Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Web of Middle Age

We are in the season of abundant and ginormous spiders. I keep walking into their webs. I try not to, of course, because they are so beautiful and the spider's temporary home and feeding ground, but it keeps happening. And the spiders just keep rebuilding their webs in the same exact spot.

Making us equally stupid, I guess.

This morning, headed out to work, I walked into the rebuilt web at our back gate, fending it off, once discovered, with the plastic sleeve of a DVD I was returning to the library, and the spider landed on my hand.

Big wiggle (from me), no bite (from it). Sigh...

I just finished Middle Age by Joyce Carol Oates, and I really liked it.* I need to read more Joyce Carol Oates, and, indeed, there is more, plenty more. She is prolific and varied, sort of like Michael Caine in the acting world, and I love Michael Caine! In this book, Oates looks at a range of people in middle age--a full range of ages within the middle--and how hard, how disruptive, how like the woes of Job this transition can be. It can devastate and transform, or both! These people are unified by place--Salthill-on-Hudson, in suburban New York--and inciting incident: the sudden death of one of them. And that one is philosophical, intelligent, curious, vigorous, and mysterious, somehow leading them all on a journey of self discovery and allowing them, somehow, to arrive at a more authentic place.

I am the right age to appreciate this book.

*I kept pondering her use of the word "oblivious" (as I keep thinking of oblivion as a deep forgetfulness, not a constant and casual unawareness) and wondering about whether it's "oblivious of" or "oblivious to," but beyond that trivial meandering of my mind, I was gripped. As if she were a large spider and I were her prey! Ack! Oh, no, am I, in truth, oblivious to/of the ginormous spider webs?!

Anyhoo, I recommend this book, if you, too, are in middle age and of a mind to appreciate it. I also recommend Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White, to anyone of any age at any time. (And he would have recommendations for you as to the use of the word "oblivious," etc.) (I think he might disapprove of that dangling "etc." and, in general, my use of parentheses.)

Ah, the DVD I was returning was The Turning, which is strangely and wonderfully pertinent, a dark and twisty film based on a book of short stories by Tim Winton, an Australian writer. Gorgeous, compelling, and long, but I was all wrapped up in it.


seana graham said...

I think I might be the right age for it too. Perhaps a little embarassingly, I have never read a Joyce Carol Oates novel. I have read a few essays, but don't feel like I really have a sense of her. I remember a man coming into the bookstore and telling me with great pride that he had bought every single one of her novels in hardback. That's a lot of shelf space. It made him very happy, though. I don't remember him talking so much about having read them, though. But he probably did.

Kathleen said...

Likewise, I've read essays and short stories in anthologies...but one scary novel of hers still chills me...(I shall seek out the title).

Marcoantonio Arellano (Nene) said...

my wife has told me she's run into a web a couple of nights now while take our pups out for their excretory journey. she says she flailed about trying to escape the web and the next evening it was rebuilt.
i've witnessed one that really really looks menacing. so manacing i stopped to ask it if it wanted a role in a scarry movie because i have a friend in hollywood, Larry Karazewski, the screen writer most recently for 'Big Eyes'. the spiders first question much does the gig pay?

good to see you back Kathleen

Kathleen said...

You are funny, Marco! I want a role in Rolling My Eyes at Spiders, a comic horror flick. I expect I'll be rolled up in a ginormous web and eaten, feet first, screaming all the way.

Collagemama said...

Spiders are pretty smart about making their webs where insects will naturally fly into them. In human neighborhoods, that's often where insects are attracted to porch lights by front doors (or back doors). Most spiders remake their webs daily, so they are not that upset when we lumber into the net before our second cup of coffee kicks in. I tried to read Oates once. She's way, way down on my try-again-someday list, even below Margaret Atwood.