This last week has been the first hot one this summer in the northeast, and the first week JR & I don't feel like we have to pack up and go somewhere to do something. And my garden's pretty much off on its own recognizance. So I got a lot of reading done -- mostly nonfiction, for whatever reason.
One theme that kept coming up: What the hell happened to EDITING? All week I kept a running list of bad sentences, which I read out loud to JR. I had half an idea I'd put them in a blog post, but then I realized I didn't want to be a snoot and anyway, who knows when I'd run into these writers? Instead let me focus on the one book I read this week that knocked me for a loop: The Natural Laws of Good Luck, by Ellen Graf. I'll admit right here I don't think it's the best title; I had to go back and look three times to remember it, and anyway, it sounds Markety. And it doesn't have much to do with the book, which is short on good luck.
It's the memoir of a woman in her forties who goes to China to meet her Chinese girl friend's brother, falls in love, marries him, and brings her new husband back to her ramshackle house in upstate New York. It's an extremely unconventional thing to do (everyone's bringing back little girls from China, not husbands!) and Ellen Graf -- an artist -- proves herself to be a highly unconventional woman, to say the least. Which, for me, is about 1/4th the charm of the book; the other three quarters being her fantastic character study of her new husband and her ideas about romantic love, which, honestly, moved me to tears.
The book is also better written, on a sentence level, than the other books I read this week. Better written, more original and moving... hm, why a small press -- Shambala -- then? Why can't such a smart, skillfully written, intelligent, tender memoir get published by the big guns? Because Ellen Graf is kind of a weirdo, and I say this with the utmost respect. Publishing is going through a nervous period, and an unconventional female narrator like this one -- who seems completely out of touch with popular culture -- isn't obviously "relatable." I hope I'm wrong, but I have trouble seeing this as the next Oprah book.
Anyway, sorry about all the cynicism. It's been a weird summer. But if you, like me, have felt your faith in humanity wavering lately, read The Natural Laws of Good Luck. It's about love: culture-crossing, weird-habit-forgiving, inexplicable love. Oh, yeah, it has a happy ending, too. I didn't think I had it in me to get all sentimental anymore, but there you go.