What Is Happening to Mr Fox

I wanted to give Helen Oyeyemi a try but didn't know where to start. When I read an author for the first time, I like to find something they wrote at my library. It's a safer risk. My library had Mr Fox.

Mr Fox is an author who writes books in which women are murdered. He says that the murders aren't senseless, but they must die. His imaginary muse Mary Foxe has had enough of this and is becoming sentient. She confronts Mr Fox and proposes a game, in which she writes him short stories from the point of view of women. She places him in their places. He must see the world as they do and feel how they feel. In the meantime, Mr Fox's wife Daphne isn't sure if he's having an affair or losing his mind.

Mr Fox is a misogynist, though I doubt he's see it that way. Women are plot devices to him. Their deaths carry the plots in his books forward. He compares his real wife to a woman that he's made up. Of course Mary is everything he wants in a woman- he created her. He doesn't start seeing his wife as a person until Mary becomes real and asserts her own personality.

I was getting fed up with the 'dead girl' trope in review pitches I was getting via emails. They all start the same: "After a girl's body is found..." I was tempted to write to the sender of the last one I got. To tell them to find at least a new way to pitch this kind of book. It's beyond aggravating to see girls/women being used as plot devices this way. I realize that mysteries and thrillers usually start with a body, but the sexual violence in a lot of these books is tiresome. I was looking forward to seeing Mr Fox get a taste of his own medicine.

The drama of Mr Fox, Mary Foxe, and Daphne weaves around Oyeyemi's short stories. Though the main plot is set in the 1920s, the stories hop around in time. There are stories set in that time period, but also in the modern era. What can get confusing is that Mary is sometimes a character in these stories. I didn't know what was happening. I also think a lot of what Oyeyemi is trying to say was lost on me. It was a bit over my head.

But I still liked Mr Fox. I thought Mary and Daphne were excellent characters. I liked the writing style and the book is sufficiently weird. In a lot of ways, Mr Fox reminds me of some of Angela Carter's stories. They're also weird and feminist.

If you want to read something strange, something that requires a lot of thought, you might enjoy Mr Fox.

Mr. Fox

Currently: Hello?

I haven't posted in over a week. I remember a time when if this happened I would be freaking out. Now I'm not that concerned that I haven't posted in 10 days.

I'm feeling pretty blah about the internet. I'm probably not going to be posting as often for some time. Maybe if I get inspired to write something. I have reviews to write and books to read. I've been running. And knitting. Taking lots of photos. It's time to get away from the computer and start enjoying things more. Summer is here!

Maybe I'll do some mini-updates on what I'm reading or doing for a little while. Like Heather's Currently lists!


Reading/ Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

Listening/ The Devourers by Indra Das (haven't actually started yet)

Watching/ Grace and Frankie on Netflix

Making/ Hermione's Everyday Sock

Loving/ The warmer weather is finally here. I'm going to enjoy the outdoors as much as I can.

Hating/ The state of the world

Anticipating/ The Fireman Readalong. I hope it gets me out of this funk.

Anyway here's a bee.

Frankenstein and #FiremanAlong

Fireman Readalong

First look at this button! It is very dramatic. Heather from Capricious Reader created it.

What is the Fireman Readalong? A bunch of people reading The Fireman by Joe Hill in July hosted by Care and co-hosted by Heather. It's a 768 page book. So, it might require some encouragement. I'm on the wait list for the book and I think I'll be getting it soon. Should be a good time! Join!

Do you know what today is? It is the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's 'waking dream' that inspired....FRANKENSTEIN!
I could not so easily get rid of my hideous phantom; still it haunted me. I must try to think of something else. I recurred to my ghost story - my tiresome, unlucky ghost story! Oh! If I could only contrive one which would frighten my reader as I myself had been frightened that night!
And then she did. I really need to read Frankenstein again. Mary Shelley you are amazing and so is this gif.

Great books for hard times. 

Period Piece: A Punctuation Post

The Washington Post is encouraging people to drop the period. You know, that one at the end of sentences, like this one.↙

This is probably going to make me sound like an old person yelling at clouds, but I can't get behind this one. My daughter* got annoyed with me for using periods in a message to one of her coaches. She said I sounded angry. Because I used a period? Really?

What is a period? It's a punctuation mark that let's the reader know you have ended a sentence. That is all. Let's not assign a lot of emotional baggage to a tiny dot, ok? Everyday we communicate through text messages, and we (possibly women more than men?) do a lot of self-policing. Do I put a happy face at the end of this message so this person knows I'm friendly? Maybe I should throw in a few exclamation points so everyone knows I'm excited about this. Why not add a few unicorns too?

I always use periods in texts to my contemporaries. We understand a period is just a period. I do find myself leaving out periods in texts to younger people since my child pointed it out. Am I afraid of looking old? Am I part of the problem? Do we really need to add to our list of social anxieties like this?!!

I think I'm afraid of living in a Henry James long run-on sentence nightmare, where I search line after line hunting for the period just to put the sentence out of its misery. Paragraphs should not be one long sentence. I refuse to read anymore James. I cannot live in a world full of Henry James impersonators.

Anyway if I send you a message and end it with a period, I'm not mad at you. Really.

*I accidentally put a ! instead of a ? in a text and the same teenaged child wrote back: "Why are you yelling at me?"

The Girls (Are Angry) by Emma Cline (audiobook)

the girls review

When I saw The Girls popping up everywhere, I had no idea of the hype behind this book. Debut author Emma Cline was given buckets of money for her fictionalized version of the Manson family. Not knowing this, I wondered what the hub-bub was about.

The Girls begins with now middle aged Evie staying at a friend's summer home. Her solitude is interrupted by the appearance of her host's son and his girlfriend. The girl seems to be much younger than the guy, and a little in awe of him. The young man brags to his girlfriend that Evie was once part of a murderous cult that was responsible for the deaths of four people, including a five year old boy.

It's a startling revelation. Is Evie someone to be trusted?

The story then switches to a fourteen year old Evie in the summer of 1969. Her parents just divorced, her dad living with a young girlfriend, her mom trying to "find herself" through gurus and new men, Evie is left to her own devices. She spends most of her time getting high with her only friend, Connie, until they have a falling out.

Evie becomes enamoured with an older girl named Suzanne who she meets in a park where Suzanne and some other girls are rummaging through trash for food. There is something about her that appeals to Evie. There's a savageness underneath her beautiful surface that speaks to the anger within the fourteen year old.

Evie attaches herself to the group. They take her to the ranch where Russell, the man that "takes care" of them brought the group. He does very little other than spout a bunch of nonsense and play guitar, but they hang on his every word. Evie goes along with whatever Russell wants, but it's Suzanne that she really follows. For Evie, there is freedom underneath the dirt and squalor of the ranch. It's a paradise of easy sex and drugs, where everyone shares and no one owns anything or anyone- except Russell, that is.

After a series of disappointments, tensions start to rise at the ranch. How far will Evie go to fit in?

It was a shaky start for me when I read the first couple of chapters. I didn't like the spoiled Evie, her parents, her parents awful friends, or the assholes Evie hung out with. I realize now that this is the point, but at the time I had enough of them. I set it aside for a few days.

I picked it up again and the story became more interesting once Evie meets Suzanne. She must have been desperate for attention to see past the squalor. They lived such a different life from Evie with her comforts... like plumbing. Evie is a rich girl and the group quickly learn how to exploit her. Evie would give them anything, just to feel she belongs.

It's more complex than that even. Evie feels a sort of new power. She feels that she has some control over her life. She lies, she learns to manipulate, she does things that would shock her parents. Being with the girls is exhilarating.

Everyday is a hippie dance party

After reading The Girls, I started listening to the Charles Manson's Hollywood episodes of You Must Remember This. It's as if Cline took the real events wrote them on cards and picked from the deck to plot the novel. Some of it is dead on, some tweaked slightly, and some left out altogether. I did not find Russell to be as much of a compelling character as his real life counterpart. And maybe Evie didn't either. For her it was all Suzanne.

Russell and his ambitions are in the background. Although the girls follow him, underneath is a rage at the world and the small humiliations of being female. In a way, I was reminded of that scene in The Handmaid's Tale where the handmaids attack the rapist instead of their captors. There is a misplaced anger that turns to violence in both novels. If someone can harness a woman's rage, look out!

If you are thinking of reading The Girls, I would tell you that this isn't just another murder-cult story. It's a coming of age story gone bad, a story of girlhood and womanhood. If you hate the first few chapters, hang in there. I think it's worth it.

About the Audio: Cady McClain narrates The Girls. My favorite parts were of the hippie girls' dialogue and their far-out inflections, especially when they are talking to a square who just doesn't get it, "Jeeeeeeeeesus." They're just, like, on a whole other plain, man. 
Thanks to Random House Audio for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

The Girls

Here Comes the Bride: Cassandra at the Wedding

The Cassandra of the title is travelling to her childhood home to attend her twin sister Judith's wedding. She is not happy about it.

Nine months earlier Judith left the apartment they shared to pursue her musical career. Cassandra was devastated. She started seeing a therapist, but she believed that Judith would come back and they would continue their lives together. Forever. Just the two of them. Now Judith is getting married.

Cassandra doesn't really know what she's going to do once she gets there. Will she let this wedding happen or do whatever she can to stop it? Unable to decide, she starts drinking and, well, stuff happens.

Dorothy Baker has set up an interesting situation. Twins, identical twins, who outwardly did everything they could to show the world they were two separate people. Inwardly, they struggle with their identities. Cassandra sees them as one person. Without Judith, she falls apart. She doesn't know what to do with herself. Judith is the first to break out, she wants to be her own person. Is getting married the way to do it? I don't know, but that's her choice. Cassandra tries to bring them back together and when that doesn't work, does something desperate.

Then there is the family. The twins' parents were intellectuals who preached solitude. The father is an alcoholic, but the kind that is really only a harm to himself. He doesn't have a job, and sits around with a whiskey philosophizing all day. Jane, their mother, was a writer and her career is the reason they have a big ranch house with an Olympic sized pool in California and the means to go to a good university. Rounding out the family is the grandmother Rowena who lives in her own world where everyone behaves properly and no one does anything unpleasant. She's sweet, but unhelpful. She's also obsessed with the girls' twinness. The family is a fortress against the world and they don't have any relationships outside it. Judith's fiance is the first.

Complicating things further is Jane's death three years earlier. It left a huge hole in the family. Everyone seems a bit lost because of it. Jane did everything for their father, she is Rowena's child. The girls could use her advice.

The book alternates between Cassandra and Judith. I was glad to have Judith's point of view. It's difficult to get a sense of what she wants when seen through Cassandra. Cassandra has the bigger personality. She's witty and smart. She's got a dry sense of humour and an answer for everything. Judith is the ordinary one. She's quiet and reserved. She's "nice." The only interesting thing about her is her musical talent and her most rebellious act is getting married.

Still, you can't help but like them both. They aren't perfect people. Their thoughts don't always make sense. They can be petty. They are complicated like real people. Baker highlights the small similarities that remind us that they share DNA, but they are very different. Judith is content to become a doctor's wife, at least that is what she seems to want. Cassandra is gay and content to live on campus working on her thesis, dating girls her sister doesn't approve of.

Cassandra at the Wedding was written in 1962 and is a time capsule of the era. It's a time when affluent white ladies could buy fancy dresses wrapped in tissue paper at a boutique, and buy wine at Champagne stores. Girls like Cassandra and Judith attend schools like Berkeley and Julliard, and have friends who are "painting now" after giving up guitar. It's pre-sexual revolution and the hippie movements. Their drugs are alcohol and Benzedrine.

I know I'm writing a lot about a short novel (about 225 pages), but I love these kinds of books. I like walking around in people's heads and seeing how they view the world. Cassandra at the Wedding is a character study of two sisters. It's the kind of book that would be categorized as New Adult if written today: two young women exploring identity and becoming themselves. It's a dramedy. It can be quite dark at times, but there are these absurd moments that lighten the tension. And it's so good! Dorothy Baker is brilliant. I highly recommend it.

Cassandra at the Wedding

Mr Splitfoot Is Nearly Unexplainable

You've probably seen reviews of Mr Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt around the internet. I did too, and still managed to not quite understand what it was about. There's a good reason for that. It is so unusual.

There are two timelines. One is set in the past, where Ruth and Nat lived in a home for children called Love of Christ! Foster Home run by a nutter who keeps the kids until they're eighteen then promptly kicks them out. They stave off boredom by pretending to speak to the dead. The other children are convinced their powers are real. One day a professional con man named Mr Bell approaches Ruth and Nat with a business proposition. Since both are about to "age out" of the system, they take this opportunity as a way to set themselves up for the rest of their lives. Of course things don't go as planned.

In the present day, Ruth's niece Cora finds herself pregnant by a married man. She's contemplating what to do when Ruth shows up, unwilling to speak, but anxious. She convinces Cora to go with her- to where Cora has no idea. The pair start a road trip that appears to have no purpose, until everything comes together further in the book.

Maybe that doesn't seem that complicated but it is. There are weird events and people that they encounter. There are cults, and con men, and even ghosts. There is social commentary.
People stare at us while we walk, human females traveling alone. We must want to die or else we must be criminals, because we are two full-grown women walking together, single file, not talking, on busy roads, on back roads. No one would mistake us for exercising housewives. Certainly not any of the men who leer and jeer and ask creepy questions like, "Where are you heading tonight?" 
Cora narrates her part of this story, while some omnipresent narrator (I could never figure out if it was Cora) tells the reader what happens to Ruth in the past. It makes it easy to figure out where we are when the chapters begin.

I loved Ruth with her scar and her dreams. I loved Cora, who is just coasting along. Neither has an easy life, but their difficulties are unique to them.

Mr Splitfoot is strange and funny, heartwarming and heartbreaking. I'm still thinking about the end. You should really read it!

Mr. Splitfoot

A Definitive List of What Women Over 30 Can Wear or Do

Books I Want To Read

Summer Reading

There are so many new books I want to read. It seems like a particularly good book year. My Goodreads Want list is on fire! Even though I'm a book blogger, I'm usually the last one to know what great new books are coming out. I never seem to be in the loop or aware of what is hot. These books managed to get my attention.

What do you think of this list? Anything here that catches your eye too?