Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spending & Love

One does feel smug when one doesn't spend money. No, you can't have that, I say sharply, looking at the latest Chang-Rae Lee novel. You have too many books at home. You have to read John Banville's new novel, The Infinities, first, a comedy featuring Hermes as the omniscient narrator. He and other Greek gods attend a family gathered around the bed of a dying mathematician. You adore classical mythology.

You also have Valerio Massimo Manfredi's The Ides of March, an Italian historical novel about Julius Caesar. Since next week IS the Ides of March, you'd better get cracking.

But why can't I have Chang-rae Lee's novel, too?

Because it's not a Virago, and you're actually in the middle of a Virago revival. If you want to buy something, you can buy Viragos.

I finished E. Arnot Robertson's Ordinary Families, one of my favorite Viragos ever, the sad, funny coming-of-age sotry narrated by Lallie Rush, the observant daughter of an obsessive sailor-adventurer. Finally in her teens Lallie admits that she hates sailing, and isn't perhaps the ordinary cog in the wheel of her ordinary family.

There is so much sadness about love in this novel. It makes me shudder. A young woman falling in love with a man who will probably never make her happy, a man who has made love to her younger sister, and whom we never expect to come back to Lallie anyway.

Oh gods. Young love. Isn't it horrid? It takes over Lallie, making her stay in one place and sacrifice job prospects elsewhere that might introduce her to more appropriate lovers. It makes one remember WHY one doesn't linger over memories of first loves.

This is a very charming novel, lots of humor, but Robertson doesn't let you forget that coming of age hurts.

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