Books and visceral reactions

When I finished Revolutionary Road, I was in a coffeeshop in the West Village, killing time because I was late for a yoga class and didn’t get in, but it was way too early to get to work. Reading Revolutionary Road, as a woman in a serious relationship, was a very different experience from when I banged through it in high school. The writing was still exquisite, of course, but I understood the characters in a deeper way; their hopes and aspirations of how life in Paris would make them interesting, fascinating people; the way that they boxed themselves into a corner thanks to time and choices. I related to some of that idealism. When I came to the end, I couldn’t put the book back in my purse. It scared me. It was a live thing, a record of life at its rawest and its most emotionally excruciating and the fears that we all have, as people trying to exist and find some proof of worth in that question. I felt like it was a snake, and I didn’t want its physical presence anywhere near me. I ran out of the coffeeshop and walked, briskly, to work.

Regret is a stupid, self-defeating concept, but I do have one that sticks in my mind. Last year, some high school kids were putting on a version of “Revolutionary Road: The Play.” The poster featured a boy and a girl dressed in Mad Men-wear, striking a faux wise and weary look in front of a brick wall. I do regret missing high schoolers taking on Revolutionary Road as theater. It had to have been incredible.

When I finished Desperate Characters, I started laughing. But it was a strange laugh, a sound I hadn’t made before. Deep and long and hearty. I wasn’t quite sure what was in that laughter. It wasn’t funny ha-ha. It was something different.

Needless to say, both of these books are masterpieces.