Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Glass Castle

Hello, well today I am going to start off with a post on another book I have read fairly recently. I read it about a week ago. It was called The Glass Castle and it is a memoir. The author is a writer for magazines named Jeannette Walls. She is apparently married to another writer named John Taylor (anyone heard of him?).

This book is one I found when I was looking at second-hand books at the local Goodwill store. I was browsing/strip-mining the biography section and it the title sounded vaguely familiar. I may be wrong on that but it seemed like I might have heard about it in a People review or something so I read the back page description.

I must admit, the description by itself didn't sell me on the book so much as the fact that I found not one, but two copies of it. As I have said previously, I plan to (or at least aspire to) having a book group so I thought having two copies would be ideal since at this time I can only think of two people (myself included!) to join. LOL.

I'm not sure what made me read the book right away since I bought several different books that day including one other set of doubles - Stupid White Men by Michael Moore. I am sure glad I did though. The friend (the one who can not be named) who is "on the short-list" for my book club wasn't thrilled that I bought the 2nd copy without consulting her.

I must admit I got a little ahead of myself on buying the doubles as we said that if we tried a little 2 person club we would still each pick about 2 or 3 books that we liked each and the other would get to choose 1 from that list. I guess I got over-excited when I decided to buy the doubles. After all, I do have a cell-phone and she isn't working right now either (we are both in the same boat work-wise) so I could easily have asked.

After all I actually did find the requisite 3 books (of the 2 or 3 to pick from) in doubles. There was also two copies of Kate Gosselin's first book on her family there. I passed on that. Oddly enough, my friend was slightly interested in that. She did say though that the Stupid White Men sounded ok. Her problem with Glass Castle is that it is basically a bit of a sad story and aside from not liking non-fiction as much (at all?) as fiction which is the exact opposite of me, she doesn't like the sad stories.

This book is a sad story in spades. By the time I brought the copy of the book over to her house all excited to tell her about my find I had gotten to page 75 in short order. In trying to entice her into it, by showing her how interesting it was I gave a not so short (LOL) summary of the first 75 pages. It was a laundry list of "horrors" that befell the Walls children because of their parents personalities and the odd way they saw fit to raise them.

The first story that stood out in the book that is the one I will use to illustrate my point is the story of how the author got badly burned in a kitchen accident when she was just three years old. Apparently, her mother who considered herself an artist was off in the living room "doing her own thing" while her three-year-old daughter was cooking herself hotdogs.

According to the book, this was not a one-time thing. She often made her self hot-dogs because, as she pointed out in somewhat different words, it was not rocket-science. However, this time her dress somehow caught fire. Luckily, her mother got into the kitchen quickly and got the fire out and then took her to a neighbors so they could go to the hospital (they had no car at the time, a clunker, or the mother sucked at driving are all possibilities as these are all things that were the case at one time or another in the story).

She was in the hospital for about six weeks before her father "sprung" her from the hospital in what he liked to call Rex Walls-style which basically meant ignoring the medical advice that she remain at the hospital further. He apparently also didn't think much of the fact that her mother took her to a hospital when it happened as he had on previous occasion when needing medical attention went to a Native medicine man or somesuch as they lived in various small desert towns that they were continually moving around from one step ahead of bill collectors.

The story goes on like that getting, at times, sadder for the shear number of crazy episodes the parents put the kids (and themselves) through. The father was an alcoholic and the mother called herself a excitement addict as well as a sugar addict. The sugar addict thing might not sound like much but it had a rather sad story around it too as the family was constantly going without proper food for long periods of time. So much so that the kids all sort of looked after themselves as to finding something to eat many a time, with the author herself admitting to rooting through garbage at school to eat her schoolmates discarded lunch items.

Apparently, the mother's mother was quite the character too, but in a good way. At times they moved in with her for short stays until the father and the mother-in-law could stand each other no longer. The mother apparently was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades and had amassed a considerable amount of money for herself. Her daughter and son-in-law on the other hand never had good "luck" with money they did get (the mother's mother died when the author was eight and the mother inherited one of two houses the grandmother had which they lived in for a time, trashed and eventually abandoned)and weren't too interested in the jobs that they could get.

The daughter had a teaching degree,like the wealthy mother, that she got at her mothers behest but hated to actually go out and use, feeling it was beneath her as an "artist". The father was considered by many to be "brilliant" but had a hard time keeping jobs not only because of the alcoholism but also it seems to me because he was flighty and a dreamer as well. That is where the name of the book comes from, in fact. The father was always claiming to be working on this gold finding device he was making so that when they finally struck gold he could build a literal "glass castle" complete with a glass staircase.

If, like my friend, you aren't into sad stories then maybe this isn't for you. But you may want to think again. Aside from being an interesting, if not sometimes infuriating, story it does end on a happy note of sorts. As a final note, the author wrote a second book about her wealthy grandmother (the other grandmother, who they also ending up living with for awhile in a coal town in West Virginia was a crazy alcoholic witch who did some truly shocking things to them) that she did not label autobiography because of some liberties she apparently took as a result of insufficient information and instead calls a "true life novel".

This book is called Half Broke Horses. If you do read the Glass Castle and read it in paperback format, some (the newer) copies (one of my two did) have an excerpt of it in it. I must admit that while I very much liked The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses may not be a novel in the true sense I still haven't read the excerpt because of my less-than-great interest in "novels" (ie. fiction). I probably will get around to doing it eventually though as the first book was so good.


1 comment:

  1. I don't like sad stories but who knows, perhaps I could read this book someday.


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