Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Runaround

As I said, I've been in a bit of a rut.  I'm wandering back and forth between about six books, none of which is quite scratching my itch.  I'm going to have to hit hard on the fun, exciting stuff for the next few things I pick up.

The sad part is that a few of these--not disappointments, but mood-breakers--are books I've been really excited about.  Like Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt, which is the basis of the recent Oscar-nominated movie Carol.  I've wanted to read The Price of Salt for years, because of how much I enjoyed (slash was-freaked-out-by) The Talented Mr. Ripley.  What I knew about the book was that it was one of the first books about a lesbian romance that didn't end tragically.  I knew that the main character fell in love/became obsessed with a beautiful woman, and that at some point they travel together.  That's pretty much it.

This is one of those books that I don't enjoy nearly as much as I appreciate it, or nearly as much as I want to enjoy it.  I rather liked it at first, actually--we meet Therese, who is young and living in New York, trying to work as a set designer but working at a department store over Christmas to make ends meet.  I liked Therese's small life and her small observations, her boyfriend whom she is fond of but not in love with, her fear of getting caught forever at the department store.

And then she meets Carol, and her overwhelming sense of fascination with her is pretty great, too.  You know how it is (or at least I do) when you meet someone and you instantly feel like they're the most amazing person. As the unlikely friendship starts to grow, I was interested by how it evolved, and by how hard it was to figure out what Carol is thinking.

But as you get further into the book and you get to know Carol and Therese better, I don't feel like I'm getting to understand better what they're thinking.  Quite the opposite, actually--it's gone from feeling like the mystery of understanding the people around Therese is something that she and I share to feeling like Therese has crossed over into understanding the subtext of what's going on, what the people in the story think and want and might do, where I'm still on the outside, confused. 

There are so many conversations where everyone has a few drinks and lights a few cigarettes and talk about where they'll eat and who they'll see, and it seems to mean something to the other people but I can't even figure out the tone.  Are you free tonight? We might see Abby, but she's busy.  We can take a drive.  Shall we got that funny little Russian tea house?  No, Rumplemeyer's is right there.  All of these things seem to be evocative, but I have no idea of what.  So as Therese becomes more and more of the world, I'm more and more shut out. 

I'm nearly to the end, so I'll finish it, if only because I do want to see the movie.  I feel like the movie can't help but loop me in on what's going on between the lines, and I think Cate Blanchett is the perfect choice for this fascinating, worldly, aloof woman.  I'm not sorry I'm reading it, but I'll be glad to be done.

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