|About the Book|
Brother versus sister. James is in his 70s in the 1970s (have I ever shared my theory about guys who were hot in the 70s? The theory is that they are not hot any longer. Doh! Im trying to be a sane goodreader now). Sally has run out of money in her eighties (shed be rich again in the 80s if she took the drug dealing tips from her trash novel)and is forced to move in with her miserly, life-hating brother. His hole forces her into her own hole inside his hole (er, house). Partly out of fear and anger, partly because she enjoys feeling put upon. Its back and forth between victim and victimizer. Its that cliche about women who hold onto every little thing until years later when they bring it back out to slap you in the face with how awful you are to them. James is just as bitchy of a woman as his sister. Both of them are mean little fuckers where it counts. The stewing is what makes them tick.Old America versus new America? I dont think it was probably ever the old America that old man James Page holds festering in his angry heart (America with anyone but white people. No one wanted money and everyone worked hard. Ha!). It was something to get angry about. His bitterments work well as door closers against his family and countrymen. Sally is the kind of bigot that is okay with everyone else so long as she knows that she is still better than they are. This is what comes from talking to yourself too much.There is more to James and Sally both in lives past than all of their versus mind games. BUT, the mind games sure get in the way of most everything else. Get ready for a lot of reading between the lines. And waaaaay too many commerical breaks (that would be the trash novel).Mariel versus satire. I read on amazon that John Gardners (the first one) wife dared Gardner to write one of those quasi philosophical 1970s novels like the wives of Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner put them up to writing good versions of popular works they enjoyed reading (dont know how that worked out for them). Okay... Sallys trash novel became a chore to read. Too much! I really felt that way about all of October Light because the interuptions became the whole program for much of the book. I was relieved to finish it. It wasnt a slow burn or a quick burn of rivalry between the siblings countries as much as it was a skipped record. I did appreciate how Sally and James would go back to certain thoughts- Sallys husband Horace possibly having a crush on Jamess wife Ariah- Jamess guilt about his sons suicide- as if they couldnt quite admit to things, and would attempt to justify the harder truths.Truth versus the not whole truths.I really liked this passage: Whether or not he could have said what he was feeling, and whether or not it would have mattered to the world or the company that runs it, the old man was right about the meaning of that doll. It was there to undo him, both him and his ghosts. Whether it was true, as he imagined, that once in his childhood hed heard angels sing, and had seen them moving in the aurora borealis, it was undoubtedly true that the Muzak made certain he would hear them- if in fact they were still up there singing- no more.I felt the most then that Jamess resistance to television and mass consumerism could replace what was pure in his life. But then he despised the Snoopy doll held by his daughters adopted son in his sleep... I remember more being a kid and making company out of toys of Snoopy and the like. He can take his indignation and stuff it. It isnt all about him.Her heart churned and for an instant she remembered how everywhere shed looked, just after her nephew had taken his own life, the world had seemed inert, like a half-fallen, long-abandoned barn on a still, cold day.To them, it is all about them. The world stopped after the bad shit.This is from Sallys trash book: It was one of lifes mortally discouraging facts that if a psychiatrist understood you, he could beat you.Nooooo!Why do I keep reading books like this? This is Of Human Bondage all over again! Sally: Books have no effect at all, no value whatsoever.Its like the Snoopy doll. It isnt the psychiatrist beating you. If one truth has to be the entire truth, one person has to be the fucking be all to everything... But thats wrong!Where have we gone wrong? (According to this book that was Tolstoys question.) Sally asks herself this often. Weeeell.... I dont know shit. Im thinking the difference between being a TOTAL asshole, and only being as much of an asshole as you cant help being, is thinking one thing = the answer to everything else. Keep on dancing your little Snoopy dance, Snoopy. Lucy can try and puzzle it out from her advice stand, if shes lucky (if shes lucky from Schroeders piano bench).Sallys dead husband, Horace: Yes, sir, its the last frontier. Youd think wed all get together and try to speak one language, wouldnt you? It would improve understanding, advance the cause of peace. Well, we never will, hed said, shaking his head, still grinning that private, insufferable grin that wasnt mean to be understood.Fuck psychiatrists pinning you down. Anyone pinning anyone down. Horace grew quieter, stopped speaking to Sally. Sally began not being able to speak enough, to anyone. James resented her talkity talk, as if she were trying to beat him verbally with what he beat her with literally (sticks and guns would break her bones and words also hurt). So Sally accepts that it is natural to be watchful and suspicious. Books are the letting down the walls because they are not asking anything in return. OF COURSE they are good for something. Their whole problem was this pinning shit. My heart cant take this. Too much time in here. I need a vacation! And NOT with drug smugglers!Im going to rate this three stars because I was so very relieved to finish it. Have you ever had an uncomfortable conversation with a family member who drags up shit you dont want to relive? And you KNOW full well what they are saying but they go over and over again beating the same thing to death anyway? October Light is a whole lot of that. Yeah, they arent my family. But I still felt that queasy feeling in my stomach. Its not that Id like something less for making me feel bad (at least it hasnt stopped me in the past). The partial truths are too much truths? Too much philosophical stuff? Too much side taking in all of their heads. I feel like turning Horace and going quiet on Sally and James. Im glad I was only alive for a little under three months of the 1970s.P.s. October Light reminded me a lot of Sam Shepards play True West. Two brothers fight it out about true life, true to life stories, changing scapes, dead family history. They pretty much try to kill each other.P.s.s. Ill like this more when the relentlessness falls away to reveal the hideaway and restless truthy times.