Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Wonder Singer

It's a cold, rainy fall day. It makes my joints feel like someone beat me with a baseball bat while I slept. Mia's first day at dance class went well. Jesse had to take her, and he texted me while watching her so that I could feel like I was a part of it. She came home euphoric and wore her ballet shoes until I made her take them off. Doogie got home before Molly woke up. She was out late at a football game, and he worked until 10:30 pm and then spent the night at his dad's. But all three kids are home now, and that is when I'm the most complete. Jesse left around 10 to spend the weekend with his brother Dave, but other than his absence, the house is noisy and full.

I'm listening to a CD boxed set called Like, Omigod! It's the 80s! It's seven, yes seven, CDs with everything you loved and hated about music in the 1980s. Right now Dolly Parton's singing 9-5. There are a few songs that I've skipped over (Turning Japanese didn't thrill me even when I was 10), but I'm totally loving listening to Air Supply and Tommy Tutone. If you grew up in the 80s, in the age of Valley Girls and when Molly Ringwald ruled the silver screen, you have to check out this set. You'll be wearing a side ponytail and legwarmers in no time. :D

The Wonder Singer by George Rabasa is the mesmerizing tale of a writer who becomes so obsessed with the object of the biography he's ghostwriting, he loses his wife and his sanity. Mark Lockwood has been hired to write the biography of famed opera soprano Merce Casals. This is a step up from the nihilistic series How to Talk to Your Teen he's been writing, as well as freelancing brochures and ads for anyone who comes up with the cash. Mark sits with the diva for six hours a day recording the stories of her life and immersing himself in her memories, until the day Merce's nurse, Perla, finds her dead in the bathtub. Now the demand for Casal's story has skyrocketed, and a high profile Hollywood writer has been hired to write it. Mark's tapes are of value; Mark himself is not. So Mark absconds with the tapes and hides out with Perla and a Merce fan named Oscar who dresses in drag and lipsynchs to the diva's recordings. Throw in Merce's husband Nolan who was banished from her life to a retirement home, and the story is quirky in all the right ways. The story flips between the tale of Mark's quest for this story and his actual telling of Merce's life. Rabasa has a talent for writing beautifully, poignant passages: In the end the voice does what it wants. It's never hungry or thirsty, hot or cold, never sad or angry, guilty or innocent. It doesn't shop or gossip or tingle to another's touch. It just is what is wants to be. In the end of Merce's long and eventful life, she sought only to be happy within herself, and that is the lesson that she imparts to Mark and the reader as well. Lyrical and funny, this is the perfect book for a rainy, fall day.

Now Bill Withers' Just the Two of Us is on. When I was a kid, I used to change the lyrics to Just the Three of Us, because I was an only child, and I couldn't imagine that my parents ever wanted to be without me! I really did think that three was the magic number.