October 23, 2014 by carlywont
Well, it had to happen sooner or later. Three Books in a Tub failure. That’s right, ladies and gents, I’m not going to finish the Lone Star Lit Roundup. I couldn’t make it through The Liars Club for a myriad of reasons:
1) The story prominently features a “Nervous” mother and a fucked up family. I found this a little anxiety-invoking being a new mom and trying to create our little happy family. I found myself thinking about the mother in The Liars Club as I moved through the day taking care of our little E and it was beginning to freak me out. Thankfully I have enough self-awareness to know when a book is penetrating my thoughts too much.
2) The book was due back at the library one day. The library was closed when I went to drop it off and frankly, running errands is a little tough these days plus our budget is a little tight, so I didn’t feel like going back and renewing it when the library opened or paying the late due. Lazy and cheap, but true.
3) I had a hard time buying it. I’m always a little suspicious of memoirs (How do these people really remember all this stuff? How should I take the dialogue? Can I trust this author?), but this one was particularly hard to swallow since about half the book takes place when Mary Karr was 7 years old. Unless this 7 year old had unprecedented note-taking skills—on par with Harriet the Spy—I just can’t believe that she remembers what animal she was looking at at the zoo when her mom was smoking a cigarette. These thoughts nagged me every time I read it and honestly ruined a lot of the beautiful detail in the book for me. Call me a skeptic, ‘cause that’s what I am. And skeptics probably aren’t the best audience for memoirs.
So, I could have just switched to a different Texas book, right? True. But I really want to get a move on with my next trio (Hint: All posts will go up on “Throwback Thursdays”).
Plus, the more I read and thought about these books that are supposed to be iconic Texas literature, the more I realized that Texas is just too damn big to be fully captured in three books. To a certain extent, that’s true of any of my selections on Three Books in a Tub. Still, how can one sum up a state so geographically huge and culturally multifaceted in only three books? Ya can’t, that’s how.
That being said, there were some very common themes throughout these books—themes that lie deep in Texas’s history and still permeate the culture today. The ones that stood out the most for me:
- Industry: Whether it’s hogs, cattle, oil, or high tech, Texas is home to a lot of business.
- Vastness: Through the writing in both The Son and That Old Ace in the Holeyou really get a sense of the Texas landscape—huge, occasionally foreboding, desolate. I’ll never forget our drive out to Big Bend in West Texas. Talk about land. Also, we saw actual tumbleweeds.
- Family/Legacy: Texans take family seriously. When I think of a “true Texan,” I think of someone who knows where they come from: they stay in town; they raise their kids close; they know their roots; they have a list of births and deaths written in the front of a Bible; they are frequent users of ancestry.com. Both of these books backed me up on this stereotype.
- Inequality: When you have a state as industrious, as conservative, and as close to the border as Texas, there is bound to be inequality. Both of these books explore racism among whites, Mexicans, and Native Americans. Knowing these unforgiveable social mores is an important part of Texas’s history and its present.
(^Just a tumbleweed chillin’ on a bench.)
Both The Son and That Old Ace in the Hole were wonderful books that really grabbed my attention from the beginning. I wish I could say the same of The Liars Club but I just didn’t have that same push to finish it like I did with the other two. (Disclaimer: I’m not one of those people who force themselves to finish a book they don’t like. I used to be like that, being a natural perfectionist, but I’ve consciously let that go over the past few years. Life is too short and all that.)
If you want to get a little flavor of Texas, both of these books are great options. By the end, you’ll be chanting it with me—TEXAS FOREVER!