Considering all that women have to go through in middle age, should we care about a middle aged man’s angst? Well, Richard Russo does in his new book, That Old Cape Magic. His main character has angst out the ying yang. His name is Jack Griffin and is married to Joy and they have a daughter, Laura. And Jack has one hell of a set of parents. College professors as snobby and uppity as one can be without having any money. They always vacation on the Cape. When they’re crossing the Sagamore Bridge, they begin to sing “That old cape magic” to the tune of “that old black magic”. They always looked for a summer home but found them to be either “wouldn’t take it as a gift” or “can’t afford it!” Joy comes from a large, loving family where all of the children’s names begin with “J”. Jack can’t stand them and they can’t stand him. Jack never lets Joy and Laura have anything at all to do with his parents. Then Laura’s best friend gets married and then Laura is to get married, and the marriage that Jack and Joy have cobbled together, gets uncobbled, or as Griffin puts it, “that he and Joy where now out of plumb”. Read more…
They had a bubble in their marital foundation and the skyscraper was beginning to come down. Jack’s craft is screenwriting. At times, Griffin tells his story as a screen play. “(Griffin)Husband (petulant), Proof you love our daughter. (Joy)Wife: I do love our daughter. (Griffin)Husband (bitter)” etc etc. It’s a great technique.
The crux of the story is really Jack’s relationship with his parents. Are his parents really monsters and despicable? How much of a reflection is he of them?
I love Russo’s writing style. Sometimes his compound sentences can get to you but look what he is able to convey in this sentence. “Where Cape Cod somehow managed to give the impression that July lasted all year, Maine reminded you, even in lush late spring, of its long, harsh winters, of snowdrifts that rotted baseboards and splintered latticework, of relentless winds that howled in the eaves and scoured paint, leaving gutters rusted with white salt. Even the people looked scoured…”
Here is a central puzzle to the story. See if you can figure it out. After a few minutes, I did:
“heresto pands pen d
asoci al hourin har
mles smirt hand funl
etfri ends hipre ign
bei usta ndkin dan
devil spe akof no ne”
And if you can figure out how to use the term “fart hammer” in a sentence, let me know.