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Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Women


I’ve returned to an old friend when I picked up The Women by TC Boyle at the library. I haven’t read anything but short stories of his since finishing Inner Circle which completed my diet of Boyle’s novels to that point. Now I have picked up from where I left and will resume the Boyle diet. His prose is ambrosia, his plots surprising and sustaining. His quirkiness always makes me chuckle, sometimes laugh out loud.
The book is about Wright’s women. Women and relationship abound. Often I have to stop and reminisce about my own relationships. A book like this does cause self-reflection and when it comes to relationships, well this one is a great stimulus to the reader’s mind.  It is a heartwarming tale actually as I ramble through the saga on these frigid days, in the 20’s, in front of the fireplace in constant use providing the necessary heat to make me comfortable while snow outside reminds me why I want to stay inside and hunker down in my self imposed solitude. I say saga because of the humorous way Boyle uses one of those frequent footnotes, as seen in non-fiction, to share a moment when Wright is meeting one future Mrs Wright who is 45 and adjusting her hair and juxtaposing this scene with another future Mrs Wright now of 15 probably asleep with her hair spread out on her pillow in her Georgia, Russia bed. It’s always about the women. This tale reminds me that I know I have made the right choice as I saunter through Wright’s life and burdens. His curse was he needed someone to look after him. Young’s plaintive cry, A Man needs a Maid. Probably the wrong path as one considers a relationship. The women are lovers, mothers, apprentices, daughters, maids; they are all there to serve Wright. “Never.” Never say “never” Frank. Yes, we all have had a Miriam in our loves. “Sex was the curse of life, “ been there done that, haven’t we all.
The story is the classic one of man rising from the ashes over and over again, the perpetual phoenix. Taliesin is the metaphor for Wrieto-San, the moniker given by our narrator, a Japanese architect apprentice. Taliesin is Wrieto-San’s Wisconsin home that goes through many iterations, I, II, III, following fires brought on by his sins, so it isn’t a coincidence that the last three letters of the name of the house spell ‘sin.’ The image of ‘fire’ is so dominant in this book. Certainly the fires at Taliesin stand out. The fires in Tokyo after an devastating earthquake and of course the atomic bomb fires, the ‘sin’ of letting the fires die in Taliesin fireplaces to make the drafting rooms as cold as meat lockers, the fires that consume the dreaded hard pencils so that Wright must remind them that the ‘eraser’ is the most valuable tool to the architect (in his work and in his life), the ritualistic and symbolic fire at Stuffy’s, and most importantly the fires of the heart and how Wrieto-San always rises from the fires.
I am most taken by the use of footnotes and the use of referencing one footnote from another. A neat trick  by Boyle. Another important character in the novel is the newspaper or more precisely the newspaper reporters who doggedly hound Wrieto-San everywhere and are even used by other characters to harass Wrieto-San and to help keep track of him, the poor man, the poor poor man.

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