Tuesday, February 20, 2018

“An American Marriage” | Lefsetz Letter

“An American Marriage”

I could not put this book down.

For the last three days I’ve been sitting in a chair getting an IVIG drip. Not a great way to spend a holiday weekend, but to be truthful when you work for yourself the weekdays are holidays and the weekends are downtime you endure, e-mail slows down, people fall back into their lives, and you long for the action.

The first day is always the same, the Benadryl and the steroids make you foggy and tired and it’s hard to do just about anything. I watched that movie “Mudbound” on my iPad. Don’t.

And I finished that book “The Glass Castle” on day two, when my brain came back. I always thought it was a fantasy, and I hate fantasy, but after reading “Half Broke Horses” I cracked it. Turns out it’s the story of the author’s upbringing. It resonated because…let’s just say I know that life, I know someone who was brought up that way. Can you ever shake your roots? I don’t think so.

And “Half Broke Horses” is the thinly fictionalized prequel, about the rambunctious grandmother in a different time. Do spirited people always triumph or is the spirit squeezed out of them? I’m not sure. But your goal is to keep your spirit alive. I’m not being religious here, but when you stop thinking you make a difference, when you think nothing matters and you can’t accomplish any more, you’re done. But as we age, we oftentimes think this way.

And looking for additional books to read I stumbled upon “An American Marriage.” It was the reviews that intrigued me. I didn’t know it was an Oprah pick. But if this is what she’s into, I’ll now read everything she recommends.

So what we’ve got here is the story of married African-Americans.

Atlanta is the black Hollywood. Certainly in hip-hop. And as hip-hop secures its place in the national consciousness, the world consciousness, Atlanta rises ever higher. Once upon a time we listened to the Allman Brothers play “Hot ‘Lanta,” but now…

And how much do I know about the black experience? Not much.

The protagonist is a man with swagger, who comes from little but graduates from college and is gonna set the world on fire. But he’s a bit of a playa, he steps out, he’s imperfect. But lovable just the same. It’s these chiaroscuro characters that entrance me. Because we’ve all got shades of light and gray.

The woman he’s married to is somewhat cold and reserved and hot-headed. She’s a prize, but you never know if you really have her.

And then something happens.

I won’t tell you what it is, even though it happens surprisingly early in this book. But it tests the marriage.

“Marriage is between two people. There is no studio audience.”

If you’re doing it for the public, if you’re marrying a trophy wife so others will be impressed, the joke is on you. Because no one really cares. And you’ve got to be with this person all the time. Find someone you can be yourself with, who understands you, who gets you.

“Much of life is timing and circumstance, I see that now.”

You learn this as you age. The timing’s not right. They were married when you were single and now they’re not but the spark is not there, no matter how hard you try.

And that’s not the plot of this book, but it made me think of that. You can intellectualize all you want, try to bend the will of the gods, but you can’t, you can only drift down that lazy river and paddle a bit.

And then there’s the issue of who you should be with.

And the sense of duty.

It’s all so complicated and much of what comes across the transom is just plain wrong. We see the people on TMZ and think life is about following your instincts, your wishes and desires. But those can get you in big trouble, baby. You’ve got to hold back, but to what degree?

There’s a device in this book that is riveting, the letters between the characters.

And there’s the modern device of multiple viewpoints.

But mostly there’s the story of people. Time marches on, what do you do, how do you live your life, can you ever turn back the clock?

And for a moment there the book got sappy and overblown and I thought it was building to a predictable ending but it didn’t. It surprised me, it was real.

This is not “Gone Girl.” This is not a thriller.

Rather this is the story of modern life. Being black in a world where you always have to be on guard. Being married in a world where you never really know if you have somebody.

You may think it’s chick lit.

Then again, if that’s your viewpoint you probably have a problem with intimacy. Because feelings…expressing them is what relationships are all about.

I recommend this. The added bonus for whites is the insight into black life, without the sugarcoating.

But this is not a racial story, this is a people story. And we’re all people. It resonates.

[from http://ift.tt/2k9aO1A]

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