Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It Always Comes Back to Books

book cover of  Who Will Run the Frog Hospital  by Lorrie Moore

I spent the latter part of this morning in the mall and I mention it only because I find that the mall is, well, much maligned. From an architectural standpoint, I can agree, it is a curse: unimaginative in its structure and all-around unappealing where both aesthetics and creativity are concerned. But if your looking to eavesdrop on pointless conversations? There's no better place on the planet. Period.

Here is a perfect case in point.

Time: 11:46 AM
Place: H&M line-up
The Subjects: Two teenaged girls skipping class to buy Third World factory-made clothing. Most of it polyester, all of it bejewelled .

Girl #1: Are you gonna buy those jeans?

Girl #2: Yeah. (pause) Why?

Girl #1 (with an incredulous look on her face) Do you like them?

Girl #2 (with an equally incredulous look on her face) 'Course! (pause) Why don't you?

Girl #1 I think they look retarded.

Girl #2 Then I guess I'll be retarded AND look better than you.


Girl #1: What rack were those on, again?

So funny. And yet so sad. Just like being a teenager.

The whole interaction made me think of a book I read last summer called, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? Written by the incredible Lorrie Moore, the book is one woman's remembrance of an ephemeral teenage friendship. The narrator, Berie Carr, has a marriage that is stuck in a bleakly funny state of suspended collapse and rather than dissect it and ruefully condemn herself for how badly it's all going (that more Jonathan Franzen territory), she, instead, looks back to her girlhood in Horsehearts, an Adirondack tourist town near the Canadian border. There in the summer of 1972, as a skinny, 15-year-old misfit she idolized her sassy, sexually precocious friend Sils, who played Cinderella at a theme park they worked at called Storyland (Berie was a cashier). Told in a series of flashbacks, Berie recounts how she and Sils hung out in small town bars, snuck cigarettes and how, midway through the summer, she is shipped off to Baptist camp after filching hundreds of dollars from her register to pay for an abortion for Sils. The book is a bitterly funny hymn to vanished adolescence and is filled hilarious wordplay, allegorical images of lost innocence and a poignant awareness of how life's significant events often prove dismally anticlimactic. Like a faded pair of bejeweled jeans months after point of purchase.


  1. I just finished rereading Fugitive Pieces...Would this be a good balance? Good God give me a good balance!!

  2. I think this book would make you laugh and cry and the same time. Moore really captures the essence of what it is like to grow up in a small town in away that is unique and non-cliched. It is fresh and clean prose- my favorite kind.

    Get it.