The Late Lamented Molly Marx and I became reacquainted a couple of weeks ago when my husband was waiting in the author’s living room. Howard was early enough (or Rob was late enough) that he managed to read three chapters before Rob arrived. “Where’s your copy?” Howard asked me. The answer, of course, is “on the shelf,” but for us that means the bookshelves of either our weekend home or our apartment. So Howard had to wait several days before he dug in, during which he complained that he didn’t have the novel in hand. When I located it, he practically didn’t put it down until he finished. Next he wanted to talk about it, which we did. A lot. When he suggested I include it in my book review section on GenerationBSquared, my first thought was, “oh, but I read Molly Marx a couple of years ago.” My second was, “this is MY website and I can do whatever I want.” And what I want is to tell everyone how good this book is. Genre: um, sort of murder mystery, but not really. And, yes, full of romance and women characters, but definitely not chick lit. Told with charm and wit–Sally Koslow molds language to suit her purpose with remarkable ease–Molly Marx is really about people, how complicated we are a lot of the time, how for us two or three or four seemingly disparate ways of looking at something can all be true at the same time. The characters here are complex to begin with and then change over time. (Even dead people can change, it seems.) A cheating husband may love his wife. A cheating woman may want and need her marriage more than the “other” man about whom she’s crazy. Looked at from “the duration” (Sally’s non-judgmental word for the “hereafter”), life isn’t quite what we expect it to be. It means more, it means less. Shit happens. I won’t give away much of the plot: Molly turns up dead, and the author alternates the chapters between Molly’s eavesdropping from beyond and back story–some of it from before Molly’s death, some of it from the here and now. We meet Molly’s philandering husband, his set-your-teeth-on-edge rich-bitch mother (whom he calls every day, which, for those of use with sons, would be a dream). Her sister and parents are there to be loved and laughed with. Even the detective assigned to the case becomes more real and more brainy every time he appears. More admirable, too. Sally (we really are on a first name basis) actually gets the kid, Annabelle, right as well. It’s hard to write a child character without being too precious or too stilted, and Sally pulls this off. Now for my rant: A book as good as this should get more attention. Sally is not vying with Philip Roth for a Nobel Prize, nor is she trying out Don DeLilo’s post modern conventions. The Late, Lamented Molly Marx is a good read, an intelligent read, the kind of book that makes us think but does not necessarily make us struggle. The book has been translated into many languages. (“I can’t imagine why Turkish women would find Jewish mourning customs interesting,” Sally said to me.) It’s not on the shelves of my local library–one needs to reserve it. Still, in this age when sages are bemoaning the fate of the novel, here we have something perfect in its own way that needs and deserves a larger audience. Read the book. Enjoy it. Get back to me about it. (Clicking on the cover picture will take you to the Barnes & Noble Website.)
This is the email I received from my son this morning:
“Lauren got her mom a magazine subscription for Mothers’ Day. I asked her which magazine, and she said ‘Neurotic Weekly.’ I said, the cover would read, ‘Are You Forwarding Enough Articles About Health Hazards to Your Grown Children?’ What do you want for Mothers’ Day?”
Well, first off I might want him to stop misrepresenting me. Yes, I do forward a lot of news articles to my son, especially since The New York Times paywall went up. (We have a subscription; as an impoverished law student, my son does not.) But they’re on all kinds of stuff. Actually, mostly stuff having to do with Brooklyn. And then the occasional article about bedbugs.
(Bedbugs are a big one for me. Yesterday in a phone call, when my son told me the titles of some books he and his girlfriend had picked up from the street, I said to him—before even commenting on the lucky find—“quick, check the bindings for bedbugs.” He threw the books in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer instead. I’m not sure that works.)
So what do I want for Mother’s Day? This year that question feels a little fraught since I’m spending the day totally without family because I’m at our weekend house preparing the vegetable gardens for planting in a couple of weeks and trying to make sense of the flower gardens. The kids are studying for finals. Howard had to be in the city. So it’s me, myself and I, as we used to say.
Actually, it isn’t fraught at all. I’m perfectly content to cultive mon jardin and eat what I want when I want and not have to answer questions and stuff. OK. The last clause isn’t really true because my husband calls every few hours and the kids bombard me with IMs and emails. (We don’t get cell service here, so no texting.)
And actually, there’s nothing I really want for Mother’s Day, except the big things. World Peace. My kids happy, settled and employed. Health. More money. Lots of more money. Wait, I’m getting going here: published novels, lots of speaking engagements, world travel, an appearance on Rachel Maddow or Jon Stewart. (Where did that last item come from?)
Sure, a new Chloe pocketbook or a pair of Prada sandals might be cool. But I have a lot of stuff. A lot a lot.
Of course, whenever someone special—husband, kids—gives me something, that thing becomes special. On the shelf above my desk I have a picture my daughter drew in second grade in a Popsicle stick and macaroni frame titled, “New York City Mother’s Day Ballet.” Holding my books in place is a ceramic head of a wolf, gift from son when he was 9 or 10. Last year my son gave me a novel I wanted to read, my daughter tried to get me a new camera. (Long story.) I treasure these things. So perhaps I don’t mean it when I say, “I don’t want anything because I have so much.” Or “what I want is for all of us to be nice to each other.”
Stuff I really do want: an iPad2, though I can’t figure out what I need it for. The new iMac and MacBook Air laptop, but my three-year-old equipment is doing just fine. Also, those are out of my kids’ spending brackets, and I could never trust my husband to buy electronic equipment.
Unfortunately I can’t take part in the current Facebook meme where people are using photos of their moms as their profile pictures—I have no pictures of my mom on my hard drive (thanks to a few computer crashes several years ago when I used a PC and didn’t back up automatically I lost every digital photo I had taken before 2007.) Our all-in-one printers are old enough so as not to be fully compatible with the Snow Leopard OS, so I can’t scan in a picture. But here in my weekend house, I am so surrounded by my mom’s things. Half the furniture came from my parents’ house, not to mention the chachkas on the shelves and tables. So I am reminded of her all the time.
And my children are in my heart and mind all the time, even as they become more independent, more . . . adult.
I liked that when I looked at Facebook a few minutes ago, my friend Sally had posted a picture of her sons with their fiancées. She commented that before the end of 2011, she’ll have two beautiful daughters-in-law. Indeed, the young women are beautiful, and it’s probably one of the best gifts she’s ever received.
As for the magazine Lauren really sent to her mother: it’s called Cooks Ilustrated. My son came by his wiseguy stuff genetically, I think.