Last week I had a solitary weekend.
Everyone I knew was out of town.
My husband was on a business trip and gave me several phone numbers I would never call.
Doesn’t everyone love a solitary weekend?
It was pretty much my e-reader and I. We are great friends since I deleted my email account and Twitter from the machine. No more email alerts: no more reading 10 pages, then checking 10 emails. I feel about my e-reader the way the women in Sex and the City feel about their vibrators.
And so I spent the weekend reading Meg Wolitzer’s brilliant new novel, The Interestings, a long realistic masterpiece that pleased critics who underestimated her last book, The Uncoupling, a short, clever riff on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata.
As I said at my old blog, Wolitzer has a brilliant, distinctly American voice, slightly Nora Ephronish, with a twist of Dorothy Parker.
In The Interestings, she writes about a group of New Yorkers who meet in the ’70s at an arts camp. Their friendship extends into middle age in the 21st century.
Read, read, read. And then…
Oh, no. A car in the driveway!
I hoped the person with hennaed hair and black clothes in the driveway was not the old friend with hennaed hair and black clothes I had last seen in a mental hospital after her bad trip at Woodstock II. Normally I am happy to see anybody, but this was my weekend!
The person went away. Wrong address apparently.
Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings seemed to apply to the situation, though, as so often happens when you’re reading and living life. She writes about mental health politics as well as other changes of the 20th and 21st centuries. The pills do not necessarily work well.
The main character, Jules, a (female) social worker, is married to Dennis, who has depression.
Ever since he’d been taken off the MAOI five years earlier, Dennis had rarely returned to buoyancy. Instead, he still struggled with what his pharmacologist variously referred to as “low-level depression,” “atypical depression,” and “dysthymia.” There were some people who were just very hard to treat, Dr. Brazil said. They were able to live their lives, sometimes to a fairly full extent, but they never felt good. Dennis’s atypical depression wasn’t making him break down, as it had in college, but it also wouldn’t go away. He felt its presence like a speck in the eye or like a chronic, rattling cough. Different drugs were tried, but nothing worked for very long, or if a drug did work, the side effects made it untenable.
By the way, I am so glad Obama’s health care plan will treat mental illness like a physical illness, with the same deductibles, etc. Don’t let the insurance companies and the Republicans destroy our new national health care.
NEVER SHOP WITH A MAN. I went to the mall with a man. What was I thinking?
I had to buy a few things that were too big to fit in the bike pannier.
He moodily paced behind me. No smile, and he wondered why no clerk would help us.
Finally I caught the attention of a clerk who showed me several bags I could use for a laptop that weren’t strictly laptop bags.
Later, the man was so tired and mall-phobic that he argued over whether we could spend 99 cents at Target.
The other men at the mall were behaving well, but their wives were clearly in charge.
I bought the 99-cent item.
You know the reggae: Get up, stand up.
But it’s really easier to shop with your cousin.
THE SHORTEST NANOWRIMO EVER. Every November people all over the world sign up for NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.
I’m not a fiction writer.
Nor do I want to write fiction.
Nor do I want to write 1,660 words a day.
But I love the idea of writing a novel in 30 days, so I planned to write a new version of Ovid’s tale of Daphne and Apollo.
Then I realized I’d rather read Ovid.
I wrote 32 words.
I lasted one minute this year! I will not even PRETEND to write a novel.
That’s it! I promise never to sign up for NANOWRIMO again.