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Friday, March 5, 2010

It Stuck With Me, But That Might Not Be Good

Happens Every Day

by Isabel Gillies

genre: Memoir


She married the man of her dreams. Or did she dream the man she married?

This is a remarkably candid, albeit one-sided, account of the demise of a marriage which basically falls apart in a matter of two months. From the eyes of Isabel Gillies, we are taken through the beginning of her marriage to her 'Adonis' to the moment it all fell apart. She really holds nothing back, even I think when she hadn't meant to reveal things. I'll get to that in a minute, but let's just say there was a lot between the lines.

First let me share a bit about this demise. Isabel begins to suspect something is going on between her husband (who by the way cheated on his first wife, ending that marriage, but not with Isabel) and a new English professor at the university where they were both teaching. Frankly I think she was right, however he might have denied anything happened till after their marriage broke down. Marriages just don't seemingly dissolve over one fight, which is what seems to happen to her husband. They fight over her suspicions and then he shuts off. Granted, as I said this is a one-sided story as it can only be in a memoir. Maybe there were issues before this happened. But the aggravating thing was that her husband refused to even discuss it or try. He simply said "I can't" and that was it. He stopped loving her over night. Or was it? Given that this new professor was typical of the women he was attracted to and given that he ends up 'together' with this woman two or three weeks after Isabel moves out, plus the fact that friends of theirs said, 'when it is just those two and you are not around, it's like they are a couple', all indications point to them having been 'together' in some form or other before either admitted and certainly before the marriage broke.

It was an emotional book. And I like emotional books. However, let's talk about the stuff between the lines. Frankly Isabel comes across as spoiled, clueless and a bit on the arrogant side. Anyone who thinks being poor could possibly entail redesigning a kitchen and sending away for designer wallpaper and fabric to 'do up' your house, has never known poor. Let's forgive her this since she doesn't seem to realize that having a summer vacation home in Maine and spending entire summers there isn't exactly what people living in rundown government apartments would call deprived. But come on. Judging someone's acting career as non-existent from the standpoint of someone who has been on some derivative of Law and Order as a secondary wife character is a bit rich. Thinking her husband is perfect and putting him on a pedestal so high he probably gave up trying, not exactly seeing things with clarity. And when fighting in a marriage is 'fixed' by ending it without resolution and then pretending it never happened, you can't possibly think things are in balance. All of which comes out by Isabel's own words and completely flabbergasted me. Yes, flabbergasted. I was so on her side. Still am actually. I don't care how ridiculous she might have been, I'm pretty sure he knew that before he married her and definitely before they had children together. Ending it because you're attracted to someone else is just lazy and inexcusable. But, I still felt so damn frustrated listening to her. I yelled at the CD player at least twice as her voice droned on about how she couldn't understand what had happened.

Good book? Yes and no. Wonderfully candid. I can't think of a better quality for a memoir to have. But still irritating to take in on so many levels. And I did think about this book for over a week after having listened to it. That is most often a sign of a book's greatness. I'm not sure I could call it that this time. It was just that I was so steaming mad at her ex-husband. Not exactly endorsement. Over all I'd say I was impressed with her style and honesty and that will have to be enough.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What Happened Discussion

What Happened

by Scott McClellan

genre: political tell all (non-fiction?)


This book is marketed as Mr. McClellan's opening the door into the highly secretive Bush administration and revealing the things behind the scenes. We get Mr. McClellan's view of the Plame incident, the falsified weapons of mass destruction documents, Katrina and several other of the 'scandals' of that Presidency. What we don't seem to get is very much information beyond what we already knew. For a Presidency clouded in secrecy and scandals that jeopardized and even took lives, I had expected something more. Some information that evokes an 'Aha'. I was disappointed.

Have you ever had a conversation with a girl just after her boyfriend dumped her and treated her like crap and she is so blindly in love with him still that she defends him at every turn? Mr. McClellan is that girlfriend. He comes across as so fervently in love with President Bush and his ideals that I got the feeling we weren't getting anything more than an apologetic ex just saying enough to attempt to clear his own name in his dumping. In a way it is exacerbating how McClellan exonerates the President by indicating he was pushed and influenced by people such as Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. In part this may be true. However, as President of the United States, wouldn't it be part of his job to see through these things? To do what is right in spite of the agendas of those on his team? I would hope that any president would have the intelligence and conviction to pursue the best for the country. It is a little lame to pass the blame onto other people when ultimately Bush was in the driver's seat. Again McClellan comes across almost as a Bush groupie with stars in his eyes.

At one point while discussing the President's reactions to Katrina, he says, "The standard practice of the Bush White House was not to have the president rush to the scene of a natural disaster." Why? Not to interfere with emergency response and that they "never wanted to give the appearance of capitalizing on a tragedy for political purposes." If I remember correctly (and I do), President Bush could be considered the all out front runner of politicians who capitalized on disaster. Terrorist attacks of 9/11 were brought up continuously for years and years after they happened as political push to keep him in office and promote his agendas in the world. This claim concerning Katrina falls flat.

McClellan's points about the atmosphere of perpetual campaign impeding governance are right on the money. However he completely deflates his arguments by defending the actions of the President and his administration instead of focusing on digging into the supports for his debate. I wasn't looking for the President to be literarily drawn and quartered. But I was interested deeply in this perpetual campaign that McClellan talks about and would have liked him to push harder into his reasoning, give a more candid account of the years he served the President, instead of a candy coated ex-girlfriend's defense of the man she hopes to get back with.


P.S. I was going along so well this year and then dropped into the land of the living dead (aka migraine city and sick kids and I could go on). But now I'm back and I'm sorry for the schedule f* up. I will post up the video of the last book opening for this set (24) later today!