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Archive for April, 2013|Monthly archive page

WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE by Maria Semple

In Books on April 27, 2013 at 2:57 pm

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Every now and then, you read a book that makes you wish that you could be friends with the writer – be privy to their ruminations on even the most ordinary of things, be able to tap into their brain at a moment’s notice. Maria Semple is one of those authors. Not only her- but to know her characters in real life- well, that would really be an excellent adventure!

Bernadette is a smart, wisecracking, straight-shooter of a woman- a quirky, but loving Mom, former architect/artist, living in Seattle- the wife of a Microsoft big-wig/geek, a man renowned for having the fourth most viewed TEDtalk, a man some called a ‘Tech Rockstar’. I don’t want be a spoiler, so story specifics are out- but I will say- predictable this book is not!

Seattle

Seattle

It’s hard to ‘cherry pick’ favorite moments, and like I said, I don’t want to reveal any of the many twists and turns presented in the story, so I’ll just quickly discuss my second favorite character and be done with it. Bee (Bernadette’s extremely bright-but not perfect!) daughter. Take for example: upon traveling through a poverty-stricken barrio she says: 

‘Kids were kicking a ball among trash, running with mangy dogs among trash, even squatting to wash their clothes among trash. It was totally annoying, like, would one of you just pick up the trash?’

Only an affluent, private-schooled eighth-grader could come up with that one. (Not saying I don’t think environment can effect the esteem of it’s inhabitants. As the aforementioned scene just proved on both sides)

On the other hand, I like Bee’s very sophisticated outlook on her father’s invention, Samantha 2- a servant robot, who does menial chores through voice command- for me it also rings true for so much of technology and where we’re heading (for better or worse) 

‘What’s Samantha 2? It’s just something so people can sit around and have a robot do all their shit for them. You spend ten years of your life and billions of dollars inventing something so people don’t have to live their own lives.’

Amen, Sister! It made me try and think more clearly about what it is that bothers me about technology- while at the same time embracing it. We seem to be finding all of these ways to eliminate minutia and menial tasks, like we’re clearing the decks so we can finally concentrate and put our full attention on: what, exactly? So we can spend even more time being ‘watchers?’- watchers of internet content? Maybe it’s the chores, the effort of keeping  our life on track that make our lives fulfilling. What if we clear all of our decks just to find out we’re all assholes, and that we were better off being distracted from our narcissistic minds for at least several hours a day? What if a lack of purpose turns out to lead us down the idyll- minds -devils- workshop path,(symbolically, of course) only now we have 24/7 to hone our errant craft?  What if all of the things we do reluctantly are the very things that test (and build) our mettle?

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Rant over. Bernadette is by far the best fictional character I’ve ‘met’ in a long time. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a thought-provoking, fun, satirical look at family, parenting, the importance of following your own drummer, and a whip-smart, middle-aged woman who’s the most interesting woman in the room-and I’m talking any room!

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