i just read her essay on caribou island, when she first posted it i retracted my desire to read it as a whole because, i wanted to experience the book myself, so i did borrow the book from the library, and i figured that they only had one copy (and i am still holding it). finished the book around two weeks ago, hadn't had the chance to write about it (and everything is illuminated too). a few minutes ago i was halfway through eugenides' middlesex, another exquisitely written tale, decided to take a break and wanted to have some sleep but failed, and i remembered nat's essay, read through it here.
i felt what she wrote on the last part of her essay too, how the book had some effects on my thoughts of marriage, i think especially because i have not experienced it. my mother and father seem to always be at ease when handling it, but i would like to think that perhaps they are exceptional because in most cases marriage is never easy, to say the least.
fourteen days have washed away most of the strong impressions of the book, little by little, rinsed by dense stacks of sociology experiments, communication lecture notes and psychology concepts. now amount of schoolwork has generally decreased and through this fissure i intend myself to rekindle those impressions and write about this book.
in the book the pre-marriage and marriage relationships are captured in hazardous motion, always riding fast downhill, all the way, slowing down at some bumps perhaps but never making a point to stop. to be honest in the beginning i had some tiny wishes that their marriage would later reflourish, with the help of wooden logs, swollen ripples and an asymmetrical cabin. i hoped that irene's sickness, whatever it is would heal itself and irene would be able to present her 'proper' self to gary afterwards, just like what her husband has hoped. but it never happens in the book, and i felt very sorry, almost apologetic when reading parts where irene's head is hammered with illusive needles that are beyond x-ray, pains whose existent is true to her, solely. i imagined the pain is not only coming from the pounding in her head, the black hole under her eyesocket but also from the forced acceptance of the claim that says, irene's sickness is nonexistent.
(this struck me as familiar, when everyone around you does not see what only you can see, do you choose to disbelieve yourself or persist on this impenetrably private reality? a few years ago i read a beautiful manga called eternal soul, about a soul eater who eats other humans' soul in order to live through eternity. those whose souls have been eaten lose their physical presence, also their previous presence on earth is no longer valid. in other words they leave no trace: they are not in any class photographs, anyone under them in the family tree disappear, anything related to them diminish and no one, no friends and no family members could ever locate in their minds the deceased's previous presence ever again. but there is one person who can remember the presence of her lost boyfriend, whose soul has been ripped apart, gracefully digested in the soul eater's flat stomach. her friends deny the truth, call her crazy, bully her; yet she carries on. these images of her diary being torn apart by her friends are still vivid in my head. what does it feel like to be the only one to know the truth, when there is no evidence and the only seemingly possible explanation to this plot hole in your mind is just: you must have gone crazy. this situation must be barely endurable)
also, a lot of 'what if's in this book. what if i have settled for something better. i always thought that it is such a pathetic thought, to have so many 'what if's in your life, but now i am beginning to be afraid that throughout these years i myself have also been putting only more 'what if's into an imaginary saving account, the number of them burgeoning sweetly, until it amounts to a tremulous tower of regrets. this thought scares me off because life has no rehearsal, i only want to live through this well for once and all.
The question, really, was what his life was about. He didn't believe in God, and he wasn't in the right field to become famous or powerful. Those were the three biggies: faith, fame, and power. They could justify a life, perhaps, or at least make you think your life meant something. All the crap about being a good guy, treating people well, and spending time with family was only crap because it had nothing to anchor it. There was no cosmic scorecard. Having kids seemed to work for some people, but not really. They were lying, because they'd lost their lives and it was too late. And money, by itself, didn't mean anything. So all that was left was sex, and money couldn't help with that.
is this true, i do not know, but i know that something like this often happens. the void you could only fill with achievements, the moment where money no longer matters: when you start to look beyond money, but not necessarily in a good sense.
Here’s the truth, Mom. There’s nothing wrong with you. Your husband loves you. Your family loves you. And there’s nothing wrong with your head, either. You’re just freaking yourself out. Why are you doing this?
You don’t believe me?
No, I don’t. I don’t believe any of it.
Irene felt a strange calm then. Rhoda standing before her, worried, condescending, understanding nothing. And yet Rhoda was the person she was closest to in this world. She stepped forward and gave Rhoda a hug, held her tight. I’ll only tell you this once, she said quietly. I’m alone now.
Shh. Just listen. If you don’t wake up, you’ll be alone like this too. Your life spent, and nothing left. And no one will understand you. And you’ll feel so angry, you’ll want to do far more than throw a bowl through a window.
Rhoda pushed away. What the fuck, Mom.
That’s all I have to offer you. Just the truth.
You’re scaring me, Mom.
Well maybe you’re starting to understand.
nat mentioned that she cried while reading the book, so did i, but i did during the above part. "your life spent, and nothing left." because supposing and understanding are two very different things.
the book is full of stark truths and late contemplations, which, to put it mildly, more or less give you a rough outline of what adulthood is, if you have not faced one. the book may seem like the worst case, but don't think that your life can't get any worse than this.
Rhoda opened the fridge, and she wondered how much of Jim she was marrying. What percentage. Ten percent of his attention, some larger percentage of his affection, ninety percent of his daily needs and errands, some percentage of his body, a small percentage of his history. She wondered what she was signing up for. Half of his money. She didn’t like to think of it that way. They were supposed to be joining their lives together. They were supposed to be sitting together on the couch right now, looking at the sunset and the brochures.
rhoda and jim's relationship (her fiance) is also very devastating, nat pinned down what i felt but had missed to draw the significance of: the contrast between their objectives. rhoda does not necessarily feel happy with jim, but happy enough. on the other hand, jim, he may be happy enough with rhoda, but he wants to be happier. he thinks that he deserves more. this contrast is more or less consistent throughout the book; it is implied that men here overestimate what they deserve whereas women settle with whatever they have. make do with what is within their grasps.
i like the part where carl is sending a postcard to his address, full of laments, enclosed by a bitter laugh.
the book is haunting and intense and cold, so is the ending. how rhoda is sailing through the coldness of the lake, breaking thin layers of ice, coming with bright expectations, to the island where her mother is trapped forever in her nasty guilt; mute and feeling tricked. (this part where irene realises the same mistake her mother does her came as revelation to me, so striking)
i love the ending and the book has taught me a lot, although again supposition does not mean a complete understanding...