Sunday, September 01, 2013

While Scraping Wallpaper

First, scraping wallpaper sucks. It started out as a breeze - much of the two random squares of paper came off pretty easily. Now I'm down to the patches by the baseboards, and of course, that's the part that is turning out to be a bitch. It's coming off in fingernail-sized scoops of gluey backing paper, and it is taking FOREVER. I will get it done, I will sand and prime the walls before the boys show up to put in the cabinets. But it is a bitch.

While scraping the walls for HOURS, I finished an outstanding audiobook. It was another of Audible's "surprise" $4.95 special offers, and it sounded intriguing and had great reviews, and my one credit per month was still a few days off, and did I mention I was scraping wallpaper? So I gave it a shot. The Barbarian Nurseries: A Novel

How had I never heard of this novel? It was on many "best book of the year" lists, yet I'd never even seen the title in passing - and a title that odd is one I think I'd have remembered. I need to pay more attention to these lists.

This book is almost indescribably good, and the author can capture a scene, a character, so perfectly, and use words with such beautiful efficiency, he puts you in the scene. Whether it's a beautiful and sterile gated community overlooking the Pacific, or a scarily dangerous neighborhood in Los Angeles inhabited by the good, the bad, and the screwed up, the reader is there, hearing, seeing and smelling it - and he does it with an almost surgical precision of small, perfectly chosen images. In less talented hands, the plot - a "perfect" Southern California family crumbling, and a resentful, taciturn Mexican housekeeper finds herself forced to participate in their very "rich white people problems" family drama - would not have held my interest. Instead, it's a wild ride full of colorful personalities and small moments of heartbreak and hilarity, and the characters grow, change and learn about themselves, the hard way. I did think the author perhaps worked a little hard to create a "happily ever after" ending that was a bit improbable for one of the characters (see me avoiding spoilers?) but improbable though it was, it was happy.

I loved this book. And as an audiobook, I'd put it up there withBeautiful Ruins: A Novel as a fabulous listen. It got me through hours of scraping wallpaper - I kept scraping and listening, transported from my aggravating labor, and seriously, what more needs to be said?

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