back home in years, and this party was just a coincidence. I thought it was a good idea, but now I think it was all a mistake.
These people, they mean nothing to me, and by and large, they never have. Yet, I came here with an idea in the back of my head. Perhaps I didn't admit it to myself, but it was definitely there. That's the reason why I actually wore a suit to this affair, and perhaps dangled my Mercedes key a little too much. I wanted to show them that Kenny Walters was a somebody after all, a successful somebody. I wanted to show them, the ones that don't matter...
I tune back into the girl, Cynthia I think her name is. "The problem is people just don't get it, like they really don't, you know?" I nod my head yes, even though I don't, I really don't know. I don't really know anything at all.
For years, I've been working hard, damn hard, to prove it to them. But now, all of a sudden, I don't know what it is I've been trying to prove. And to whom. I'm a middle-aged man, with a big house and an expensive car. I'm alone, I'm terribly alone.
I stand here, pretending to conversate with Cynthia, but I realize none of these people matter, not a single one of them. A girl across the room smiles at me awkwardly, as if she's trying to remember. I've stopped trying, I want to tell her that.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
You think I'm crazy? What do you know?
You could hardly tell a pigeon from a crow.
Besides, lots of people sing in the snow.
I dance to the beat of my own drum; what else is new?
If anything, I suggest you do it, too.
Might lend a different perspective to you.
Yeah, yeah; I already know what you'll say to that.
But you're as narrow as a cat;
Your life akin to a senseless mat.
Go on, then, live life to the full and be merry.
Who cares that you're a bit too hairy?
Me? I'll take a Bloody Mary.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sad! Sad? He asks me why I'm sad. Why is any person ever sad? How the hell should I know. It's just a feeling that takes over. It has a mind of its own, I can't control it. And when it decides to leave, it does, and that's all there is to it.
He always wants to know, though, why it is that I'm sad. How can I explain it? He thinks it's something that he did. He can be so self-centered. Sometimes my emotions have nothing to do with him at all; he has a problem accepting that. How can I show him that despite everything, there is a big part of me that has nothing to do with him. There is a part of me that will always be me, nevermind the circumstances in my life. But he wants to understand. The thing is I cannot explain it to him because I don't understand myself. I don't know why I'm sad, I just am. I don't know why I want to cry, but the tears just stream down my face. How can I make you happy? he asks. I don't know. I guess deep down inside there is a little piece of me that is incredibly sad. I don't know what triggers it (and it isn't hormones either). It's just a part that has always been with me, and probably will always stick around. I cannot make it go away and I cannot change it, because I can't control it.
Why are you sad? he continues, pressuring me for a reply. Does he know, I wonder, that I wish I knew. I wish I had the answer, for my own sake, but I don't. I'm just sad. Very sad. Deep down inside. Just sad. And I don't think I will ever be happy there.
Francisca pulled up to a three-story house. The guard at the gate recognized her immediately and opened the gate with a tip of his baseball cap. Marcus had been working for the Lofts for so many years, Francisca considered him part of the family. As was the usual habit at the house, Francisca pulled up to the front door and popped the trunk. Leaving the keys in the ignition, she walked out of the car and headed towards the house; Marcus would take care of the rest.
Francisca stood in front of the door and gathered her thoughts for a minute. She had no idea what awaited her inside, but she had no other choice, nowhere else to go. For once, she just wanted to have a normal family, a normal mother. She wanted to walk through the door, step into her mother's protective open arms, and sob like a baby.
Francisca remembered the last time she cried in front of her mother. It was six years ago. Sean had just broken up with her and she was depressed. She came home while her mother was out. When Linda walked in, she saw Francisca sprawled out on the couch, surrounded by dirty tissues and empty containers of Haagen Dazs.
"What's going on here, Francisca?" Linda called out, appalled. "It's not another break-up now, is it? Really, Fran, no wonder you keep getting dumped all the time. Just look at yourself, you've gained at least five pounds. That ice cream is really not helping you..." She would have continued, but Priscilla, the housekeeper, walked into the room. Linda immediately switched over to her, calling out a dozen commands per minute. As Priscilla walked out of the room, Linda followed, shouting something at her the whole way. As usual, Francisca was forgotten and left to wallow in her own pain, alone. Since then, Francisca made sure not to show any weakness to her mom. This time, though, things seemed to be different.
Gathering her courage, Francisca finally rang the doorbell. A few minutes passed before a young girl in a uniform opened the door. Must be the new maid, Francisca thought. "Oh, Ms. Loft..." the maid said, surprise in her voice. Well, at least she was well-trained. "Come in. I'm sorry, Mrs. Loft hadn't mentioned you would be staying here. I'll get your room prepared right away."
"Wait, please. Are my parents out then?"
"I'm sorry, I presumed you knew. Mr. and Mrs. Loft are in Paris for the next two weeks..." Her voice trailed off.
That's just perfect, Francisca thought, tears forming in the corners of her eyes.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
My daughter is turning one in 4 days; I cannot believe it. It's crazy to think about it. I can still remember when the mere thought of her was a wild dream, too good to be true. And now, I still stop to wonder how something so wonderful could have happened to me. What could I have possibly done to deserve her? Do I deserve her really? And is anybody actually worthy of her? I'm proud to be her mother.
I want to squeeze her tight and hold her like that, to prevent anything bad from happening to her and parting us. When I was little, I used to love dolls and I had dreams about having the most gorgeous dolls ever. But I was always disappointed to wake up and find out it was only a dream. So I thought that if I squeeze the dolls really tight upon the moment when dreams turn into reality, the doll will enter this world together with me. But reality is harsh, even to a child, and the dolls always stayed back in that better place.
I think it's crazy that someone, somewhere has entrusted me to raise a human being. Perhaps this is a bad joke? But why waste such wonderful beauty on me? I will try my damndest, pardon the pun, to do right by her.
And so my little LuLu turns one, a big girl already, almost walking. And I think back and pat myself on the back for getting her to this major milestone. May there be many more to come, my Princess!