Wednesday, July 26, 2006

the Wall Street Journal gave me nightmares

On Saturday, the WSJ ran a rave review of "Ruins" by Scott Smith, an unusually strong review ending with a plea for Mr. Smith not to take so long to provide the world with another book (he wrote one prior book in the '90s, which I never read. When I was practicing law, I NEVER had time to read anything more than the paper, which I tried to read on the bus going downtown. Just about the only things I read in the '90s were "The Pelican Brief", which associates furtively passed around at my law firm, hissing, "It's so true" and Camille Paglia's giant book about art, sexual roles, and history, which I lugged around for months). I had to go to a bookstore anyhow on Sunday, because I had promised Iris some beautiful books she wanted as her reward for enduring a root canal (yes, I am a bad parent: my child had an abscessed tooth requiring a root canal and a cap. The dentist said judgmentally to me, "I hope you knew this was going on", which left me to wonder: wouldn't I have been a worse parent if I'd known my child had a cavity and I didn't bring her in? Puzzled, Iris asked me, "Are cavities supposed to hurt?" She had never felt a twinge). So of course I grabbed one of the two remaining copies of "Ruins", even though I'm not supposed to buy books due to budget issues. Hey, the WSJ made me do it! It's my husband's fault for splurging and renewing the WSJ! The bookstore guy said, "This is the hot book."

I read "The Ruins" on Monday (I am a powerful speed reader, which is actually bad because it leaves me craving more; I'm a gaping maw seeking books now that I'm not overworked as a lawyer). I didn't realize from the WSJ that the applicable genre here was not suspense, but horror. And horror it was. The book was masterfully unsettling, disturbing, and whatever adjectives you feel like throwing in along those veins. I finished it up around midnight, and of course, my sleep was utterly fucked. I had horrific nightmares, when I could doze off.

The next day, the mood lingered. Driving to a preschool group playdate, I pondered what I would have done in the characters' place. It was all too real-feeling. As I was getting Lucy out of the car, my friend Tina called out, "Carole" behind me, and I must have looked insane as I jumped. Thankfully Tina is also a horror aficionado and after I explained my state of mind as being book-induced, she determined to drive to her favorite bookstore and procure "The Ruins", rather than wait to hook up and borrow my copy.

Lucy lived her own nightmare yesterday: the heat left her lethargic and crabby, lurching around the playground like a zombie. We left the playdate early and went to the beach, but she cried that it was too windy. We went to a grocery store to buy her Fudgsicles, but she cried that it was too cold in the store. Back in the heat, she fell asleep in the car, and I ran in leaving the front door open, put our Fudgsicles in the freezer and grabbed "The Ruins", and ran back out, where I sat in the car re-reading sections of "The Ruins" and waiting for her to wake up. When she did, she had a fever, which was brought down by Fudgsicles. Today she has a slight sunburn on her feet on the parts which were covered by her sandals when I applied sunscreen, as she must have taken her sandals off just long enough to burn. It's her first sunburn, and she's feeling proud and dramatic. I, on the otherhand, am still preoccupied by "The Ruins" and feeling just a bit off.


Freewheel said...

After I read the title of your post, I mistakenly assumed that you had read one of their editorials.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Heh. I never read the editorials, never. I don't read the Op Ed page, either. Those sections are just guaranteed to make my blood pressure rise. What I read, normally, is the front page, the front page of each other section, the Mossberg column on technology, the "Green Thumb" column on personal finances, and most of the lifestyles section. My husband and I are addicted to the journalism; we were loving the options-backdating scandal the WSJ broke right when our subscription ran out. After about a month of going without (due to budgetary concerns), he snapped and resubbed us, just in time for the WSJ to give me nightmares. I still feel a bit off.

Freewheel said...

I don't subscribe to WSJ, but when I have a chance to read it I start with the far-left column on the front page. That usually has some very good journalism.

nm said...

I am sorry to say that I cannot agree with your review of The Ruins. I read it shortly after I read all of your blog posts, expecting to be genuinely horrified, but unfortunately, that was not the case. The story was so fantastical that it became unbelievable.
However, I plan on reading Eating People is Wrong by Malcolm Bradbury (which you have also spoken highly of) and I hope that I agree with you on this book. I love your blog and have been a silent fan for a very long time now.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Dear Natalie, I'm sorry "The Ruins" was a dud for you. Thanks for posting!

I've read some good books lately but have been behind on doing reviews. I'll try to do that soon (it's been on my mental to do list for a while).