It wasn't as if I had decided to cheat. To break my only reading memoirs rule. I hadn't. As politicians for decades have claimed, it just happened. I have happily been gobbling memoirs up for months now. But. I read a short review of a new novel in the paper the other morning that grabbed my attention. Then, as I was zipping through the article I was taken by surprised by the fact that a well known writer, to the public and to moi, had blurbed said book. I value his opinion highly. He thinks so well of me that it is in his apartment in New York City I spend months every year. He and his partner, another writer whom I have known for years and love like a sister, spend their summers away. I stay in the apartment where there are floor to ceiling shelves filled with books. This particular book, "Where'd You Go, Bernadette", by Maria Semple must certainly be among them I decided.
The hunt was on. It was on all morning. And while I found many books I could have settled in with it became imperative that I find this one.
I tried not to make much of the irony. That I couldn't find a book about a woman who goes missing.
I emailed my friend to ask if by chance he remembered being sent a copy. He replied that he had read it in galley form and no longer had the loose leaf version. But, he said, perhaps they have sent me a copy while I have been out of town.
I looked at the table with the ever growing stack of packages waiting for my friends to open when they return. I always picture it like Christmas morning but without the cheery wrapping. Just mountains of manilla and bubble wrap.
I dug in. Sure enough it was there. That evening I climbed into bed and began to read. I was rewarded for my search. Semple's smart, quirky, funny, scathing, satirical, epistolary novel kept me up until my phone announced that it was now today and that I had been reading since yesterday. Who cares?
Semple is one brave writer. A Seattle resident she places her novel in the damp, green town filled with fleece-wearing, bicycle riding, earnest recyclers and while not exactly ripping the place to shreds, does poke fun with a really sharp dagger. Her black humor when it comes to social criticism is wicked good fun. What, I wondered, do the neighbors think?
By night two I was unable to stop until I finished the book. It was 3 in the morning before I knew the answer to the mystery of where Bernedette had gone and why. Before I understood there might be a down side to hiring a stranger who works at a call center in India, (brilliant!) to do all of your personal bidding, even arranging dental appointments and making dinner reservations and ordering clothes from REI suitable for Antarctica.
Okay. So I had made a promise that I was only going to read memoirs for a year. But Bernadette came along. She wooed me. I succumbed. I cheated on myself.
And I am a better person for it.