Book reviews Critiques littéraires Books recently published in english and french.

mercredi 17 février 2010

Richard Russo, That old Cape Magic, Random house, 2009

The latest book of Russo is lighter than « Bridge of Sighs" and makes for very pleasant reading , really enjoyable with a happy end of sorts, which tells the woes of the old familiar theme of Marriage in late middle age, the settling down and marriage of adult children and the dreams that bathed our young years, which is often the choice of our dream life . Here , the dream is the Old Magic of Cape Cod , where everyone who has ever lived in New England has inescapably dreamed of living there and owning a house. The poets and artists know this and try to lead a simple and rewarding life on the Cape.. Paradise unattainable most of the time, this beautiful and powerful myth has engulfed the lives of the parents of Jack and unconsciously his own,and because of a old family oath, has become the scene of the middle age crisis of his life. He will see in the same year both his parents die, his 35 years marriage collapse and the choice of a late career in Califfornia suspended in time. The obsession of parental influence p, a theme rarely treated, permeates the whole book :how to deal with their death and their injunctions becomes more important than his daughter's marriage and his wife's very well being.The crucial event of the story is the marriage though, as well as the famous wedding rehearsal of Laura , who is the adored daughter of Jack and Joy and it turns out to be naturally a glorious and lavish celebration which takes place with both families present on the Cape ; this summum of human happiness in American idealized life, turns out to be a rather tragic carnival and a circus, full of imbecilic accidents , dumb misunderstandings , fights with wounds , broken limbs, cuts and bruises ( one of the funniest scene I have ever read) which all end up in a hospital. As if hospitals were the high moral tribunals dispensing justice and truth in human life since they deal with death and tragedy and thus reveal our very souls and hidden purposes …The wedding does take place thankfully, the young always unconscious disappear , but the torn parents are left more or less alone in different motels and must deal with the broken pieces.

Russo is here capable of great comedy and quite dramatic resources that reach epic quality, and can be seen as small epiphanies of a sort in a classical novel of manners, especially one that means a lot to such a wide audience : after all who has not wondered why he loves his parents so unconditionally even when they were so un- satisfying in one's childhood , when once dead , one hears their ghosts come to haunt you and even talk to you , their very presence permeating your thoughts and sleep. Who has ever thought why it is so difficult to disperse the ashes of our parents kept in a fateful urn, in a suitable place and suitable time ? And why is the marriage of a child such a sacred event , heavy with emotions and bearing all the rest of our still unlived lives? All of these unalterable and significant rituals in churches, cemeteries or simple family homes are part of the drama written in our genealogical selves , poor leaves floating on the vast ocean of human experience, and we do not know this . Russo does know though, and this writer also has the capacity of making his perfectly ordinary , yet intelligent characters alive yet confused, and miserable, struggling towards a good arrangement which is also memorable, reminding us how difficult it is to simply live and be decent human beings.

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Brussels, Belgium
Née à Bruxelles, mère résistante et sculpteur, père homme d’affaires, études à l ’Université libre de Bruxelles ( Philosophie et Lettres ; arts primitifs), puis à Harvard ( anthropologie), Rutgers New Brunswick, Duke University .N.C. USA ( littérature comparée, Masters et Doctorat.) Thèse publiée (Ph.D) sur Valéry et Mallarmé. Enseignement universitaire aux USA, en France (Aix en Provence) et au Liban (comme coopérant) ,littérature et philosophie , en français ou anglais. Mariée en premières noces à un avocat américain G.Robert Wills et puis à un peintre et publiciste Français, Jean- Pierre Rhein (décédé). La plupart des publications sous le nom de Wills.Vit à Bruxelles.