Saturday, December 08, 2007

i think my mom even has that sari

Back in October when 30 consecutive days of posting were glaring at me from the calendar, I put out a request for post ideas. Guyana Gyal suggested I let loose a stream of consciousness--with no editing*. I tried it a few times, but most of my consciousness streams are just spouty releases of my mental circus of neverending worry: How's the job thing going to work out? Is my brother going to make fun of the woolly socks I'm knitting him for Christmas? Will I be able to make my mortgage payments next year? Did I forget to set Pushing Daisies to record? Am I going to have to run for the bus again tomorrow morning? Are H and I going to have to move to Poughkeepsie to be in the same zip code? Are we out of oatmeal?

But I just watched a movie that liquified my already-chewy center, so I'm feeling a little more consciousness-streamy than usual. It made me cry the good cry. You know the one: when the tears slip down their tracks and make a puddle in the hollow of your neck. As opposed to the ones that fall off the side of your face and into your ears. I really hate those; they're uncomfortable. But mostly because things must be really, truly crappy if I've burrowed under the covers to let it all out.

It was the movie based on The Namesake, a Jhumpa Lahiri book I read years ago and adored, not just for the premise of not knowing where you belong (with which I identify very strongly), but because there weren't any flowery descriptions or clever setups; the author just said it how it was. And honest, that IS how it was for me. The extremely specific details snuck up on me like a fight scene from the Batman tv show. The author was just going along talking about these Indian people trying to get their footing in America and BAM! I recognized the nervous excitement from snapshots of my mom getting off the plane here in 1977. POW! I saw a freeze-frame from an auntie party in my own living room in 1995. WHAM! I heard a snide remark like ones I made to my friends back in junior high. I knew these things were coming, but I had no idea they would hit me so very squarely upside the head.

I gave the book to my mother and she identified with the characters too; mostly the parents' struggle to figure out what the heck they were doing when they got here and how to hold on then let go of their children after they'd sort of gotten an idea. However, other people have said the story was too typical. Cliche even. And that might be true; this is a land of immigrants. But aren't we all just writing about what we know and hoping somebody else will read it and get what we're trying to say? I know I am, most of the time.

One thing's for sure: I've never had a story capture feelings of my own experience so precisely that the glimpse of a mustache in the cold drawer of a morgue seemed so potentially familiar that my heart constricted in panic, if only for a second.






*Sorry, gg, I had to edit. The actual stream-of-consciousness version of this post didn't make no kind of sense.

15 comments:

lia from luebeck, germany said...

I had the same reaction to the movie that you did. I'm not sure what people consider cliche or too typical. Is it the snapshots of poignant moments of alienation? The quiet but everlasting struggle to feel connected to family, culture... life? For most of us who have never known what it is like to have firmly spread roots, this story rings true.

Alexandra said...

going on the book list!

Becky said...

yeah, i knew i wanted to see the movie, but now that i know that it's based on a book, i am totally on my way to the bookstore.

jinius said...

havent seen the movie version but i loved the book. i think any child of immigrants could def identify with the characters of the book. i hope she comes out with a new book soon. btw, what do u think of time traveler's wife so far?

cadiz12 said...

The Namesake is one of my all-time favorites. I fell in love with the Time Traveler's Wife and then had to put it down for awhile because life got crazy. Unfortunately, i spent a lot of time hyping it up that i sort of overhyped it for myself. but i'd still recommend it. i thought the premise and the way the timeline is set up was compelling.

also, even though a lot of it takes place in the 1990s and 2000s, they're always talking about wearing dresses and suits. i totally want to dress like that (mostly because i'm in love with the way the girls dress on "Pushing Daisies.") but i do recommend TTW.

naechstehaltestelle said...

I love your book recommendations. Always gets me looking at the English bookstore. Now I just need some time to read...

Lia said...

I'm not so good about branching out in my reading options - I used to read everything, but at some point, without meaning to, I started reading only certain genres. Still, that sounds really cool - to find a book that really tells your own story. Glad you enjoyed it.

WORDofRYE said...

"Are we out of oatmeal?" I love how the little things creep into the bigger thoughts.

I have neither seen that movie nor read the book ... I will have to put it on my list!

Librarian Girl said...

I'm totally DYING to see that movie. My next free night and I am totally going to get that!

Sphincter said...

I'm SO seeing that movie! Thanks for the review!

omar said...

Move to Poughkeepsie!!

Guyana-Gyal said...

Edited or not your posts always capture so much.

This is the second time this week someone's mentioned The Namesake...and you know what's strange...it was on Sunday too, at lunch with some friends.

I have the DVD [the original, not pirated yay!] waiting for me to see the movie version. I think my cousin Lis has the book, I'm going to search through her belongings [stored here at our home] heh. If not, I'll go bookstore hunting.

cadiz12 said...

the book is definitely better, but i always tend to think so. i'm touched you guys are inspired to check it out!

Jon said...

Other people? I'll call them critics for now just so I can say that there's always going to be critics. Forget about them. I've always maintained that each individual brings their entire life into everything they read, therefor it's improper, if not down right insulting to tell a person how to interpret what they read, or more specifically, to tell them they aren't reading it correctly.

This concludes my soapbox snippet. Thank you.

willowtree said...

I've seen The Namesake three times now, and it's not even that it was so superb of a movie, (youre right, the book is better) but every time I watch it, the feeling is the same, some strange familiarity wells up.
While the book is largely based on Gogol, I liked that the movie focused a bit more on the love story between his parents. Taking on that aspect did add a bit of grounding to a story that could otherwise be nonchalantly passed over. I was so happy that I was alone the first time I watched it. I appreciated allowing my tears to flow freely, and not having to explain them to another soul.