Have you all read Feed by M. T. Anderson? (That’s a link to the Amazon page, if you’d like to read the book’s premise. Which you probably don’t need to do, because you’ve read the book already, because you aren’t years behind, like I am. You’re probably all reading the Octavian Nothing books. Whatever. It just means I’m better than you are at resisting the feed. *thhhbbbtttt*)
Like I was saying, Feed. I’m reading it for the second time this week (by which I mean, I also read it for the first time this week. And now I’m reading it again. For the second time. This week. And ever. I HAVE ONLY EVER READ IT TWICE. THEY WERE BOTH THIS WEEK).
I have something to say about Feed, but I’m not entirely sure what it is. That may not surprise you.
Here’s the thing (WARNING: spoilers ahead!). There seem to be things I love about Feed. And while reading it, I find myself wandering around writing questions compulsively on post-its (as I often do), and most of these questions are for the author. Because, after all, when your narrator has very real feelings, but (1) is out of touch with those feelings, (2) is slightly dim, (3) is ill-equipped to deal with his present circumstances, and, especially, (4) is inarticulate, you’re setting yourself up for a serious challenge. I wonder, did Anderson ever feel trapped behind Titus’s inarticulateness? How did he manage to make it such a beautiful and funny and expressive inarticulateness?
“Then there was this wham and Marty was all, ‘Oh, shit,’ holding on to his face, and I sat up and was like completely there was no hope of sleeping with these morons doing rumpus on my armrest.”
Or, very simply:
“I hoped she could see my smile in the light of my brain.”
“I had never been someplace with that much of angry in the air, like it was crammed. Like the whole air was buzzing. Like all of the lights on the dashboard were teasing us. We were hurtling forward, and it was like we were fueled by how much we hated each other.”
Also, I wonder if it was very sad to write a book that wasn’t just about the end of a world — it was about the end of our world. I know it was sad to read. The animals with no more forest to live in — the hawks perched on street lamps, never looking down, “like they sat alone on Douglas firs” —
“I miss that time. The cities back then, just after the forests died, were full of wonders, and you’d stumble on them — these princes of the air on common rooftops — the rivers that burst through city streets so they ran like canals — the rabbits in parking garages — the deer foaling, nestled in Dumpsters like a Nativity.”
Parts of the book were wickedly funny, and that had to help. For example, the name of the girls’ favorite show: Oh? Wow! Thing! Can’t you just picture it exactly? And here’s how the presidential administration tries to explain away an intercepted chat of the President’s: “It has to be understood that when the President referred to the Prime Minister of the Global Alliance as a ‘big shithead,’ what he was trying to convey was, uh — this is an American idiom used to praise people, by referring to the sheer fertilizing power of their thoughts.” HA HA hee hee hoo *snorfle*
But seriously, back to the sadness. At the end of the book, when Titus watches the “shit-stupid sun rise over the whole shit-stupid world”, oh, you feel it. The sadness is the reason I wanted to read it again. I started the book thinking, this world is a nightmare, this feed feels too familiar for comfort, and this narrator is kind of a dope. I finished the book thinking, no, no, bring me back to Titus. I love Titus. Don’t let this world end.
But of course it has to end.
I wonder if it felt a bit icky to market this book. Sending it out onto the feed, and all.
Anyhoo. Rock on, M. T. Anderson — and I’m not done yet. While I was at the library, I also picked up his picture book Me, All Alone, at the End of the World, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, because, well, it’s the sort of title that catches the eye of hermit types, plus the pictures reminded me of my ideal home (I don’t know if Kevin Hawkes could lead me there, but he sure as hell can paint it). Okay. I loved this book. I think I’m going to have to buy it. It was about being with yourself and also being with other people; it was about being happy with “soft loneliness;” it was about being alone in a particular place but knowing you’re not alone in the world. It was a lot like Feed in some ways — it captures something about how you can be perfectly alone and quiet and content and peaceful and happy, until someone suggests to you that you aren’t doing the right things, the “fun” things. And that person is partly right — the fun things are fun, and it’s good not to be alone always — but you were right, too, the way you started, alone and content. There’s an ambivalence perfectly contained in this book. It is the great ambivalence of my life. :o)
Next I’m in the mood to read some Rumer Godden, and maybe also dig up some more Kevin Hawkes. What are you reading, and what can you recommend? Oh: and speaking of rumors, I might be getting a new roof sometime in the next eon. They’ve patched the gaping hole in the ceiling and I’ve reclaimed my meditation corner, which is an improvement. But Jesus hasn’t been back, and I have to admit, I still don’t have a lot of faith….