I had to go into KC for a haircut, a fifty mile drive one way, so while there I do other stuff. Pick up bug bombs and floodlights at Ace. Books at Half-price books. Etc.
At the used book store, I listlessly combed the lit section. I had ordered American Rust from Amazon, and found my interest in it flagging after the third mention of fake wood in the doublewide trailer in the woods. I knew I would never finish that book, reviews not-effing-withstanding.
So I'm mainly picking aisles with no one in them, and just looking at titles, spines. In the Ps and Rs aisle. I slide a book by Pillip Roth off the shelf, a small black book. Can't go wrong with Roth, right? He's won every prize in the literary world, some twice. Wrong. You can go wrong with Roth. At least I can. I labored to page 73 in this slim 173-page book. Good God. It's title is Everyman. The main guy, probably Roth himself, has long periods of good health, then pow, gets hit with death's doorways opening wide, and the descriptions are like those old Christmas newsletters about some relative's gall bladder removal.
Like I said, I skidded to a stop at page 73. I have to think the protagonist is slamming bacon cheeseburgers and Manhattans every chance he gets and just not telling you. But he delights in the explanations of octuple bypass surgeries. Enough.
The second of three books I pulled from P through R was a Tom Robbins. Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates. I figured it would be kind of a mystical romp like that love story in a Camel package was (Another Roadside Attraction), or, at least, Jitterbug Perfume. A couple pages in and I find it's purportedly about an alcoholic, multi-addicted CIA agent in a wheelchair. His challenges are a bit of a stretch for me to follow. So I set this one aside. There's a slim chance I may pick it up again.
A note here: the little I read of it smacked of a very long redo of Joyce Cary's The Horse's Mouth, a classic from 1944. And didn't I just read a quickie review of something about a guy named Jernigan who, Gulley Jimson-like, drinks and bumps his way through a lot of bizarre behavior and funny business?
BUT one line from The Horse's Mouth, I must share: Jimson is failing, or in some kind of alcoholic seizure, and in an ambulance racing to a hospital, awakens to see a nun sitting beside him. She says something to quiet him, making him lie back down, and explains, "You're seriously ill, Mr. Jimson." To which he replies, "Not so seriously as you're well, sister." It struck me as funny. Onward.
The third book, Chuck Palahniuk's novel titled Diary, snuck up on me; I was on page ten before I realized it. I laid it down and said, "That's more like it. Sumbitch can write." But so can all those guys above. Why the ennui when it comes to their books I mentioned? Who knows? Preconceptions maybe. Although I can't imagine a day when I will reopen Everyman. Rust. Maybe Invalids, Tom Robbins and all. But I'm inclined to believe Diary's blurb now, from the LA Times: "Madly inventive...It simply, exuberantly, escapes literary categorization." Which, if you examine that, it may be saying it's not so hot. Exuberantly escaping something may not be high praise. And it may not be for everyman.
But I like it. Until next time. Best, GW.