Monday, September 22, 2008

Quote of the Day

It's Monday... the dreaded day when we have to return to the hobgoblin of our lives. However, Monday also means it's time for the Quote of the Day that visits you from inside a book. How exciting!

I've been reading The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls for a composition class (a really great example of how to use plot, character, setting and theme harmoniously). I love Walls' writing style and find myself, in spite of the awful experiences that she is recounting, laughing out loud at her diaglogue. In one story she tells of the first time that her father (an alcoholic who can't hold down regular work) buys her and her siblings (an older sister and younger brother) bikes. At the time (when she is approximately seven years old) she is flabbergasted by the idea of owning her very own bike, she never thought that she could own one herself. She turns and asks her dad if the bikes are for the kids--still incredulous that this could be her good fortune--and he says, "Well, they're too small for your mother and I." That's a really great line.

When reading you have to be somewhat skeptical of her retelling of events (seriously, how well can a four-year-old remember specific dialogue?), but she takes you on a journey from seeing her parents as heroes to having her innocence slowly dissolve. It's heart-breaking, but illuminating none the less. Below is an excerpt from the introduction where (as an adult) she has, while on her way to a party in NYC, seen her mother rooting through a dumpter at the side of the road:

"I fretted about them, but I was embarrassed by them, too, and ashamed of myself for wearing pearls and living on Park Avenue while my parents were busy keeping warm and finding something to eat.
What could I do? I'd tried to help them countless times, but Dad would insist they didn't need anything, and mom would ask for something silly, like a perfume atomizer or a membership in a health club. They said they were living the way they wanted to...
'Mom, I saw you picking through trash in the East Village a few days ago.'
'Well, people in this country are too wasteful. It's my way of recycling... Why didn't you say hello?'
'I was too ashamed, Mom. I hid.'
...'You see?' she said. 'Right there. That's exactly what I'm saying. You're way too easily embarrassed. Your father and I are who we are. Accept it.'
'And what am I supposed to tell people about my parents?'
'Just tell them the truth,' Mom said. 'That's simple enough.'"
And with that you have an exerpt from the introduction of the book. It grabs you from the beginning and keeps you reading along on her journey. You actually find yourself wanting to hear the truth about her parents, and you have no idea why (Why should you care about a family of people you've never met?).

Why do we read people's memoirs? Have you read any memoirs that were particularly interesting to you? Why? Have you read this book or do you plan on adding it to your reading list? Put your thoughts in the comments to answer those questions.

3 comments:

Jamie Moore said...

I am going to start reading books you recommend- I normally don't read anything like you do, mostly because curious george is just too engaging. I think I need some intellectual stimulation though, don't you? I've never read a memoir but I did read an biography on Audrey Hepburn that just about killed my love for her. Until I stopped reading it, that is.

Heather said...

Curious George is a captivating read, I'll grant you that.

I am in the same boat, I read about half of a biography of Anna Wintower (the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue magazine) because I was majorly obsessed with her after reading and seeing "The Devil Wears Prada"; however, my crush on her abated as I read that book--I had to stop reading so that I could still see her for the lovely she-dog that she is.

Heather J. said...

Just wanted you to know that I linked to your review from mine. :)