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moving under skies

NYRB Classics collector. Reads anything, so long as it's good. Sometimes historian. Frequently grumpy:  you've been warned. Also at aliceunderskies.tumblr.com. 

Why Did I Ever

Why Did I Ever - Mary Robison

This is not the type of book I normally love. I'm drawn to and most profoundly affected by traditional storytelling--great big baggy monsters of stories, books that include more rather than less of everything--so Robison's fractured, experimental collection of vignettes from the mind of the severely ADD (and ridiculously named, alas) Money. My usual dissatisfaction with short work must have been at a wane because I did like this book enormously. For one thing, it's a gorgeously written book: there are so many downright beautiful lines and observations that I may well purchase a copy if I ever run across one in the stores. I adored the numerous small, mysterious adventures and interactions; my favourite parts had to do with a frequently missing cat and the (quite capable of hearing) neighbor Deaf Lady, with whom Money has a number of touching and very funny interactions. There's a lot, plot and theme wise, that's accomplished here with very little, but what stood out most to me as one of the book's triumphs was the tone. The plot, as it emerges, is one that could be intolerably angsty in another author's hands or with longer treatment: Money is somewhat crazy, ADD-hyper and permanently high on ritalin, and her two children are both deeply troubled. Wonderfully, the fragmented form does not allow for drama or pity-seeking. Overall, "Why Did I Ever" is funny, breathless, unapologetic, and unsentimental. Because it never stoops to cheap emotional shots it's also deeply tragic and emotionally affecting when it does pause to directly (or offhandedly) address the more troubled aspects of the plot. An example of an unconventional form benefiting its contents to the maximum--highly recommended.