Staying with a theme. But first, a departure: last entry I wrote about some public musings (that’s like, thought plus something) of Salman Rushdie, who remarked that there are too many books in the world, sort of. He didn’t sound as elitist as I’m making him sound, but he was cautionary. Should we keep publishing? Do we need to, he meant, given the volume of titles that exist? He forgot one factor, it seems to me. This will sound elitist. People don’t read. Or, they don’t read old-fashioned print–not as much. And they don’t read novels, especially. Or do they? I don’t know. I heard all this on the radio, another declining medium. Perhaps if books could be downloaded onto I-phones. Actually, can they? Is there an AP for that yet….someone?
Anyway, a man in my office—not the same one as last time—also mentioned squirrels this week. I guess people have squirrels on their minds. Coincidence? Maybe not. Maybe squirrels are a new zeitgeist. Squirrels are important because they feature metaphorically in my novel, Blended. They scurry about the property, stealing food, getting in places they shouldn’t. That was the problem, the man in my office said. Squirrels were climbing atop his roof. One had fallen down the chimney and gotten stuck. He had to get it out. Can’t let it—them—run wild.
They run wild in my novel, also. Or, they are onlookers. They comment on us secretly. Tillie Marsden, my protagonist, ignores them, has other nuisances in mind, at home and at work. Home comes first: where will Bill, her third and by far her best husband, insist on taking them on vacation this broken year of 2016? Tillie likes modest getaways to seaside villages. Bill prefers rugged adventure in the wilderness. I know. What first world drama, you’re thinking? How will you, the reader, stand the suspense? Do I know how to grip you, or what? Well, hang on. Give me a few pages. So far, I’ve given you squirrels as metaphors, so you must be intrigued. And there is that interesting title, Blended, after all.
Tillie’s step-son, Jacob, a largely idle twenty-something, is part of that blend. He is an ambiguous nuisance, not stealing but certainly consuming food, and getting in places that he might have left by now, such as the living room couch. He’s back and forth between home and school, drifting towards his future. What he really wants to do with his life is unclear, but what you’ll read (hopefully) are the offhand comments from the millennial crypt: his thoughts about life as it is in art, as in action movies, as in war, terrorism as a spectator sport; modern diet. Tillie is mystified by Jacob, but were she to look more closely, she’d note similarities between him and her younger self.
There is little that is mystifying about Bill, to whom Tillie has been married for seven years. In his late fifties, he is stably employed, financially secure, having launched at least one of his three adult children. Cuckolded by his first wife, Bill seems decent and reliable, if slightly insecure. His only other foible is a curmudgeonly edge, which he betrays as Tillie introduces plans to help refugee families. Bill is skeptical the way that middle America seems skeptical: he doesn’t know much about life in Pakistan, and doesn’t care to know much. Though careful with his thoughts, he probably thinks that immigrants are a problem. They represent security risks. They steal or consume too much; will get in places they shouldn’t.