Monday, June 16, 2014

What's the Point?

When I was a kid there was a tv show my parents watched called "Keep Talking." It was a game show. Two panelists--celebrities as I recall--were on each of two teams.  At the beginning of a game the host would hand each team a quote.  One team might get "Hey, it looks like you've put on weight."  Another team might be handed the line, "Get whatever is on sale."  Then the host would begin a made up story, "Two people were walking to the grocery one day."  A buzzer would ring and one of the two panelists on a team would have to continue the story--keep talking.  Another buzzer would ring and that would mean the other team would need to continue the story where the first team had brought it.  Each panelist would get one or two turns and the goal was for the team to get into the story the line they had been handed. At the end of the game, the opposing teams had to guess what the line was their opponents had been handed.  Funny show. Joey Bishop was great in it. Very cleverly weaving the lines into the story.

When I read books I am often taken by a line in the story which seems to capture the essence of the book.  It's not quite analogous to the Keep Talking game, but I figure in the book there is some part which nutshells the message the author is attempting to convey.  Often it is easy to pick out the key sentence or sentences because the title of the book is somehow in there.  Other times it just hits you between the eyes.   Sometimes you figure this might be it, and then as you finish the book you just know that it is.

I just finished Amy and Isabelle a book by Elizabeth Strout.  Probably not the best book to read on Father's Day which is when I finished it.  It is about a daughter, Amy, and her mother, Isabelle. And while this is a mother daughter relationship it really is about parents and their offspring.  Amy and Isabelle are at odds for much of the book.

Amy has a buddy Stacy. The two of them sneak out and hang out smoking cigarettes during lunch breaks at high school.  They talk about their parents. At one point, Stacy utters the Keep Talking line. She's been squawking about her ancestors and herself. She says, "Because if everyone just turns out like their mother, then what's the rat's ass point?"

This is the essence of the book.  The sentence is about 1/3rd through the novel and by then you get a sense of how similar Isabelle and Amy may be despite the fact that they are at loggerheads nearly all the time.   The book is very well written, but to me at least as I read the majority of the book on father's day, very depressing.  The character of Isabelle particularly is depicted very well revealing all of her and our complexities. Amy too is well drawn.  If you like to read, then I would recommend it, but you are not going to bust a gut laughing.

So, what is the rat's ass point?  The point is that we have a chance to evolve.  We have a chance to love our ancestors and become stronger which is what Isabelle wants for Amy though there are times you wonder if Isabelle will understand herself enough to allow Amy the breathing room. And at other times you wonder if Amy has the goods to mature.  Stacy is right. If all we do is become our parents there is no rat's ass point even if our parents are wonderful. We have a chance to be ourselves and evolve.  And we have a chance to bring life into the world if we are wise enough to do so.  The new always have a chance to evolve. Read a note on facebook on Friday that my dear Aunt Ethel had a heart attack while driving and perished Friday afternoon.  Horrible news of course, but on Thursday, a day before, life came into the world as Sophie Jane arrived.  My aunt's great nephew and niece brought in life as she left us. And Sophie has a chance to grow and evolve and be happy and squeeze the wonderful juice from this gift called life.

That's the point.

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