Is This a Book For The Heartbroken?
by Ruth Curry
A few weeks ago at a dinner party I (Ruth) accidentally started an argument with a stranger over Mortals, a novel by Norman Rush, which I confessed to “hate-reading.” Jonathan (the stranger) happens to be a Norman Rush expert—this sort of bad luck is mine and mine alone, I feel—and so I found myself in the awkward position of having to logically and instantly defend an opinion I had formed slowly and emotionally.
Mortals (spoiler alert!) is about the dissolution of a long, loving, and—it grosses me out to type this, but it’s a central concern—sexually satisfying marriage. We argued vocabulary, themes, prose style, were the sex scenes repulsive, Y/N (the phrase “His penis was dripping” was memorably incorporated), to no conclusion. I could tell Jonathan was dying to say something else, but feared doing so would be rude, so I said it for him: “I haven’t felt strongly about someone in a long time, so maybe there’s no way I’d find this relatable right now… ”
Unfortunately the dinner we had been waiting three hours to eat was served at precisely that moment, so I didn’t get the opportunity to finish, “… but ultimately that shouldn’t matter, because good literature should easily bridge the gap between personal experience and the universal, the general, or the specifically foreign experience.” At least that’s what I would have said if I hadn’t been ravenously devouring whatever food I could get my hands on.
I believe that, but I also believe that some books are more compelling at certain times in one’s life than at others, and our November book, The Terrible Girls by Rebecca Brown, is perhaps one of them. In an interview with Brown, included here, Emily asks, “Is this a book for the heartbroken?”