You Live, You Die … So Much For That

CoverIf someone said to you “here’s a book about dying of cancer, genetic disorders, the American Health System and some crumbling relationships” you might just say “thanks, but no thanks”. But if they added that the book  So Much For That was written by Lionel Shriver (whom it just so happens you have to interview), everything would change.

Shriver writes sentences that come at you like a train aiming at a standing car on a level crossing. There is no escape. Not one for feng shui sparseness, this is dense writing where Shriver plucks at will from her enormous vocabulary to render characters so annoyingly human your palms tingle to slap them.

Female readers will probably develop a crush on Shep (I know I did), male readers will never want to see the words “penis” and “enlargement” in the same sentence ever again and Glynis – the feisty, unreasonable Glynis (to borrow one of Polchatnik’s annoying tautologies)- just is who she is.

It is a measure of Shriver’s talent that you learn a whole lot about stuff you never wanted to know in the first place and yet you do not even once think of skipping a paragraph. There are wonderful insights throughout the book, one of my favourites is : “concept is incidental, execution is all”, which drove me to stop fantasising about where to put the spring bulbs and instead get up and actually plant them. Not only that, for the first time ever I read the little tag that tells you how deep in the ground they should go.

Be warned, this is not a book for the squeamish. Unlike other books on tending to dying friends or family,  for example  Elizabeth Berg’s  Never Change, Shriver does not spare us even the most private indignities of it all. I wonder how this compares with other books on the topic of death and illness, I hope there are some readers out there who can share their expertise. In the case of So Much For That, there’s no refined turning of the gaze from what is ugly, painful, profoundly sad and very, very costly. The book’s  title lays bare  the financial implications and the hopelessness of it all in what must be the best title choice I have seen in a long long time, all thanks to Shriver’s husband Jeff.

Essentially this is a novel about love and sacrifice and after the freefall of this anxious read, Shriver finally relents and shoves a mattress under us. It’s not quite in the “make mine  extra fluffy” league, but I was oh so grateful for it.

Anti-Valentines – Top 20 songs for the dumped

Glass heartValentine’s Day.  Unless you’re in the “honeymoon phase” of a relationship it can be a fairly rough trot.  Are you fed up with the chocolates and roses crowd and their sickening kissy-faces?  Why wouldn’t you be?

It’s especially hard if you’ve just had your heart drop-kicked for goal by a callous cad or stroppy siren.  There are books that can help you through the rough times and I’ve mentioned those in Valentines posts past but when it comes to heartbreak nothing is more succinct, more visceral, more pointedly true than the lyrics of popular songs.

Yes, you’ll find it hard to listen to the lovey-lovey stuff and don’t even go near “your song” for at least a year but songs are great for a bit of wallowing or even better a bit of “you suck and I don’t even care that you’re going out with my best friend now” catharsis.  The following list has been cribbed from “On & off songs for the dumped” from The Advertiser but I’ve padded it with a few suggestions of my own to make it a nice round twenty.

  1. End of the road – Boyz II Men
  2. Ain’t no sunshine – Bill Withers
  3. Just don’t know what to do with myself – Dusty Springfield/The White Stripes
  4. Tainted love – Soft Cell
  5. Good riddance (Time of your life) – Green Day
  6. I will survive – Gloria Gaynor
  7. Everything about you – Ugly Kid Joe
  8. Hit the road Jack – Ray Charles
  9. Song for the dumped – Ben Folds Five
  10. You oughta know – Alanis Morissette
  11. You keep me hangin’ on – Diana Ross & the Supremes/Kim Wilde
  12. Irreplaceable – Beyoncé
  13. Crazy – Patsy Cline
  14. I hope I never – Split Enz
  15. Please don’t leave me – Pink
  16. Gives you hell – All American Rejects
  17. Since u been gone – Kelly Clarkson
  18. Crying – Roy Orbison
  19. Love is a battlefield – Pat Benatar
  20. Since I don’t have you – Skyliners/Guns n Roses

So what do you think of this list?  Anyone got suggestions of their own for a lovelorn playlist for one?

Love still sucks

Join together, single folk of the world and harden your resolve for the worst day of the year approaches…St. Valentine’s day. Yet again television and radio ads are explaining to us all the causal relationship between love and expensive jewellery (the implication seems to be that if you have one that you simply must have the other) and florists are looking decidedly enthusiastic.

As I mentioned last year here and here, I find the whole thing more than a little depressing and I see no reason why the un-coupled amongst us shouldn’t be catered for at this difficult time. So fear not, for I have come to the rescue with the following library treats to help the microwave-meal-for-one crowd cope –

Love sucks (for guys too)

Millions of women are waiting to meet you - a story of life, love and internet dating In an earlier post I pointed out that St Valentines day isn’t quite so much fun for singletons but it seems that I was remiss.  It’s not just lovelorn ladies that get twitchy around the 14th of February.  Lonely lads suffer too.

So here’s a hitlist of what the library has for bummed out bachelors – Continue reading

Love sucks

It's called a breakup because it's brokenNoticed an increase in advertising for the following lately; chocolates, jewellery, flowers, lingerie?  If you do indeed live in a box, you might not have realised that St Valentine’s day is almost upon us.  It’s all very nice if you’re one half of a happy couple (or even a couple that can make a convincing approximation) but being a “Singleton” on Romance’s day of days can leave a little to be desired. 

Rather than basking in other peoples’ radiant, romancey, glow (eerrrgh) why not grab these goodies from the library and hunker down in solitude? Continue reading