This is an incredible book.
Not the easiest book to read. Not one you can’t put down. Not a better one than “Olive Kitteridge” or “Amy & Isabelle,” but one that will get under your skin, creep you out and give you the feeling that you are not only not special, but that Elizabeth Strout knows it.
Novelists, the pop stars of the pre-Beatles era. Does anybody even talk about writing the Great American Novel anymore? There are more graduate programs than ever, modeled on the Iowa Workshop, but they all result in me-too fiction that is over-rewritten, where substance is secondary to style, and the choice of words is more important than what they say.
But that’s the world we live in. The hoi polloi is living on the surface and the artsy-fartsys believe they’re superior, even though they’re wearing no clothes.
And then Elizabeth Strout writes a book and illuminates the entire landscape, illustrates all our foibles and misgivings, removes the faux optimism and tells us we can be good people, but don’t expect goodness in return.
When we last we visited, Strout had written a novella about Lucy Barton. The story of a woman who escaped from poverty.
This book is about where she escaped from.
Do you want to escape? I believe we all do. Even those so deep into their own situations that they cannot see the opportunities. We’re burdened by our families of origin, our looks, our financial situation, and we keep faking it for others while we feel absolutely horrible inside, other than when we don’t. It’s these moments of happiness, these stolen glances, these crushes, that carry us through.
Don’t tell me your secrets, I’m not gonna tell you mine. Because some stuff you can’t say out loud. Even though it’s burning a hole in your heart.
Twenty years ago, back in the days of AOL by the minute, when I had a free subscription, I checked out every nook and cranny, I found out there was a chat room for every sexual predilection known to man, even yours, certainly mine, and I know you’ve got one. And if you think chat rooms were inane that just shows your puffed-up superiority, you never used one, you didn’t know how to scour the profiles and IM and the point is not for me to educate you technologically, teach you how to get all the power out of your devices, but to say that Strout has gone into taboo territory, third rail topics. She’s ventured into sex and hatred and homosexuality and the truth is we cannot deal with these topics other than in cartoons, we live in a puritanical society, but we can’t stop our thoughts, and we think about these things.
“Anything Is Possible” is not an HBO movie. Oprah won’t be making it for Netflix, unless she’s leaving a whole hell of a lot out. When one of America’s most revered artists takes a leap over the line, stops worrying about acceptance and does what’s in her heart, then you know she’s on to something.
“Anything Is Possible” is about people. You and me. You may be wearing a three piece suit, believe you’re better than so many, but the truth is you’re not. And we all come from somewhere. And people can see the trick, they can see through you, but even though we hold these truths to be self-evident they’re nowhere to be seen, not on sitcoms, procedurals, in records…
Remember when being an artist was going on a quest for truth?
Now it’s a quest for cash, or respect.
I’m not sure Strout is gonna get respect for “Anything Is Possible.”
Some people are just bad people. Some people get away with their crap. Some people think they’re getting away with their crap but aren’t. Some are takers and some are givers. And it all doesn’t balance out, no way. You can complain all day, but it makes no difference, you have to decide who you want to be, you have to grow up, make your own choices.
So turn off the TV. Shut down Spotify. If you experience one artistic work this month, let it be “Anything Is Possible.”
You’ve got an electronic device. Buy it for your Kindle app right now. Buy it for your Kindle itself. Even get the hardcover. But don’t wait. Because the longer you wait the longer you’re fooling yourself. You need to be confronted with the cold hard irony that we’re all in it together in this world and you can fake it but you usually can’t make it.
Read this book and when you finish reeling start creating. Use it as a jumping off point, a matter of inspiration. School will give you the tools, marketing comes last, but that spark that starts the journey…
You’ll be ready to say something when you’re done with “Anything Is Possible.”
We all need to say something.