Friday, March 7, 2008

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

Sometimes I feel like such a cliche.

Case in point: I LOVE coffee shops. I love the burnt espresso perfume that drifts through the door. I love the Prozac infused air, as if when you enter this caffenated universe, all personal worries evaporate into the broader global issues. I love the instant and false comradery of the Barista and her customers. In an effort to make that effluvial connection, a drive-thru window attendant recently complemented me on my alluring cup holders. I kid you not.

I love to read in said coffee sink into their lush "reading room" atmosphere, to extract the benefit of being in a room with copies of The New York Times while I flip through Blue.Print Magazine or (Real)Simple (I don't read TNYT, I just feel like proximity makes me smarter and more well read.)

I think I would be a boring, predictable psychological study. My psyche is The Jim Lehrer News Hour with a low budget and bad graphics.

I don't have any exciting hiccups or revolutionary clinical anecdotes.

Sometimes, this is a little disconcerting. Not that I lust after interesting mental incapacities. No. Disconcerting in that I am completely predictable, perhaps having no original thoughts or opinions about parenting or religion or writing or the political temperature of the nation. I am only what I was trained up to be. A product of private school education with all of their dogma and theology seared permanently on my soft tissue.

(Where is this going? I hear you ask, and I'll tell you.)

I recently finished Wicked in the comfort of a coffee house overstuffed armchair. I closed the book and reflected on how completely unentertained I had been. The book was unanticipatedly dark and sexually explicit. Whoever read that and thought it would make a good musical?

The writing was clever and drew unexpected lines between things that are utterly unrelated. In general, this is what I look for in a good read; how many times does the author compare vagrant political notions to the art of turnip farming or geographical plots to reflections of emotional quandary.

But I was unmoved by Maguire's metaphors. (And by unmoved, I mean that while I was impressed to the point of superficial facial expression, I remained unconnected to his characters and their plight.) I felt that he created certain scenarios and used certain language for thinly veiled dramatic gain and they were largely unnecessary. For instance, he did not need to include that an Elephant goddess pissed enormously or that an army Sergeant had castrated one of his soldiers and hung him on a windmill to be disemboweled by crows.

And then, in this room of hemp-wearing, forward thinking souls with impressively hip eye wear, I wondered if I was being small minded. Was I unable to appreciate the nuances of Maguire's writing because of my upbringing and the black/white approach to life I'd been handed, in which the manual notes all situations and categorizes them as "Vice" or "Virtue."

This debate is at the heart of Maguire's novel. Is right always right and evil always wrong?

That line in the sand that separates good from bad, right from wrong, light from dark has always been thin and unforgiving. But I disagree with the idea of a line, at all, anymore. I have begun to think of life choices more in the realm of a scrolling landscape, meandering in and out of shadow and light and sand and sod and dusk and dawn...always leading somewhere.

I finished my Grande 1% No Whip Mocha and decided, that I just flat wasn't impressed by Maguire's expanded interpretation of Baum's Oz. But I have been enlightened and made to look at my personal tendencies with awareness and wakeful judgment.

My girls and I have started Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince which, oddly enough, is, a somewhat more benign continuation on this subject, looking for light in the dark heart, challenging one's stubborn ideas of right and wrong. I have also started Three Cups of Tea.

What's on your night table?