Katie Arnoldi, 2008, 255 p.
First of all, I must say that I’m really annoyed because there’s not enough time to do what I want to do, which is to go out and buy Ms. Arnoldi’s first book (Chemical Pink) IMMEDIATELY and then spend the day reading it. I can’t do this, though – too many irons in the fire. For now I’ll just have to be satisfied with memories of Ms. Arnoldi’s terrific sophomore effort, The Wentworths.
This little satire packs a big punch, and from the very beginning I was thrilled to be immersed in the privileged world of these nasty, nasty people. They were so much fun to hate. The father and eldest son (August and Conrad) are philandering megalomaniacs who think nothing of destroying the psyches of the women they use and discard so frivolously. The mother, Judith, is a monstrous caricature of a wealthy matriarch. She is so class-conscious that she gets offended if someone who is “beneath” her even deigns to look in her direction. Becky, the daughter, is a tightly-wound, drug-addicted mess, and Norman, the son, is a cross-dressing homosexual with some rather severe mental health problems. There are other characters as well, some major, others minor, but all have a significant part to play in this drama.
I found myself feeling inappropriate emotions during some key parts of the story. For instance, when Judith is having conniptions about her missing sugar tongs, I actually felt sorry for her. The tongs were a symbol of Judith’s need to always be in control. When they went missing, Judith began to unravel. The world was not revolving around her the way it should be. The best part of the entire novel happened when the tongs were sneakily returned to their proper place and Judith decided to wrap them up and stash them away, perhaps forever. She was evolving into a better person. How marvelous!
Also, I found the part when Norman almost got shot and wet his pants to be highly amusing. I don’t know if this was Ms. Arnoldi’s intent; maybe I should just chalk it up to my demented sense of propriety. For some reason, Norman kind of reminded me of a Shakespearean clown (and Judith was Lady MacBeth). His bitchy first person observations on everything from his dysfunctional family to man’s inhumanity to man were the most engaging elements of the story. I wanted more Norman. There was not enough of him.
In fact, there was not enough novel altogether. Like David Mamet says on the cover, it was “too short.” I want more! Ms. Arnoldi absolutely must write a sequel. Until then, I guess I’ll have to be satisfied with this little “prequel.” Get a move on, Katie!