Thursday, April 18, 2013

"Do you have any more of that mango?"

Book: Man or Mango? A Lament
Author: Lucy Ellmann
Published: 1998 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Beekeeping, poetry, perverts who grow giant vegetables, and staged murder weekends at boring Irish hotels all have something in common: deeply discontented people depend on them for one sort of bracing or another.

A lady who is slipping mostly willingly into hermitude uses an Irish weekend to get away from getting away.  An expat American poet uses the same hotel to try and finish his epic poem about ice hockey on his new patroness’s dime. These two were in love awhile ago, turns out, and they broke each other’s hearts, and, well, after years of obsessive lists and weird habits that burst out in stream-of-consciousness tandem chapters that sometimes are told first person, sometimes third and observations about everyday life that they desperately try to turn into art, they find each other again.

Perverts who grow giant vegetables just want to show off the giant vegetables, it turns out, or keep bees and harass the pretty hotel staff.

And then a lot of them drown in a stormy tidal wave that ended the hotel’s staged murder weekend early.

This was a hard reading experience to describe because just when I was starting to clap in the rhythm of a chapter, it would be over and a new one would start with a whole different tempo, and sometimes by the time I had caught up with that one it ended and changed again. But even while it was mildly frustrating, it also felt like a true record of how messy and absurd human emotion can go if it locks onto something against its will and tries hard to pull away or at least distract itself. It’s lyrical rather than clear.

It seems like it would reward more with repeated readings, but alas, this one is also a library baby. I have to give those all back.  

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