“Vera said: “Why do you feel you have to turn everything into a story?” so i told her why :
Because if i tell the story, i control the version.
Because if i tell the story, i can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me .
Because if i tell the story, it doesn’t hurt as much
Because if i tell the story, i can get on with it. ”
-From Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Truth is this is not the type of novel i would pick up and read more than a page or two, why ? Because though the writer, according to Google god, speaks out as a feminist voice, i sort of felt confused, on the one hand, yes, the character appears on a television show and faces a priest who represents the right wing American hypocrites who do not believe in sex education , who think that women and girl who dress sexy are to be blamed for sexual attacks, she is a hero! All i could do was applaud! I wanted to scream : “Just on time” and at the same time i wondered whether Jennifer Wiener is related to Anthony Wiener , and i thought about how tired i am of novels that reduce everything to sexuality, that everything seems to revolve around sexuality, that if a couple is not having sex, something is wrong , rather than to see deeper into the issues a couple may face like that they do not have enough in common, that sexual attraction is just not enough to make a couple stay together in modern times when a woman can choose to walk away.
These are confusing times, and life is no longer divided into black and white , well, for most of us, for those of us not living in the bible belt, there is a whole spectrum of colors, somewhere over the rainbow..and there are many many topics that come up between a couple and i do with Jennifer Wiener would have discussed those issues more in depth. To her credit, though, Jennifer Wiener is a talented story teller and she describes the frustration of not knowing where you stand with your husband and yes, i definitely thought this is about her life, and her voice ,and all about her , and yet i thought where does she get that kid that sings broadway ones and is able to show so much empathy?
The problem with this book is that it is shallow, it does not really describe what it is like to raise children, the complexity, the way there is no happy end, no princess Jasmin, no family getting along, and too many times NO resolution at all.. there is no happy end, there is just an end.
The book made me think of my own family, my own children, my own divorce and it was perhaps thanks to therapy that did not seem to help at all at the time but helped me reflect as my therapist sat watching me like a hound dog waiting for me to reveal all the colors that make me true, and get away from the black and white vision i inherited from my mother who got married in the 1950’s and carried with her those old notions about women being beautiful and their success measured by their ability to capture an alpha male.
There are several themes dealt with in this book; failure to communicate in a marriage, sexuality, being a mother and having a career, mother-daughter relations, indigo children, involvement of parents in children’s lives, communication on all levels, addictions, honesty, double lives, and resolution.
This novel helped me realise that maybe all those people in my family who are not communicating honestly may have an addiction problem i am not aware of, maybe my sister who lied to me since i can remember about everything , actually is addicted to some pills and does not , as i suspected, simply have a lousy personality that seems to enjoy other people suffering , a sadist , raised by sadist relatives who had inflicted on her physical abuse, and when does the family trap of abuse end?
The problem with novels like Jennifer Wiener is that they offer very easy solutions , the family saga is cured, the mother repents, and yes, addiction is a long way, but what about the denial that eats away at any chance of a healthy recovery?
I once tried to confront my mother about her behaviour and asked questions and she threatened to jump in front of a tram if i continue to investigate and do we learn to suppress , we learn to deny, we learn to bury our questions, we follow the Greek Tragedy ‘s curse of killing our father and marrying our mother or the other way around, now here is a story that is honest, this is what i want a novel to say, how life is a tragedy and a comedy at the same time, but not a made for Hollywood movie.No, life is NOT that simple, otherwise there would not be place for psychoanalysis.
No, life is not about 12 easy or difficult steps someone wrote down, it is about yours own writing down the bones, your own steps, your own writing, and your own happy end that does not necessary make for a pretty movie to watch for couples in denial who think, one movie date, we need to go out more, to enjoy life more, rather than face the truth, that there are more things on heaven and earth than are in your imagination, that life is not a happy end, happily ever after , it is sometimes a Greek tragedy with blood and guts and people getting hurt and killed off and not able to make it to the final scene.
These are interesting times we are living in, Hillary Clinton tried to write a novel that is easy to read with a happy end, with a mama bear and papa bear and then grandma bear and grandpa bear but Monica Lewinsky was not Goldilocks and if we are to include jewish or other ethnic origins than the white bread American WASPs shiksas that decorate the Hollywood screenplays blond and simple and shallow, like woody Allen’s question in “Annie Hall”, excuse me, he asks a handsome WASPy looking couple walking down a New York street, “What is it that makes your relationship work?”
“I am shallow and he has nothing to say”
Woody Allen shocked Hollywood and the millions of movie fans who followed his career anticipating film after film by marrying his adopted Korean daughter, a plot no one had dreamed of, not even Roman Polansky, and yet, THIS is exactly what happens in life, the unexpected because there is so much going on beneath the surface that is not known that dictates events and people are not puppets who are easily moved and act in simple puppet ways like Jennifer Wiener wants us to believe .
No, virginia, there is no santa claus nor prince charming, and for Margaret there might not be a god.
Jennifer Wiener did address some issues such as denial and describes in a very honest authentic way what it must be like to go through rehab but she did not describe well enough what happens to the failures of rehab, such as Amy Winehouse, Jewish and not Jewish alike, who end up dead , who end up sad, who end up alone without any supportive family or friends? Because this is the most likely screenplay most people do not want to see, people want to go to the movies and laugh and pretend that there is a happy end.
I personally do not believe in a happy end as described by Hollywood, i don’t think anyone can bring anyone else happiness, i think it is an inside job and therefore i do not think that finding mr right or staying married necessarily means a happily ever after life, i don’t think happiness is some goal, but i do believe in deep diving into one self and in disconnecting from toxic family and past friends and starting all over, as much as it is scary and full of traps and losses, i do believe that life is not black and white and not a smooth ride up or down, but a ride full of ups and downs and curves and bends and that whatever you do, still goes on, even if you and your marriage or your relationship , do not.
The poet Robert Frost, a man who had more than his share of sorrow and personal challenges, had said about life, that he is only sure of one thing about life and that is that it does go on.
Jennifer Wiener’s life goes on , but it always under control, somehow, there is no breakdown at the end of the dark tunnel that is light, there is falling down and getting up again, and as a Jew, i do not see this the Jewish way of seeing life, Franz Kafka’s beetle did not wake up as a butterfly, and Philip Roth’s characters do not all of the sudden grow to be sweet and kind and easy, no, for me a typical Jewish writer is first of all not typical and then brutally honest, in laughing and in crying, saying: this is life, deal with it, but look at it , take a long look and see it as it is, not as you would like it to be.
Jennifer Wiener and Anthony Wiener and Hillary Clinton and her assistant are the sort of people that say, well, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall but it can be pieced together again, but i remember that the poem goes on to say “And all the kings men and all the king’s horses could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again” but that is alright, because Leonard Cohen says that it is through the cracks that the light gets in, but it is a crack, nothing ever is alright again, once we see it for what it is , a disappointing relationship, a heartbreak, nothing will ever be the same again, you can not glue back the pieces of who you used to be but you can start new and become something else, not Humpty Dumpty, not sitting on walls, breaking and accepting that it alright to break , to break up, to fall down.
Maybe Jennifer Wiener also has this message of allowing one to fall down but then sometimes the sun does not shine tomorrow , because the shadows linger longer than the movie lasts, and we leave the cinema theater sad disappointed and not believing anything anyone says, because we know life is not a Broadway play, and the Miserables too were not miserable enough to depict how miserable life is, like Woody Allen says: Life is miserable and then there is more misery. Like that joke about two old Jewish ladies in the catskills mountains vacation resort who complain about the terrible food and why it is served in such small portions?That is Jewish humour, that is how we see life, it is miserable but we complain it is not enough .
Not every writer with a Jewish name is a Jewish writer, and not every Wiener is a wiener..
But if you have to kill some time waiting for a flight or like me , recovering from a bad cold in bed, there are better ways of spending time, maybe digging deeper, and maybe rediscovering Freud and Jung or just laughing at the absurdity while waiting for something that may never happen , for someone , the brilliant Irish writer depicts as Godot, just will never show up, or when he does, no one will be waiting any longer but will be gone..