What starts up as an Insider’s Guide to storage in L.A. develops into a diary by Holden Caulfield’s bitch-sister, grown up into another alienated and out of joint L.A. wife.
Judith was a thoroughly unpleasant daughter with a borderline personality disorder of a father who grew tomatoes in Nebraska and a mother in Vermont who collected nasty pronouncements about marriage in general and her father in particular. (“Our marriage, like all marriages, was happy until it wasn’t.” “Your father seemed happiest living in the rooms the rest of us weren’t permitted to enter.”)
Today Judith is a thoroughly unpleasant and increasingly dissociated wife who believes that her husband is having an affair with his fastidious secretary Miss Metcalfe.
By Chapter Ten, Judith has decided to move into her storage space, along with her old furniture, an identity named “Edie Winks” and her fantasies of an old beau in Rufus Sage, Nebraska…
The story flickers back and forth between the teenage Judith and the Judith in storage, much like Judith herself flickers on and off between emotional positions, postures, roles.
When she catches some of her wealthy highschool students plagiarizing their English papers, Carly wants to fail them. Instead, the School Headmistress tells her that she is being vindictive, and that Carly must overlook the “childish lapse in judgement” and give them another chance. It is on that very same morning that Carly is told that her grandmother has died, that she has inherited a house in Tulula, Mississippi.
It is not obvious that an educated single woman would want to leave San Francisco for a tiny little Southern town where little old ladies go to buy antiques and collectibles. And yet, Carly is charmed. She is also willful, pragmatic, resourceful, and a good cook. She does not look in a mirror in order to describe herself to us. She does not go shopping for shoes. She does not think about clothes, or boys. She buys books. She thinks about her white trash mother and her insecure childhood. She longs for a family she does not have. She wants to be useful, helpful, economic.
Perhaps the will to be economic is taking the place of the will to be free, for this type of woman, this type of American, in this type of century.
There is no question that there is a story here, about an otherwise nice city and an otherwise nice cop who is married to a rather understanding Englishwoman. But it is not a story about the city and the cop and the Englishwoman in the 1960s.
It is not enough to reference an occasional Communist, to talk about Reds, or to look for a microdot. Crimes, too, need to be referenced with other crimes on the street at the time. To write about a cop in the sixties is not to write about a cop in 2011, without the cell phone , the laptop and the extra 30 pounds. Something must be also be said about what people who the cop doesn’t know assume, believe, and feel. What are the truisms of 1967? What are the common sense things that “everybody” knows so well that nobody needs to say anything about? Still yet, what are the things that nobody talks about and everybody sort of knows? Things not spoken earmark an era.
Unfortunately, the sixties just seem to get in the way of this story. The characters, however, are strong and sturdy types and deserve a place in 21st century Connecticut or New York or London. As do the criminals, and the sexual deviances.
A ruthlessly intelligent localization of the seven deadly sins, California style.