After we watched People v. OJ on Netflix, I decided to read this “non-fiction” tale from Nicole Brown Simpson’s alleged best friend, Faye Resnick. You don’t need enemies with friends like Faye… This book was trash but it was interesting to see how celebrity impacted the dynamic of the romantic relationships and friendships, public opinion, and the trial.
I take more risks at the library. If I’m buying a book, I only want to buy a sure thing. I don’t want to gamble. But there’s no risk at the library. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. For example, this library trip I checked out five books:
Of these novels, two will go back with less than the first three chapters read. I won’t say which two but, I’ve you a hint: Truman Capote was brilliant as always in his posthumously published, Summer Crossing. (Cannot wait for the movie! ScarJo’s directorial debut, I hear.) Anyway, the point is that I check out books I wouldn’t buy and sometimes they aren’t my cup of tea. Which is fine. But sometimes you get a pleasant surprise. For example, this Aimee Bender novel, which I only picked up on account of the LA Times‘ review amid the other jacket copy labeling Bender “Hemingway on acid.” I didn’t even know what that meant, nor do I now after reading it, but I liked it.
As I tweeted while reading it: it’s grippingly rooted in the unspoken, unseen, and unsaid. To me that is a pretty succinct summation of the story. And since Mom is still reading it to knock #20 off her list, I don’t want to go into anymore detail. Simply to add: I loved the setting. LA is my favorite-favorite-favorite city. I wasn’t overly off-put by the surrealism.Usually I hate surrealism but I liked how Bender nestled it in reality so you wanted to believe those sorts of things could happen. You wanted to believe it was true, even if it wasn’t all positive. In fact, the surrealism was primarily negative. Maybe that’s why I liked it in this case. It was unsettling and added mystery to the narrative of an altogether ordinary young girl.
I was also intrigued by how The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cakeforces the protagonist to go to a place kid’s think doesn’t exist: their parents’ feelings. Specifically, her mother’s feelings because her dad doesn’t cook or bake. To a kid, you don’t think of your mother as a person with feelings, emotions, hopes, and dreams. You think of them as a someone to help you, the child, achieve positive feelings, emotions, swelling hopes, and dreams. Or maybe that’s just the selfish and entitled millennial generation inside me seeping out. This novel does a very interesting thing by turning that convention inside out, not unironically, with the act of cooking and baking, a type of servitude that enforces the convention of mothers catering to their children’s needs and wants. Meanwhile, the cooking and baking unloads the mother’s powerful and unfortunate feelings on her daughter. So while she is physically enforcing the convention Bender tears apart, the mother is unknowingly flipping the table and divulging secrets she herself may not have yet acknowledged or understood.
I love how the daughter tries to take action and fix her mother’s problems while the mother consistently shuts her down and refuses her help. If the situation was reversed, as it usually is, the mother would expect the daughter to accept her help but she is unable to allow her daughter to intervene in the matters of her own heart. The relationship between mother and daughter is expanded on in the novel as an hierarchical relationship, at least when the daughter is nine. It is not a friendship or partnership, which I suppose is normal. The daughter becomes unable to handle the mother’s emotions and finds ways around eating her food. I wonder if this is because of the power of the emotions or the lack of the control on the daughter’s part to help. She feels powerless and yields no sway in the fixing of her mother’s immense problems. This forces her to shut down. She closes herself off and tries her best to avoid feeling her mother’s desperation and despair. I can’t help but wonder if this speaks, in a very real sense, to the evolution of the relationship between mothers and daughters. How do mothers and daughters transcend the initial hierarchy they are born into (parent versus child) and develop an equal footing later in life when less parenting is necessary and more friendship is welcome? The protagonist is so weighed down by elements of their relationship out of her control (i.e. her mother’s feelings, the sibling rivalry and jealousy of her brother’s relationship with their mother) that it seems impossible for them to overcome their early dynamics and achieve a more substantial relationship later. Thus is the plight of some mothers and daughters.
Ultimately, I liked how the surrealist aspect of the novel led to contemplation over real things. That’s the only time I appreciate surrealism. I’m not a fan of surrealism for surrealism’s sake. This is a study in empathy and the impact empathy can have on a family.
Sidebar: I read most of this novel in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which doesn’t really matter but kind of does…