At the end of last year as part of my annual assessment of greatness (doesn’t that sound like something George’s dad would come up with on Seinfeld?) it came to my attention that despite quantitatively reading more than I ever have before, I read just two novels in 2016. Otherwise, the bulk of my reading was online – my blog, other people’s blogs, and so much infuriating on-the-fly political news, my blood pressure practically demands that I return to the comforting paper (or electronic) embrace of a real novel.
And so I’ve been following along with a casual reading challenge created by my friend Julie of The Redolent Mermaid in an effort to not only read more, but read better. Also grammar gooder. 😉 And because there’s nothing I love more than making life difficult for myself, I’ve added two sub-challenges to the main thread:
1. Where possible, all selections will be made from my own bookcase. Despite being an avid lifelong reader, I actually fell out of favour with reading as a pastime some years back – that’s not a recent development. As such, I have a serious backlog of gifts, loaners and hopeful recommendations that require my attention, if only to finally be able to say, “I read that!”
2. To keep it relevant to my blog, I have to do a manicure inspired by whatever I’m reading at the time.
Which presents a bit of a challenge (within the challenge’s challenge) when the first book you pick to fulfill the theme of a beloved or favourite novel is The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. The entire depressing story is right there in the title – how exactly do I draw nail art inspiration from that? Carefully, very carefully, and respectfully, being mindful of the overall feeling the book inspires in me as opposed to a strict adherence to its events. Which, absent any context or enjoyment derived from Eugenides paying out the story, are just so, so bleak.
If you watched the 1999 Sofia Coppola movie starring Kirsten Dunst, you’re already familiar with the story and tone of The Virgin Suicides. The film is faithful to both, chronicling the year in 1970s Grosse Pointe, Michigan over which all five teenage Lisbon girls – Cecilia, Mary, Therese, Bonnie and Lux – take their lives. The story is told from the perspective of a group of neighbourhood boys whose trainwreck-like obsession with the girls stretches into adulthood, upon which they reconvene one last time for a final forensic analysis of a shattered family, a decaying neighbourhood, the girls’ inexplicable deaths and, indeed, their own passing lives. Really lightweight stuff!
I think Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of the novel is about as perfect as one can be, particularly that feeling of floating about inside a hazy, pastel-hued cloud. But in both the film and the novel, there’s nasty little moldy bits creeping in along the edges of all that cotton candy fluff – cracks in the rose-coloured glasses that have let in the rot. In the book more so than the movie, this is represented by the Lisbon family home, a staid suburban structure whose internal and external disrepair mirrors its residents’ rapidly decaying mental states. And as the Lisbons incrementally retreat from their friends, their neighbours, the world, the family home, once a bustling hub of shimmery teenage girl activity, becomes a stale, airless crypt housing little more than living ghosts and their moss-covered memories of what can never again be.
Super uplifting. 😉 And I can’t really explain why it’s my favourite book 20 years running, except that it just is. The weird heart wants what the weird heart wants, I suppose. I just hope I did it right with my interpretation of the book’s tone, that feeling of life’s bright spark being born under by decay. Let’s leave it on that cheery note!