Sunday, May 26, 2019

My Imaginary Beret

I put the pedal to the metal and pushed myself to finish "Prozac Nation" yesterday. I got a bit bogged down in it last week. Somewhere around 120 pages in, it started to seem very long. At first I felt sympathy for Elizabeth Wurtzel, who faced some dramatic family challenges not of her own making. But eventually she came to seem like one of those friends we all had in high school or college who could only talk about themselves and their problems. You just want to say, "Get out of your own head!"

Of course, she probably would have agreed with that advice. The problem was, she couldn't.

I'm not sure the book gives us a fully rounded picture of her life at the time. While it dwells on her problems, her substance abuse and her breakdowns and her truncated relationships and crazy ranting, it never really explains her successes. She wound up at Harvard and then managed to stay there, even designing a special curriculum so she could take classes and simultaneously live in London (!). She got a summer job at the Dallas Morning News, where she evidently pleased her editors enough that they wanted her back the next year -- even though she failed to file at least a couple of her stories. She wrote an essay about her father and it wound up published in Seventeen magazine. Who is this woman? How was she so connected? She must have been doing something right.

At one point, she said she comes from a family of people who communicate too much -- who never stop talking. That's what it felt like reading the book. It was relentless. Or, as characterized by the New York Times writer who read it for the paper's Generation X project recently, "exhausting."

Anyway, I powered through the book, and I did some minor stuff around the house -- laundry, plant-watering, that kind of thing.

I was trying to take it easy all day, owing to my bout of post-viral fatigue, but I felt guilty for not exercising the dog. So in the afternoon I took her to Fortune Green and the cemetery.

At the park I was throwing her tennis ball when a little boy, about seven or eight years old, came up and asked if he could pet her. I said sure, but of course, Olga was indifferent. She just wanted the ball.

He proceeded to ask all sorts of questions about where she came from and her name and whether she knew any tricks, and I was thinking, "Kid, didn't you get the 'Stranger Danger' memo?" But I answered him, and showed him Olga's ability to sit on command and present her paws for a shake, and even let him throw the ball for her.

"Are you French?" he asked me at one point.

Why do people in England think I'm French?

Anyway, he ran off as quickly as he appeared, yelling "Bye!" I have no idea where his adults were.


  1. His adults were crouched behind the bush overgrowing the statue, watching you closely and armed with the weapon of their choice. They were the ones who should have read the 'memo'!
    The boy was fortunate to find you and Olga and not some person with bad intent. All's well that ends well...
    And the French connection. He's just a child, maybe he's never heard of America (imagine that!) and France is just across the Channel; therefore every non-English accent is French.
    I wouldn't read that book, even if you paid me a fortune.
    Good to hear you are on the mend.

  2. Do you smell of garlic? Perhaps you occasionally smoke "Gitanes" cigarettes? Do you walk around perpetually humming "Chanson d'Amour"? Perhaps you were wearing a horizontally striped black and white long sleeved T-shirt and a red cravat...or maybe a fluorescent yellow gilet? There must be some reason why strangers assume that you are French. Perhaps it's just that Olga looks like a poodle.

  3. "Kid, didn't you get the 'Stranger Danger' memo?"
    When you said that you felt guilty I thought about how much you and I are alike in some ways. It's always so weird to me how religious people think that the non-religious among us have nothing preventing us from sinning in whatever ways we want because we have no religious foundation to teach us right from wrong or any fear of hell to prevent us from sinning in whatever egregious manner we choose which is so far from the truth. People like you and me can't even take an entire day off to rest due to guilt. What do we feel so damn guilty about? What the hell did our parents instill in us?
    Anyway, I have not read "Prozac Nation" nor shall I, I'm pretty sure.
    Did you read Tara Westover's "Educated"? I can't remember if you have or not. If you haven't, you truly should.
    People think you're French and not American because you are thin and not fat. Americans are fat. You are not. Thus, you must be French.

  4. With this kid you will get me on a rant about free range kids. We overprotect our kids these days and they end up being easy victims of bullying. they haven't had to take responsibility for themselves and learned independence.

  5. I'll pass on Prozac Nation. and Ms Moon's thoughts on why people think you are French sound about right. plus you don't sound British. and France is like right next door.

  6. That Puritan work ethic is insidious and runs deep.
    Hopefully that kid didn't next gallop up to the local pedophile waiting around the corner.
    As for the book, I know I'd never get through it. I tossed aside "Eat, Pray, Love" before I got to the love section; I lost all patience with the writer. I don't think I'm meant to read autobiographical explorations of the heart.

  7. You remind me why I gave up reading books. I know that sounds absurd, but it's true. After years of reading literature and finally dropping out of a Masters program, I said, "Enough is enough." I'm already in my own head 24/7, do I need to explore someone else's inner insanity page after boring page? Nope! I think children trust people who walk their adorable dogs, especially if you seem French and your dog obeys.

  8. maybe "French" is the go to for "foreign" - Stella and I were "French" in Venice. Maybe stranger danger is not a thing in London.

  9. Olga was good to perform on command for the boy.

  10. That boy was lucky you were both safe and kind. Some kids are just like that - outgoing to a fault and seemingly without the normal reservations with strangers. I always wonder whether their parents are the same, or if they've tried and failed to instill some caution and boundaries, or if they actually encourage intruding into other people's spaces. From the parents I've actually known, it's the last, which is a product of the first, I guess. Now I'm generalizing, never a good thing.

    I don't know how you can keep up the concentration on a book like the one you read. My husband does the same. To me, there's not enough years in a single life to read all the truly good books out there.

    Lord, I'm grumpy today! I'll go away now!

  11. I used to have to finish every book I started - for curiosity if nothing else - but these days I let unfinished books linger on my kindle forEVER. There's a Grishom on there that's nagging at me even now...

    I find that if kids aren't shy then they just naturally go up to whoever is around & engage in conversation & ask a ton of questions. It was weird that there weren't any adults around though!

  12. I think you probably have a natural elegance that people interpret as being French. Interesting review of Prozac Nation. Yes, obviously she was doing something right, or else was super connected to the right people.

  13. Elizabeth Wurzel also wrote a book, I think, about her addiction problems. I was interested in her for a while because she had temporal lobe epilepsy, and she wrote about it. I think you're probably right about the self-centered thing -- although I believe all writers, particularly those who write memoir, to be on the self-absorbed side. I also think women talking and telling stories is a relatively new thing -- being acceptable, that is -- have you read any of the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard?