So you may not hear about Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge until the movie comes out. (Except that, oh yeah, it did win the Pulitzer.) I don't know if in fact a movie is planned, but this collection of linked stories would be a natural vehicle for Dame Judi Dench or, now that we know she can look bulky and imposing, for Meryl Streep. Olive Kitteridge is an old woman, married, then widowed, then lonely, then finding a suitable enough kind of love. If they make this film, it will win AARP's top slot in the annual films-for-grownups competition.
I'm really liking books about women like Olive who don't worry about being nice or good. Women who let themselves be who they are, even when people won't like it.
So, why isn't the name Alice Mattison on every reader's lips? Her books have been New York Times Notables, but I never heard of her until I stumbled on her novel, The Book Borrower, in Fremont Branch Library.
At least see the author photo. She may have uncombable hair -- clearly, it is difficult hair -- or she may have just refused to be bothered with combing it.
Anyway, the novel I finished with lunch today (one of my favorite kale variations) is The Wedding of the Two-Headed Woman. It's about a woman (with one head) whose job is organizing others, their cluttered homes and cars, their conferences. She puts on a radio show about prostitution and a conference about murder. She has an affair. She becomes part of an amateur theater group that creates and stages a play with the same name as the novel. You could say that she is that two-headed woman; maybe we all are.
First line: "Nothing distracts me for long from sex." Arresting line, but what kind of woman is this? What kind of book? On page four, she describes her husband.
He was a lake I could swim in, in which the drop-offs and rocks were what they were, but the water was clean and not too cold, and there was intense pleasure to be found by swimming out to the center, turning on my back, and closing my eyes in the sun, whatever that means in terms of a guy.
I love that. Especially compared to what I loved in high school: "You are the sky of my stars."
Daisy is half good, she says. And this isn't one of those novels where our heroine changes too dramatically. By the end, when she's carelessly caused serious harm, she says, "I can learn, I can change -- but only so much."
I'm thinking that recognizing her own incapacity for perfection is why she can swim so contentedly among the rocks and drop-offs of her husband's lake.
Does this make you want to read Mattison? Maybe it's better to start with her novel, Hilda and Pearl. I wish I knew how to tell you about it.