Finished reading Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk a bit ago. I hadn’t read any of his work before, found it a fast but somewhat disturbing read. Reminded me of Anne Tyler’s A Slipping-Down Life, a little. Major plot twists felt a little forced, seemed like there were too many strings showing, but it was entertaining. I was particularly struck by this section of dialog:
…and Brandy says not to watch myself too close. “Honey,” she says, “times like this, it helps to think of yourself as a sofa or a newspaper, something made by a lot of other people but not made to last forever.”…Us in the speech therapist office, Brandy says, “It helps to know you’re not any more responsible for how you look than a car is.” Brandy says. “You’re a product just as much. A product of a product of a product. The people who design cars, they’re products. Your parents are products. Their parents were products. Your teachers, products. The minister in your church, another product.” Brandy says. Sometimes your best way to deal with shit, she says, is to not hold yourself as such a precious little prize.…Skin, bones, blood and organs transplant from person to person. Even what’s inside you already, the colonies of microbes and bugs that eat your food for you, without them you’d die. Nothing of you is all-the-way yours. All of you is inherited.
It reminded me of a recent interview on The Diane Rehm Show. In the segment I found particularly poignant, Jane Fonda talks with Diane about her relationship with her parents and their expectations (including her father’s objectification of her and his expectation that her brother be ‘heroic’) and how she learned to approach them.
FONDA : “You know, women were supposed to be this way, men were supposed to be that way. And, you know, it made it hard for both of us. But I — you know, I write — one of the most important things that I did and I write about this in “Prime Time” — one of the reasons that I feel this sense of wellbeing now is that I did — what I came to discover is called a life review. I went back and really researched myself as a young child and growing up. I researched my parents. Who were they? They were both dead so I had to find people who knew them. And what that does is it shows you it really had nothing to do with you. It wasn’t me. They had their own issues. And then you can forgive them and you can forgive yourself, you know.
REHM: “I think it’s such an important thing to do.”FONDA: “Yeah, yeah.”REHM: “It frees you…”FONDA: “It frees you.”REHM: “…from the sense that everything that happened was your fault.”FONDA: “That’s right.”REHM: “And you are now your own person.”
FONDA: “I’m my own person. You know, the great writer Viktor Francl, he wrote a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning.” And in it, he said, everything in life can be taken from you except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to a situation.”
Interesting contrasts in the two conversations. I like the acknowledgement that we are products of our environment from the women in Invisible Monsters, but I prefer the empowerment and responsibility implied in the conversation between Fonda and Rehm to Palahniuk’s more nihilistic attitude. Currently, I’m reading Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk for my book club, and believe it or not, David Sedaris’s animals are philosophers as well. This synchronicity is unexpected and somewhat humorous. Ain’t life grand?