At last I have freed myself from the shackles of Joyce Carol Oates! Funny how 738 pages seems so brief when it's Harry Potter and yet it becomes a death sentence when you dislike the author. Yes, Blonde was nominated for a Pulitzer. Yes, I was interested in the story. Yes, I have become even more desperate to see the Arthur Miller play running at a local theater. So why the huge rush of relief when I finally returned the massive text to the library? I attribute part of it to my book-a-week goal; although this didn't technically set me behind, I did spend way more time on it than I would have liked. And also... Well. I really don't want to believe that the relief is mainly because I hated the book. I didn't. I don't think. I can't help feeling that I'm being unfair to JCO. This is only the second of her novels that I've read. Can you really determine after only two books whether you dislike an author? It seems harsh. But the truth is, I had the same mixed feelings about the first book. Interesting subject matter, but frustrating presentation.
Authors like JCO tend to remind me of the '70's. I realize that probably makes no sense, but it's this feeling I've gotten about certain books ever since I picked up an ancient volume of poetry my mother had (well, if we're being technical, "ancient" = circa 1970's). There was this poem in it called "Try Smiling," and my ten-year-old self instinctively categorized it as "very 70's." Ever since then there have been a few authors (of varying styles and subject matter) who have fallen into that schema. I don't really understand it myself, but there it is. Some of these authors (i.e.-- Lorrie Moore) I really like; others (i.e.-- JCO) I roll my eyes at and imagine them banging out manuscripts on a typewriter while wearing bell bottoms and a ridiculous vest.
Okay, my brain hurts from all this ambivalence. On to happier things. Since Blonde was a veritable parade of old Hollywood, I've been in the mood to watch some of their films. First was "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (obviously), then I moved on to "High Society" and "High Noon" courtesy of my local library. (Strangely, I also borrowed the "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" CD at the same time, thus completing an unintentional theme. *cough* Just kidding-- I definitely would not listen to that CD. At all.) "High Society" is a musical version of "The Philadelphia Story" and stars Sinatra, Crosby, and Grace Kelly. It was actually Grace Kelly's last film before she went off and became the envy of every woman everywhere by marrying a prince. (Personally, I would not have wanted that to be my last film. She tried to hard to be Katharine Hepburn, which made the entire thing too annoying for me.) But when I moved on to "High Noon" starring Gary Cooper (*swoon*) and, again, Grace Kelly (not a purposeful decision) I was pleasantly surprised. I've always avoided the Old Western genre because I assumed the gun-slinging-law-and-order-benevolent-sexism-fest would annoy me; however, it was basically "Meet John Doe" or "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" with more dust and cooler costumes. If only I had known, my dad and I could have been movie buddies/besties. (P.S.-- I'm coming home to sort through your DVD collection, Dad.) In the meantime, you can find me at the Squirrel Hill library raiding their movie and music sections.
Next up on the reading list: The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell. Leave it to her to make Puritans fun.