Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We Were the Mulvaneys

There are two inspirations for fellow-ette's new adventures in blogging. The first is a nasty cold that has left me weak and doing all my "freelance" work from my laptop and giving me extra time to do various types of bullshit.

The second, is that on a recent trip to chez ma and pa, looking for my social security card which seems to have vanished into the ether, I recovered a far, far better card, my NY Public Library card, (key to tons of free knowledge, yo)...featuring a signature so poor it's not even a signature. I can't have used it in 7 or so years. But now I have. And the first book I checked out with it is an opus by Princeton grande dame and lover of the gothic genre, Joyce Carol Oates, We Were the Mulvaneys, which incidentally, was picked by Oprah's book club, (which incidentally, makes really thoughtful selections).

The book is my first foray into Oates. I found her prose slightly, well, very hysterical, but since I returned the book yesterday (no fines for me!) I alas can't quote it here. Here's what I can say: she's super fond of run-on sentences, piles on the adjectives, and uses ever repeating italics to indicate thoughts, memories, collective unconscious, etc.

The Mulvaney's story is totally compelling. A large farm family--liberally raised kids, sing-songy, loving atmosphere, respected in town and oh-so-happy--is ruined when their chaste Christian daughter is raped quite brutally, it seems, by a popular boy at the local prom. Suddenly all the rituals and ties that bind this group together are thrown out of whack or abandoned, and everything descends into criminal chaos.

It turns out, surprise surprise, that the family wasn't that close to begin with; or at least, not communicative enough. Or maybe it's that they were too invested in their success? Or that they didn't know how to deal with victimhood? Or hmm. I didn't entirely buy the falling apart part. I entirely swallowed their falling from grace in town and how devastated it made some of them feel. That I understood: the unnerving way small-town society sides with the aggressor. And I appreciated the undercurrent of perverse sexuality in a clean, Christian town. that Oates describes with oblique references to graveyard encounters and bathroom graffiti. I just didn't think the family's internal disintegration was entirely believable, perhaps because Oates makes the combustion so complete and devastating and endless.

Still, it was a gripping read, easily trotted from subway ride to starbucks to bedside, and the buildup was so throat-closingly intense and consuming, maybe it was inevitable that the post-climactic chapters were a letdown. I'll definitely read more Oates sometime... I want to read the one called "Because it is bitter, and because it is my heart" just because the title is sooo badass, kind of like a better version of the last two lines of a Jorie Graham poem. But I need to take a break, and read something light and optimistic, like the confessions of Son of Sam or something. For realz.


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