Room/ Outside/ vortex

25 September 2011

It’s written like a house on fire. It’s a novel that’s simultaneously a horror story, bildungsroman, and science fiction. I could not put it down, and I found it unbelievably touching throughout. In case you missed hearing about this, it’s about (to quote a NYT review):

In this remarkable novel, the entire world of a 5-year old boy is the 11-by-11-foot Room in which his mother is being held against her will. …The main objects in the room are given capital letters — Rug, Bed, Wall — a ­wonderful choice, because to Jack, they are named beings. In a world where the only other companion is his mother, Bed is his friend as much as anything else. 

There is no outside world, although Jack slowly begins to realize that the Outside he sees on TV might be real. I read this book in two sittings, and if I didn’t have to return it to the library I’d be sending it off to my friends.

Except the book also functions so eerily as a metaphor that I’d be loath to put someone else into that emotional vortex. In addition to reading all day, I’ve been waiting for a phone call from a colleague I don’t know very well, someone who needs to talk about professional trauma. I don’t actually know the scope of this phone call — does this colleague want to rant about being treated like shit by academic departments and the tenure mill? Is it an advice-seeking phone call? Will I be dragged back into the academic vortex I thought I’d escaped for the year?

I’ve spent all day — and parts of the last two days — dreading this phone call. Anxious because I’m not sure I can bear to hear, and thereby take on, one more colleague’s pain and fury. Enraged all over again because I know why I’m getting this phone call rather than anyone else. Surprisingly frustrated with this colleague for trying to drag me back in. And conflicted because I simultaneously hate what this world does to people and yet acquiesce to its purported rules, which only harm people.

I’m so ready not to be anxious and self-conscious and angry and frustrated by this stuff anymore. Yet here I am again, sitting in Room, not entirely sure that the Outside is real or that I’m ready to live in it. It’s a horror story, and bildungsroman, and science fiction.

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2 Responses to “Room/ Outside/ vortex”

  1. servetus Says:

    I just read about this novel this week, in an article about another novel, something to do with fielding, that was a big hit in the same year, in VF — how do publishers pick books. It was interesting.

  2. Didion Says:

    This novel is SUCH a good read. It’s so intimate and appealing because of seeing the world through the imagination of a precocious 5-yr-old. And his view of his mother is just so beautiful and fascinating.

    (And not that anyone cares, but.) Phone call has come and gone; my blood pressure rose and lowered, and I am — once again — so grateful to be far away from that department right now.


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