Writing reviews for examiner.com is a thankless job resulting in remuneration of the copper Lincoln kind, even in the months I consume and comment on many books. I suppose I have not worked to generate a following and the opinion of an aging and anonymous female counts for little.
So why do I bother?
The push to write minimum one review per month gives me the impetus to read books I would never pull off the shelf, under the illusion that I make a difference. And I do, to myself.
Monday, I read "The Sun and Other Stars" by Brigid Pasulka. Her debut novel, "A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True", received the Hemingway PEN Award. Reading this novel set in a seaside Italian town taught me a great deal about the sport internationally known as football. Pasulka made a point of satirizing Americans and their lack of knowledge regarding what we call soccer.
Yet, within her frequent jabs, Pasulka misstated American realities. Twenty-two-year old Etto observes that his mother left California's shallow history, in search of something deeper. As happens so often, from a civilized perspective, a writer ignores the reality that indigenous peoples occupied California from at the very least 17,000 B.C.E. His mother wouldn't have had to cross the ocean to find civilizations with a deeper history than Hollywood, though this is the general consensus of many Western culture observers who are not from this state.
(This pet peeve also surfaces when I visit Boston and experience the upturned noses of the American History elite.)
What was most revealing, however, was a reference to pop culture. Pasulka referred to Pamela Anderson running on the beach in a red bikini as an iconic moment. My radar went up and I thought, "She means Bo Derek!"
I was right that Pamela Anderson's appearance in a red bathing suit, though compelling, did not inspire the Smithsonian to put it on display. I swore to my kids that it was Derek who ran along the beach, hair in corn rows, wearing the famous red maillot. I could see a poster displaying the suit, clear as a chocolate brownie. But I was wrong, wrong, wrong.
The red suit in my mind was not photographed in the movie "10", but rather on a seated Farrah Fawcett. “It’s an honor to see Farrah’s famous red bathing suit donated to the Smithsonian Institution, celebrating her place in pop culture,” said Ryan O’Neal. “The swimsuit is exactly where it belongs, and I know Farrah is looking down on us today flashing that big smile that we all loved.”
Bo Derek's suit in her epoch moment was nude.
All this to say, reading novels takes me to exotic locales, where I experience the fully-realized, sensual world of Etto's San Benedetto. But it also takes me into my self, where I discover distortions within my frame of reference. Googling Pasulka's Pamela Anderson claim, I was forced to recognize vulnerabilities in my memory, which leaves me wondering what other false realities I claim.
Maybe Scott Housenga wasn't as mean to me in sixth grade as I thought. Letting that go could change my life.