Wednesday, October 01, 2014

"The Accidental Tourist" by Anne Tyler

From September 2014

 "I said to you the other day, I said, 'Macon, now that Ethan's dead I sometimes wonder if there's a point to life.' Do you remember what you answered?"
     "Well, not offhand," Macon said.
     "You said, 'Honey, to tell the truth, it never seemed to me there was all that much point to begin with.'  Those were your exact words."

But Macon had the feeling that school never went very well for Alexander.  He came out of it with his face more pinched than ever, his glasses thick with fingerprints.  Her reminded Macon of a homework paper that had been erased and rewritten too many times. 

     "It's my opinion that sex is overrated."
     Macon looked at him.
     "Oh, when I was in my teens I was as interested as anyone," Charles said.  "I mean it occupied my thoughts for every waking moment and all that, but that was just the idea of sex, you know.  Somehow, the real thing was less… Why, I don't mean I'm opposed to it, but it's just not all I expected.  For one thing, it's rather messy.  And, then the weather is such a problem."
     "Weather," Macon said.
     "When it's cold you hate to take your clothes off.  When it's hot you're both so sticky.  And, in Baltimore it does always seem to be either too cold or too hot."
     "Maybe you ought to consider a change of climate, " Macon said.  He was beginning to enjoy himself.  "Do you suppose anyone's done a survey - city by city?  Maybe the Businessman's Press could put out a pamphlet."

If Ethan hadn't died, Macon thought, wouldn't he have grown into such a person?  He would have turned to give the boy another look except that he couldn't manage the movement.
     The taxi bounced over the cobblestones.  The driver whistled a tune between his teeth.  Macon found that bracing himself on one arm protected his back somewhat from the jolts.  Every now and then a pothole caught him off guard.
     And if dead people aged, wouldn't that be a comfort?  To think of Ethan growing up in heaven, fourteen years old now instead of twelve eased the grief a little.  Oh, it was their immunity to time that made the dead so heartbreaking….
     He felt a kind of inner rush,  a racing forward.  The real adventure, he thought, is the flow of time.  It's as much adventure as anyone could wish.  And, if he pictured Ethan still part of that flow in some other place, however unreachable, he believed he might be able to bear it after all.  

I picked up "The Accidental Tourist" after finishing "The Beginner's Goodbye".  I had read the book years ago - I think when I was living in Wooster - and I had loved the movie.  I remembered Gina Davis's  quirky "Muriel" - an excellent rendition of a truly original woman from the movie (obviously) and I remembered from the book enjoying Macon's quiet but exceedingly odd family and boss.  I saw/see myself being a lot like Macon - who wants to feel like he's always at home and that things are stable and predictable.  I thought it would be good to go through his journey and remind myself of the gift of Muriel.

What I didn't remember was why Macon and his wife had separated.  And, so I found myself reading another story of death - in this case the death of a child.

Wow.  Painful.  And, so beautifully written.  You pretty much get that from the above excerpts.

No comments: