Saturday, November 30, 2002

Stupid #$%^ing Backyard Brawl! Grrr... Today I was thinking about starting to write some political stuff about where a left-thinking person like myself thinks American politics, and particularly Democrats and left-wingers (two groups that are increasingly disconnected) should be going. But I just can't deal with it. Now I have to hope that my Trojans beat the living snot out of the Irish tonite to salvage a split for the alma maters on the day. Losing the Brawl and the Shillelagh on the same day could spawn a massive ugly binge of consumption and self-loathing. Oh wait, Thanksgiving and life have already conspired to bring that about. So that double loss would actually just spawn a lot of cursing at the TV. Still, not something I want.

On the book front, I crossed one more off the aforementioned (see 11/26 entry) S.F. Chronicle list today, Anne Lamott's Crooked Little Heart. This is a story about a 13-year-old in a relatively affluent Bay Area suburb, a girl who is a solid juniors-level tennis player and who is struggling with the onset of her teenage years. I enjoyed things about this book, particularly the tennis stuff, since I played as a teen and went to (and got killed at) a handful of local tournaments. Rosie, the protagonist, and her mother Elizabeth, step-father, and best friend/doubles partner are all complex, well-drawn characters. Without meaning anything judgmental by this, however, Crooked Little Heart is clearly a book written by women for women, as we spend most of the book in Rosie's or Elizabeth's heads as they struggle with being mothers, daughters, wives, etc. While adults can read this book and enjoy it, I would also classify it primarily as "young adult" fiction with all of its coming of age themes. Two things about this book bugged me a bit. One is that I am always offended by even hints of cultural snobbery (although I can be guilty at times too), and it struck me as sonbbery or at least sloppiness that adults listened to "Schubert's Trout", "Mozart", or even "Judy Collins", while Rosie listened to "rap" or "loud music"--as if Rosie's music was an undifferentiated mass but adults' music choices were more subtle and required specificity to understand. Secondly, almost every character in the book--male or female, adult or teen--is obsessed with the sexuality of Rosie's friend Simone in the sense that they all feel her allure deeply. The hint of lesbianism and pedophilia doesn't so much bother me--the book consistently deals with the theme of how we deal with uncomfortable and unacceptable feelings and impulses, and why choosing more normal actions is often wise. What does bother me is the open conversations among adults discussing this fourteen-year-old in highly charged tones, as if such discussions were as routine as talking about the weather. I know authors putting their ideas in characters' mouths is a major element of fiction, but in some cases it can be eerie and can also ring very false. If all this sounds interesting to you (and not pruriently--looking to this book for that will leave you disappointed), then I would recommend this book to you. Personally, I'm going to have to reassert my masculinity by reading a Western or something hard-boiled.

And I promise that the political stuff is coming, but until football is over it is clearly the thing I am most likely to rant about...

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