Two London twits, one Giantess and one Mum, run a domestic agency, performing unlovable chores for unlovable wives with money. The two twits rehash I Love Lucy daffiness during the subprime era of extravagance. Another dose of the English language fading into bad American dialogue and imitation Hollywood idiocy.
There is something beautiful and more than beautiful about these women who enjoy their kitchens, who love all the rooms of domesticity. Jane gives us wives, book club ladies and hostesses, in Manhattan or Westchester, well groomed and well mannered and well off, obedient to husbands or mothers in law or schedules. Some are jolly and educated New Englanders, old and odd, wealthy and artsy and irrepressible. The plot? It is as comforting as warm bread, about women organizing people and things; themselves and each other. One woman most of all: Callie Perry, who has always been the happy center of many friendships.
It could be any small college town and any next door neighbor. But the town is Promise Falls and the neighbors next door are The Langleys. The story begins when they are murdered. Bert the policeman investigates the neighborhood, starting with Jim Cutter’s house.
Jim has been many things: a painter, a salesman, a chauffeur. Now he is the guy who mows the lawn. The story moves quickly, in and out of the private indiscretions of a mayor, a driver, an ex-con, a hooker, husbands, wives, cuckolds.
The pace of discovery is faster than the pace of ordinary life: the difference is what we call “a thrill”.
Let’s just say that murders happened in the middle of other things: a cop, a lawyer, a fire investigator get up, they fight with their wives, they eat. Sometimes they think. The law is something they think about. How it came to be what it is, where it came from, when it changed. If you have a father who reads, who respects the history of things, who loves the Law, you think about what a lawyer should be, what the law should be, what an institution like the law allows human beings to be.
In Europe, rich people sometimes keep a modest apartment in a poor or marginal area of their city. They call it their “pied a terre”. Translated, this means “foot on the ground”. It is said that their purpose in maintaining these small apartments is to remind them of their roots and to keep them in touch with reality. And that’s exactly why I always keep my copy of Letters To A Young Lawyer in my briefcase. The words within, the philosophy, Harris’ love of simplicity and reverence for the law, this is my psychological pied a terre.
“Don’t you know I’m going to live happily ever after anyway?”
After painting, waxing, polishing, wallpapering, and flowering up her old Nantucket house, Nan tells Sara about a man she met and loved. Sarah replies: but wouldn’t it be nice if you met him again and fell in love and lived happily ever after…?
It is then that Nan replies: “Don’t you know I’m going to live happily ever after anyway?” Thus an overgrammatical, nervously detailed book about women becomes a different kind of woman’s book. For it is a woman’s book. Men do not want to read about hypercritical wives with unemotional husbands. No, men do not want to read about the thousand layers of feelings baked into 3 women with marital problems. But then neither do women.
This is not just another old-woman-who-turns-an-old-house-into-a-bed-and-breakfast-and-finds-X (money, god, sex, success) book. This is a book about Nan, a lovely, lipsticked, free and sentimental gardener who smokes and bikes and lives in a big old house alone. Nan gathers around herself an assemblage of half couples, gay, divorced, confused and lonely. Somehow they mix and change each other — if only for the duration of a summer.
There is a kind of being found among artists, a being-with peculiar to art school graduates, children of artists, girlfriends of artists, gallery owners and oglers and agents and wives, proximate to art, attached to it but uncertain of it, what or where or whose it is. Both proximate and remote, like a cat in a black box of which one must say it is both dead and not dead.
Such is art. On occasion, the remoteness of art maddens the artist. Deflects him from himself. Forces him to account for what he both has and doesn’t have. Impossible. A problematic with the face of Chas M. Columbia graduate, with roots on 113th Street and Amsterdam, previously of Oyster Bay.
Someone one said life is just high school, on and on… The obnoxious little shit we recall from ninth grade becomes the obnoxious little shit in the White House.
Sharpen your pencils, open your looseleaf, sit up, take notes. This is an impressive, intelligent, well researched white-paper-thriller about silly, soppy, environmental theories and the well-funded, well publicized, well-established bureaucracies which profit by circulating them.
‘State of Fear’ is the coinage of a ‘Mental Ecologist’ whose hysterical critique of a toxic educational system and a Schumpeterian intellectual class is dead on.
There’s a cute, sissy lawyer; two femdoms; a kindhearted millionaire; and a handful of pissy, recognizable assholes: TV newsmen, marketing executives, graduate students, spoiled, wealthy wives with pet causes…..
Not idiot friendly. Thanks for that, MC.
Posted Date: 12/20/2004 8:09 pm
Utterly charming tale of British advertising executive fed up with the petty hysteria of bosses, clients and ex-wives. He quits. He drives to the south of France, meets a beautiful real estate agent, and opens a hotel. But things are not so simple…