Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Eschewing seasonal cheer and not so much Loving Frank...

So, I'm a terrible neighbor. Well, I suppose that's not entirely true, but every year I'm put in a conundrum. And that conundrum involves 'boo baskets.'

I'm all about community involvement, and I do what I can, especially considering I'm an introvert. We gamely attend the block party each year, socialize when we run into a fellow neighbor outside doing yard work, and chat up a storm with everyone while the kids are trick-or-treating on Halloween. Our street contains some super nice families and I'm very grateful to live where we do. Our parish is right down the road, the elementary school is 2 blocks away, within walking distance is a grocery store, several restaurants, the public library and the post office. We live in a beautiful community.

But every year I'm vexed by these blasted boo baskets. I have to be honest - I don't like them. Every year I pray that we won't get one, and then one morning I open the side door, and BAM! We've been booed. The concept is that someone anonymously leaves this basket of Halloween related items on your doorstep. The basket also contains an instruction sheet and a photocopy of a ghost to hang in your window, identifying you as someone who has already been booed. You photocopy that stuff, put it in a fresh basket of goodies, and pass the booing on to someone else. This year the instructions said to pass things on to *2* houses.

Sigh. Here's what happens next, every single time. For about a week, I forget to get to the store to buy stuff. And I (and I presume the whole street) don't want to spend a ton of money on little trinkets that you don't even know if the person will like. So I want to get to a store in which I can get a decent amount of stuff for a reasonable price. I work full-time (I know a lot of people do as well, I'm just saying) and I only have limited opportunities to shop. So, after the week, I bookmark it in my brain that I need to make this boo basket and I make a concerted effort to get to a store. Last year, it worked. I went to Dollar Tree and picked out a nice set of harvest votive candles, a decorative candle plate, a hand towel with a pumpkin on it, and something else cute. I left it on our next door neighbor's stoop and felt pleased with myself.

Well guess what happened this year? It was still a week and a half away from Halloween, and the stores were cleaned out of any recognizable Halloween stuff. Halloween hasn't even happened yet, and all the stuff is pushed into the 60% off bin and is the picked over, leftover junky stuff that you wouldn't want to give anybody. And why would this be? Well, because the Halloween stuff has been in the stores since like mid-summer. And *this* is where my other beef comes in - the watering down of holidays and other fun seasonal activities because stores insist on putting merchandise out ridiculously early.

Ok, seriously. Who is buying Christmas trees in at the end of *August*?! Tell me, anybody, anybody? Jack-0-lanterns in July? Who is doing this?! It drives me *crazy* and it seems to get worse every year. So anyway, last week, it was evident from my shopping that stores consider Halloween *sssoooo* yesterday, and it hasn't even taken place yet! My search for Halloween cut out cookies to bring for Hank's class party on Friday? Gone. Reindeer, Santa and Snowmen have taken their place. It's as if Thanksgiving doesn't even exist, either. Halloween is pushed in the summer, and then Christmas starts before Labor Day. It annoys the snot out of me.

Some things are special because they take place only once a year; if for 4-5 months we're seeing all the seasonal merchandise for it, it's just not the same. I want the magic of the advent season starting after Thanksgiving; and for heaven's sake, I don't want to see a pumpkin before Septemter 1st. It's just ludicrous.

So, once again, I've dropped the boo ball. My grandfather was ill this weekend, and that pretty much ended all hope of a shopping trip that would yield boo basket items. I notice a paltry number of houses with those annoying ghosts hanging in the window. I hope they don't know it's my fault :)

So, on to other annoying topics. You may remember that I mentioned wanting to get involved in the library book club, and that I was reading Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan, as my first monthly installment. Well, I'm still super excited about being a part of the book club, but this particular book left me with a pretty bad taste in my mouth. To say that I didn't like this book doesn't fully convey the loathing I feel for it. This book actually made me *angry* which, for a book, is pretty darn hard to do.

This is the author's first novel, and she based it on historical events involving the famous twentieth century architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Here in Western New York, Wright designed several homes and buildings, including the well-known Darwin D. Martin house, so there's a local interest tie-in. The author examined Wright's life at the turn of the century, and his scandalous affair at that time with the wife of one of his clients; based upon the historical record, she crafted this novel about their "love story."

I don't even know where to begin. The author isn't a terrible writer, but it's evident that this is her first novel. It's choppy, and she falls into the common trap of "telling" us things, instead of "showing" us. It feels like she took known events and forced this narrative around them. We're left wondering, "why do these two people even like each other?" We're just not shown how their feelings truly developed.

Anyway, that's small potatoes compared to my other criticisms. What we are presented with are two people that are utterly unlikeable and do morally reprehensible things. And the author presented this to us as some sort of fascinating love story. By the end, I hated Frank, Mamah (the girlfriend) *and* the author. I real love fest goin' on there.

Here's my problem: two people engage unapologetically in an adulterous affair. We won't even go any further with that one, as there is *so much more* to object to. Both were married, and both left their spouses and *multiple, baby children* for TWO YEARS to go play around in Europe and "find themselves." Yes, you read that correctly, for TWO YEARS neither saw their small, vulnerable children. And the given explanation is some sort of confusing nonsense about it being "more loving" to "be true to themselves" and "see if this relationship could work." And wait! We're not done.

In the course of all of this, we discover that apparently Frank Lloyd Wright had some sort of problem with paying for things. He would obtain things ("I need beautiful things around me") on credit and then just not pay the bills. And he was totally unconcerned with this. Rules just didn't apply to him, you know. He was special. And then there were the comments about "unlearned" people who liked traditional architecture being "small minded" and "unappreciative of true art." The more I learned about this guy, the less I liked him.

And then there was Mamah, who would spout off about the importance of finding yourself as a woman (at the expense of your children), and sided with an early feminist who claimed that soon we simpletons would all evolve past needing laws monitoring marriage and divorce. Oh, and something about marriage without love being akin to prostitution.

I'm not sure what the author wanted us to see here - a dramatic, romantic story of two revolutionaries that were ahead of their times? I think not. I saw two selfish, self absorbed people who sacrified the happiness and well being of everyone that they loved. I actually cheered toward the end when Mamah's unmarried sister, Lizzie (who had to step in and assist Mamah's husband raise the children in her absence) told her off, articulating that because Mamah thought she was entitled to chase her dreams, she took all life choices away from the rest of her family.

Then comes the ending, and if you don't know it already, it's a terrible one. I mean, a terrible, terrible tragedy. No one deserves that ending, even people as unlikeable as these. I had to struggle to finish the book, and tripped over myself in my haste to return it to the library.

So, with this ringing endorsement, I bet you can't wait to go read it :)

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