I was reading my Kindle and was about seven percent of my way through the novel.
'I talked her out of her pants, cupped the twin, tiny globes of her *** with my palms, and pushed my lips right inside her soft, vital *****.'
Christ. I zapped the Kindle a few more random pages more:
'I am so sick of making out with girls.'
Oh, please no, please no. Not my choice for Book Club.
I could imagine in front rooms throughout The Enchanted Village, Mrs Bancroft choking on her melba toast or Mrs Champagne-Charlie spluttering on her gin and tonic. Pelly Sheepwash would be tut-tutting, Darling Loggins would be in bed with her nightie laced up to the neck and, over in the Caribbean, the fragrant Mrs Putter would be chuckling on a sunbed on her 18 to 70 holiday, with Mr Putter coming out of the sea in snorkel and flippers like Sean Connery in Dr No.
And the lovely Mabel Lucie-Attwell would be quite stern, a look I have never seen her wearing before.
It had to happen to someone. But why me? Why did I have to choose Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart?
Because it's had great reviews. And anything imaginative pushes my buttons. And the point of the book club, I told myself, is to stretch ourselves, to read things we might not normally read, to shift ourselves from our comfort zones. It did that all right. With some books, you're wrapped in a comfy sofa cloud. With this one, it was like sitting on razor wire.
But I ploughed on and tried to forget about what my ladies might think. And then I got to a point where I cared about poor Lenny and Eunice and their love story in a dystopian New York, set slightly in the future. An America in hock to China, where youth and credit ratings are valued above all else, where everyone talks to and finds out about each other via their electronic devices, a debased society where women dress in sheer leggings called Onionskins with everything splayed out for all to see.
I recalled some obscene conversations I had seen written by younger Facebook friends and their suggestive photos. I thought about little girls dressed up like mini-mes, old before their time. The characters in Super Sad True Love Story, desensitized to shocks, weren't so far fetched after all. A shallow society based on what people look like. A Great Gatsby for the new age.
And in this sad vision of the world ahead of us, there were moments of poetry, moments of beauty and rhythm, especially when Lenny describes the landscape and his hopeless hopes for the future:
'Gray clouds bearing some kind of industrial remnant moved into the foreground; a yellow substance etched itself into the horizon, became the horizon, became the night. As the sky darkened, we found ourselves enclosed on three sides by the excess of civilization, yet the ground beneath our feet was soft and green, and behind us lay a hill bearing trees as small as ponies. We walked in silence, as I sniffed the sharp, fruity facial creams that Eunice wore to fight off old age, mixed in with just a hint of something alive and corporeal. Multiple universes tempted me with their existence. Like the immutability of God or the survival of the soul, I knew they would prove a mirage, but still I grasped for belief. Because I believed in her.'
What could have been an American Nightmare had remnants of the American Dream, a tiny element of hope in a world that time would have been better to forget.
So, with head held high, I beat on against the current down to Pelly Sheepwash's house and the hard time I knew I was going to get. Because I had not chosen wisely. But I had chosen and, for me, that was good enough.
That's about it.
Love Maddie x
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