Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Revolutionary Whiskey

Just finished reading Revolutionary Road again. Took a rather long time even by my standards. I can’t finish a book in a few sittings. I don’t try either, makes me feel like a sieve when I want to be a sponge. There’s some collusion between my reading and whisky-drinking habits. I also just happened to use up a Jack Daniels a friend had gifted last December. I’ve been sipping at it for as long as I can remember (ok I might’ve tempered my greed because it was scotch) and last night was the last of the swigs I took. And there haven’t been any conscious periods of whisky abstinence much the same way the story of Frank and April Wheeler has never really left me. I’ve kept going back: a page here, a small there. They’ve always been around the bend, just a few steps and I bump into them.

So, the book, yes: the writing is sublime, Yates is unforgiving. Harsh or unforgiving is not the word actually; I don’t think it’s any one thing at all. It’s definitely not a style unless you think holding a mirror to the deepest recesses and the darkest motives is. It’s just relentless dissection of what appears to be the truth. There’s a line where Yates could as well have been explaining how he wrote that book. If you wanted to do something absolutely honest, something true, it always turned out to be a thing that had to be done alone. The book’s embarrassingly beautiful, really. To think that some of those who have read it will draw on the experience to merely engage in social conversations, fill out silences with their grasp of things, (‘Have you read it? It’s so depressing but so nice.’ and then in the same breath, ‘You should also read Three States. It's unputdownable.’) is pretty deflating (and very cynical of me).

What does having read the book mean but? I’m in circles. Reading about the Wheelers doesn’t bring me closer to any realization. (Self-deception is no realization, I think I know it well enough after years of trying to fit in.) Writing something as singularly honest wouldn’t change a thing either. Yates picked up some numbers in his time: two marriages, two divorces, nervous breakdowns, drinking binges. Writing is a release, I guess; a simple but excruciating business: going to a dark place, pouring your heart out, hoping to be understood.

Awareness is not a gift, in fact it can be rather unsettling. At least when the take-home is that you are not the only one to have fucked up, people have messed up in eerily similar ways. It’s a fairly non-usable purport, you know. Like when facing an incomprehensible problem, you suddenly have a private Eureka moment: you have finally managed to figure out what the problem is. That gives you a kick, even if you are still as clueless about how to fix it. Living is the same beast. Taming it is as slippery.

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