Sunday, January 13, 2008

"Look how many boring novels get published every year in the name of literature."

which is not a comment on Autumn Cornwell’s young adult novel Carpe Diem, rather a quote from that novel which i just couldn’t resist.

Vassar (her mother always wanted to go to Vassar, and has now transferred that goal onto her daughter~figuring with the proper planning and that name, how could they possibly reject her???) Spore, sixteen, has her life plan set up through graduate school (as well as few life goals beyond that: (marrying a 6’5” blond surgeon {she’d settle for a judge} by age 25 {for love}; having three children by age 35 {two girls one boy}; publish the definitive book {subject as yet undecided} by age 37; and winning the Pulitzer prize). Her mother is not sure that is quite ambitious enough.

She has her life and schedule planned down to the minute, a trait she gets from her rather over-organized parents~her father the efficiency expert, and her mother the life planner (who gave up planning other people’s lives when Vassar came along to plan her daughter’s.

Vassar’s summer plans (to take AP English as well as a Sub-Molecular Theory course, and attend Advanced Latin Camp) are thrown into complete disarray when her Bohemian artist Grandma Gerd offers to take her on a summer trip through Southeast Asia. The thought is a completely outrageous and would throw her 5.3 GPA down the drain as well as kill any hope of her getting valedictorian (as opposed to the oh-so-evil Wendy Stupacker). To Vassar’s surprise, after some whispered conversation between her parents and the grandmother she has never met, they insist that she goes. It makes her “feel out of context.”

Of course the trip manages to awaken a few new dimensions in Vassar (else where would the story be found?) (And the only memories this novel brought up for me was when i was sixteen and stuck on the wrong Mexican side of the Tijuana border with nothing but the tee shirt on my back and the shorts on my ass~thongs on my feet~the paint from an earlier paint fight {we'd been painting a Tijuana orphanage} drying in the 100 plus degree heat~my brain so fried i couldn't remember my name when the border guards asked and fearing i'd never be let across~an experience which eerily almost repeated itself in Toronto when i was somewhat trying to flee Canada on a canceled plane ticket when the company i was working for decided i needed to stay longer than i thought i needed to and the border guards there wanted a passport i hadn't needed to enter the country... Oddly enough the Tijuanan trip was the same one where i lost a contact and had to keep switching the remaining one back and forth between my eyes from day to day to see~so there's another parallel...

Some plot elements i found a little predictable (i figured out the “Big Secret” quite early on) but what do you expect (did i find everything quite as predictable when i was actually a “young adult”~or do they make these “Big Secrets” not so “secret” to make us all feel so-very-clever and smug?)

The sentence and phrase “Poor Dad. Not only was he adopted, . . .” had me more than a little annoyed with Ms. Cornwell when i encountered it at the beginning of the novel (as if to say: not only was he adopted…as if that wasn’t bad enough…) but i tried to attribute it to the general smugness of the narrator, and the fact that Cornwell had was otherwise quite a witty and comedic storyteller (besides which she almost redeemed herself by the end of the novel.) Good for a check out.

Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future. The present is never without end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.

~Pascal’s Pensées

Live In The Moment! (as they say)

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