Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"I don't care HOW aggravated your 'vata' is!" - Broken for You

One in an occasional series [3/23]

I turned the last page of Broken for You, read ALL the acknowledgements like a child licking his ice cream bowl, and immediately logged onto and bought my own copy. Water for Elephants was good – it was a strange little book, good story, good characters. But Sara Gruen’s other books are *horse* books, for heaven’s sake – you have to wonder if Water wasn’t a fluke, a lucky one-off. But Stephanie Kallos’ book affected me the way AS Byatt’s Possession or David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas affected me – it’s on par with these exquisitely complex books. Kallos’s gorgeous novel has brilliant moments; she writes with a delicate touch, outlining and then fleshing out her fragile human characters so perfectly that you would recognize these people on the street . Like Stones From the River, I will collect copies of this book to give to people.


I have a shark fetish. I think they are elegant and misunderstood creatures. Would I like to meet one in the ocean? Not unless I were in a nice sturdy shark cage, but that doesn't change that I react to them viscerally (no pun intended - haha!); they are so strong and supple and lovely, and I admire them greatly. (I also appreciate that they eat their young; I've often felt that that option might have made my life simpler.) I have a fairly extensive shark collection: figurines, mugs, stuffed animals, clothing, all manner of strange and wonderful shark THINGS - it used to be all on display on the third floor of our old house, but when we moved, I weeded some, and I only have my favorites out here at this house. If you collect anything, eventually everyone gives you all kinds of whatever it is you collect, and you wind up with more crap than you can possibly display or even care about.

My sister-in-law (H's sister, who has a knack for giving incredibly thoughtful presents) gave me a great white shark beer stein for my thirtieth birthday; I bought myself a wooden shark-shaped puzzle, with a human-shaped piece smack in the belly, at the arts festival one summer; my little brother gave me a shark puppet one long ago Christmas. And my mother gave me this little box.

Several days after Primo's second birthday party I noticed that the tip of the top shark's fin had been broken off. Turns out one of my nephews had knocked it off the window sill on the landing and hadn't wanted to tell me. I wish he had, so I could have found the piece before we vacuumed after the party, and maybe I could have reattached it somehow. For a long time I felt like the beauty and grace of the little box had been irreparably compromised.

And then I read Broken for You.
I wish I hadn't returned it to the library, so I could give you the exact quote, but the gist of it was that it is our cracks and lines and imperfections that show we have lived our lives, and have loved and been loved, and that make us real, and interesting. There was so much in the book that rang true, and this was one of the most clarifying statements.

And so I keep and display my little shark box that my mother gave me, some because I am hopelessly sentimental, and some because they are sharks and I like sharks, and some, now, because the little treasure chest buried inside the box reminds me in a beautiful and haunting way of the flowers inside Lucie's tete-a-tete, the hidden treasure that helps make much right in the end.


Suse said...

Feeling a little moist-eyed now.

Kathy said...

Nothing has ever affected me like Possession but I haven't read those books you mentioned.

lazy cow said...

I've just reserved Broken for you at the library (amazingly they have it)and bought Cloud Atlas today. I love how we all influence each other's reading.
Must admit I've never liked sharks, dolphins are more my style. Sharks are too scary, and all too real a threat for us Aussies.

Gina said...

Sharks scare the crap out of me, and I honestly can't think of *one thing* I admire about them.

Sarah Louise said...



There's a quote in Traveling Mercies (Ann Lamott) about cracks--this is such the philosophy of my life--we are all so broken.

I loved this post.

Hugs, SL

Paula said...

Sort of like a Velveteen Rabbit for adults. Lovely.

Amy said...

I keep paper and pencil handy whenever I stop by your blog, you always talk about such wonderful books! It's a good thing I gave up my Amazon habit, but man, my friendly librarians are probably tired of hunting down books for me!

I love the idea of a Velveteen Rabbit book for adults. I will have to read it.

Joke said...

I'm with Gina on the shark thing.


Sarah Louise said...

I just picked up a copy of BFU--the paperback cover is trés cool.

(So I got it, instead of the hardcover--yes, I judged a book by its cover...)

Caro said...

I have to agree with Joke and Gina too!

The whole ocean thing freaks me out. I won't go in past my knees!