Well, this month was going to be April Showers, so it was supposed to be dedicated to sad and emotional books. But then we had the Great Bedroom Flood of 2018, which ruined SOOOOOO MANY of my books. The bottoms of most of my graphic novels and several unread novels were soaked, causing the pages to warp, discolor and stick together. I wasn't too upset about the ones I had already read, but some of these books were brand new or just purchased at the Metro Book Sale.
So, now April Showers means floods and water in the literal sense. I'm going to read the few books I salvaged that needed reading. Hopefully the pages aren't too stuck together.
Before I read these I swear I will get through Envy and Splendor. I SWEAR.
Also, Oklahoma teachers on strike. And I am behind them all the way. Teachers need better pay and our schools need more money! Oklahoma ranks 49th in the country in education.
P.S. Friday was a terrible day. Saturday wasn't. Sunday was even better. Hope you guys are having a pretty good go of things.
I generally get a sense of foreboding when I read on a book's cover, "NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE", even more so when I have seen said movie. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is a good example, in that it is a glorious 'feel good' film, with a host of wonderful actors, setting the bar high for the preceding novel, which I notice was previously entitled, "These Foolish Things". But, notwithstanding this book has apparently inspired a successful cinema formulation, would it be any good?
The answer is 'yes', Deborah Moggach's original novel is really well conceived and the interplay between the cast of characters is comical, poignant and even touching at times. However, the downside to seeing the movie first is a sense of disappointment that the book has not been faithfully reproduced on the screen. Some parts that have been 'bigged up' for the cinema-going public proved to be relatively modest on reading the book. Unsurprising perhaps, when the talents of Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith et al are at hand, but the young charismatic Indian entrepreneur (played by Dev Patel) shown on the book's cover with his beautiful girlfriend, doesn't actually exist in the intervening pages. Instead, Sonny is middle-aged, rather dull and a 'bit part', compared to his central role in the screen version.
In contrast to the Hollywood meets Bollywood makeover, the book is earthier and the characters' back-stories more authentic, in turn making the plot lines more plausible. At a time when the UK's National Health Service is creaking under the pressures of an ageing population and traditional family loyalties are equally stressed, the advantages of shipping out to a new retired life in a strange land is a tantalising prospect The comparing and contrasting of cultures within the book was also arguably more nuanced and the author holds up an interesting mirror on what it is to grow old in modern societies. East and West both have their 'hidden' populations of the 'uncared for'. But, perhaps the message of the book is that for those with an adventurous or courageous spirit and a willingness to share and create new social circles, life retains a wealth of possibilities.
The title is an interesting aside, but for me the book is much more explicitly about the characters and the dilapidated hotel merely a backdrop, albeit a useful metaphor, for which the original title may have better preserved the distinction. Still, despite the apparent temptation to ride the coat-tails of a successful movie, this book is, of itself, worth a read and perhaps for people of a certain age provides important fuel for thought.
“Marigold is a hundred haikus of loneliness, pages torn from Baudelaire’s dream journal, the suicide note as high art." Kevin Maloney´s blurb for Marigold was what intrigued me at first about it, minus the "suicide note as high art", plus the beautiful cover did it for me. Torn with broken lines, dark but with the bright flowers in between, it sums up the book pretty well.
Or as the book description says, "A thirty-something floral salesman searches for reasons to keep living." which btw sorta contradicts the text itself, "Eight hours asleep every night for twenty-nine years." and "I´m almost thirty (...)", but I assume the author, and the publisher, knows something which I don´t. Either that, or they fucked up so bad they invented a new religion.*
By now I´ve read Marigold twice, more two and a half times, and for a whole week now I was trying to type up something that vaguely resembles a review... and I couldnt do it. 63 attempts, roughly, but like I was stuck in my own version of If On A Winter´s Night A Traveler with many a false starts and faulty endings. I had to step back and walk away for a while. I am not sure why or what took me so long. To think about my own life, maybe?, to think about what I want to achieve, where I want to be in a year, in five, in ten. I don´t know. I only know on a level Marigold, at the best of times, cracked me open from the inside.
What the book really good at is, is walking down the memory lane, or as Michael Kazepis, head honcho of King Shot Press, writes in the foreword, Marigold is "a novel forged from old pain."
I couldn´t help myself but thinking back at the time when I fucked up my leg in a skiing accident. Or when I was 13 and diagnosed with a tumor in my stomach. Of the months and months in hospital and therapy and recovery. Of those two large operation scars on my body which by now I don´t even see when having a shower or dressing myself as they are so much a part of me I can´t think of myself without them anymore. Of many a hopes abandoned, of broken dreams and sleepless nights, of heartbreak and relationship failures. Of those many hours looking out the window on rainy nights, listening to the quiet tap-tap-tap on the window sill. Which were at those times the highlights of my day. Living those melancholic moments when the bleaker and darker moments didn´t overwhelm or take over completely.
Which is oddly personal for me, since I´m not really one to wear my heart inside out. I am not one either for always walking on sunshine, and this is what Marigold did to me. Easy to relate to, even heavy on the heart.
"The meaning of life is that it stops,” which opens Marigold and I disagree with on a fundamental basis, but it´s Kafka, so what do I know? With that the text itself makes already clear it ain´t one for being an escapist read but one to ponder over. The plot itself, meager as it is, in Marigold is almost irrelevant. A salesman working in a flower shop. Which is barely even acknowledged, even bits and pieces about the flower Marigold are thrown in, including my favorite quote of it.
Weaver isn´t one for giving in into existentialist or philosophical longish musings about life in the 21th century but delivers his narrative in short, very short, emotional outbursts. Those are not paragraphs per se, but a times a single sentence, a single word is enough to give an accurate picture of the mental state the narrator is in.
With this vibrant haiku style, or more like guerilla style, our first person and nameless narrator deals with loneliness and suicidal tendencies. Of when taking out the trash becomes the ultimate meaning of how to deal with life in small and large. Weaver, however, doesn´t explain what shaped the narrators personality, his life, his identity or where his depression is coming from. The depression just sits there, waiting for the moments to shape the narrator as he is right here and now.
His rather futile attempts to dial up a suicide hotline are not without humor, almost comical in fact, which counteracts the bleak overall atmosphere of Marigold. It is not that he doesn´t want help but that he is caught in an endless struggle of depression which leads to miscommunication, and finding the right words to say what needs to be said.
The characters themselves are not so much cliches but an deliberate attempt by Weaver to let them be archetypes, less so characters as such. The hair-twirling kid, the woman who will die of cancer, or the wife. Which makes more sense towards the end when in Marigold, with a firm swift of the narrative voice, similar to Edouard Leve´s Suicide - which is referenced several times in Marigold -, the I becomes the You becomes the Us.
Also any book that takes note of David Foster Wallace is a good one by default.
About halfway through the book the hair-twirling kid kills himself, alas, a dream scene, this "nightmare inducing bastard." Dream scenes in books are essentially buttsex scenes for the popcorn eaters at the movies.** Still, the narrator sees his co-worker for the first time, or anyone actually, as "a human being.” Instead of an annoyance who interrupts his own misery.
And so life ends, except when it doesn´t. “(...) and suddenly I’m crying, too, and we are in this immense moment of existential togetherness, astray in the wilderness of being, but hand in hand.”
In context an almost absurd moment where light takes over the darkness, where any attempts of suicide are seemingly far away and where life is shit but not so bad. Where sometimes people care.
We held hands and cried/until the morning light.
And we held hands and cried/until the morning light.
And we held hands and cried/until the morning light.
And we held hands and cried/until the morning light.***
* slightly altered quote courtesy of Cody Goodfellow, Strategies Against Nature
** I will love David James Keaton forever for that one
*** courtesy of Clara Luzia, Morning Light