Reading Lives: The Good, The Bad, The Dysfunctional

Folks often don’t realize that we have current novels here in the library. Our current favorite is The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson, a professor at the University of the South. This novel about a bizarre family of performance artists has been picked up by Nicole Kidman as a future movie project. It is sad, moving, and often just flat-out hilarious. I recommend it to everyone. Besides his wife, agent, and possibly Nicole Kidman, I am the book’s biggest fan.

But it’s not our only novel about dysfunction. We have others that will make you happy that your own family is relatively normal:

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

This foray into the world of dysfunction made us wonder what aspects of our own lives would be put in a modern novel. Here we go:

Colette: I’m happy to say that the lion’s share of dysfunction in my family is far away, in the outlying kin, not in my immediate family; those in my immediate family are practically perfect :).  That said, every summer of my childhood we drove deep into mosquito country to visit relatives (the dysfunctional ones) and a 900 mile car trip in 99 percent humidity can turn just about any family dysfunctional at some point.  I wrote a poem about the trip we brought along our hamster, which promptly died en route and it spent the remainder of the trip in our ice chest, next to the sandwiches.  If you’re into deceased rodent poetry, I’ve included a link to Part I of that poem, Ways_You_Come_to_Know.

Emily: Eric and I routinely choose watching Shark Tank on Friday nights over socializing.

Pam: The horrid vision of a certain family member slamming down a boxful of Easter baskets and hatefully snarling at each of us to have a blessed Easter as she stalked off and slammed the door behind her still echoes in my dysfunctional memory bank as the ultimate in my journey of stepping on egg shells…literally! My mother had me innocently call this family member and find out if they were on their way yet, so that my mom could go ahead and put the rolls in the oven. This turned into an extreme misunderstanding with that person believing that I (of all people who is “always late” and “we always work around HER schedule”) had been shown favoritism by my mother when I’d “had the nerve” to call and question her as to the time of their arrival. Good grief! It was a most unpleasant exchange. The ultimate twist was the shame placed on us when it was explained that the reason they were running a bit behind was BECAUSE SHE WAS MAKING US EACH A LITTLE EASTER BASKET! Geez! After this family member stomped off, I opened the box only to find all of our baskets tipped over and strewn all over the bottom of the container. It’s a horrid memory that we still talk about to this day. It ruined the entire day for us all.

Sally: I was a student at Belmont University in the 1970’s. well at the time Belmont was Baptist and had hours for the women’s dorms. They also had room checks every now and then.  Well one day my brother, who does not look at all like me and had long hair (remember this was in the mid-70’s), was in my room visiting when the dorm mother had a surprise room inspection.  All the girl’s on the floor knew he was there and that he was my brother, but the dorm mother did not.  We finally convinced her that he was indeed my brother.  Everything ended up ok, and I did not get kicked out of Belmont.  I could also tell you about getting locked in Belmont’s library…(but that’s another story).

Jolly Librarian: One year, my mother decided to go after the doves. She and my dad have a feeder outside the kitchen window where they can watch birds while they eat breakfast. The fat gray doves were hogging the food and chasing off the smaller multi-colored birds. My mother decided to take action. She found my sister’s childhood BB gun and declared war on them. So my neighbors were given the treat of seeing my mother appear from the garage, gun in hand for several mornings. Now if this were a Southern Gothic tale, my mother would be showing the first signs of dementia or would accidentally take out the eye of a small neighbor kid. But nothing like that happened. No birds were even harmed. For one thing, my mother opened the door with such force that they all flew away. For another, the BB gun had long been damaged and shot its bbs out in a random pattern, anywhere but where it was aimed. We never discovered how my mother and the doves came to a truce. But they did, and to this day, they eat calmly at the feeder most mornings. I dare not ask where the BB gun is.


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