Tag Archives: Lydia Millet

The Children’s Bible: Also for atheists

Lydia Millet’s The Children’s Bible hits a little close. The novel follows a rag-tag group of children after environmental catastrophes – flood! – destroy their homes. Having to keep themselves, and their drug-stupor parents, alive they hole up and quarantine themselves, scratching out a new existence after society collapses.

Though it may be painful to read because of its indictment of our collective inaction on global warming, and the profound arrogance of having children amid such certain devastation, it is nevertheless, very, very good.

I grew up in the United and Anglican churches before quitting God and becoming a Unitarian (I feel compelled to offer that not all Unitarians are atheists. #joinus). But even if I hadn’t spent formative years hearing Biblical stories, the Biblical references and adaptations are drawn from the biggest and brightest of stories (Eden, Noah’s ark, the 10 commandments, the birth of Jesus, Revelations, etc) so anyone who has watched The Simpsons should have enough of a command of the allusions to appreciate the plot. That said, Millet does well to make these moments smooth and uses well timed diction to remind the reader that a Biblical Moment is happening.

Aside from mirroring these Biblical scenes I’m not sure the ‘point’ of having the plot follow that of the Bible. I guess because we are in End Times now? Or maybe to remind us that there is no God, or if there is, it’s a God who has opted for a non-interventionist approach, and it falls to us to make change. Okay, yeah, that seems a plausible reason.

The best part of the book is its argument for art and literature. It’s suggestion that we bundles of molecules, we who are destined to reunite with the water and mountains (poisoned though they may be by our garbage) find purpose and solace in writing. And of course reading.

After writing out my Christmas cards most of which began and ended with WHAT A YEAR, I’m very happy to recommend this book as a sort of 2020 solace. Like it admits and takes as its premise that everything is shit, and that there is no ‘but’ to that sentence. So you may as well read.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bestseller, Erin's Favourite Books, Fiction, New York Times Notable, Prize Winner

Ghost Light: How to get out of paying your taxes

Ghost_Light_on_Stage

Lydia Millet’s Ghost Lights is so great. It’s funny, dark, complex. It’s a fast read. It takes on the complicated and fraught questions like what agency do we have as individuals? what are our responsibilities to our children and spouses? how do we make sense of tragedy?

*Minor spoilers to come (as in all this gets revealed in the first 40 pages*

You want more context? Sure.The book folks Hal, the IRS tax-guy, as he figures out what his life means in the present and what parts of that life he can control. Hal’s wife is cheating on him. His daughter, paralyzed after a car accident, makes her living as a phone sex… what’s the noun? operator? When Hal’s wife boss Thomas Stern (who prefers to go by T. – a choice he’s made, but can’t control sensing a theme here) goes missing in Belize, Hal decides to go and find him. After years of feeling and acting tethered to the loss of the life that could have been have been (had Casey not been paralyzed), Hal throws himself into the present. Realizes that there’s not much he can properly control. Realizes “he should not think too much. As a rule he set too much store by thinking. Or at least, complacent in the knowledge that thought was the most useful tool available to men – and one so often neglected by his fellow Americans – he relied on it to the exclusion of other ways of filtering information. Thought was the act of conscious cognition but there were alternative processes of the mind that could work around or alongside it” (77).

It’s a novel that looks at what happens when you radically shift your approach to decision making – and realize that you still can’t control anything and that ‘choice’ is entirely dependent on circumstance. Into this realization comes Hal (no accident then that Hal works for the IRS: the only things you can’t avoid in life being death and taxes) who in his effort to do something (rescue Stern, have an affair) proves the limits of choice and action: he spends good chunks of the plot passed out from drinking and having his life happen to him.

So what can you choose? What can you decide? Probably only that you should read this book. Probably not even that.

Stern has gone AWOL from running his fancy-pants company and making bazillions of dollars.

Leave a comment

Filed under American literature, Bestseller, Prize Winner