This past summer I had an urge to read more fiction, so I did. And one book that I had to work on for quite a while, but which ended up being great, was Diane Schoemperlen's In the Language of Love: A Novel in 100 Chapters.
It's written in a unique way--each chapter is headed by a word, and the one hundred words Schoemperlen used are "the 100 stimulus words from the Standard Word Association Test." So each chapter has a theme, of sorts, and the story unfolds from there. Her main character is a woman named Joanna, and the story follows her from childhood, through lovers and building her life as an artist, and continuing on into marriage and motherhood.
It took me a long, long time to get into it--for a while I only read a chapter or two at a time--but towards the end I couldn't put it down. I've been a fan of Schoemperlen's (and: she's Canadian!) ever since I read her novel Our Lady of the Lost and Found: A Novel of Mary, Faith, and Friendship, and now I'm going to save the rest of her novels and short story collections for treats to be enjoyed some day in the future.
I bookmarked so many parts of this book,** but the part I've quoted at length below was too perfect not to include. Tell me if you think so, too.
"Men, she has observed since Samuel was born, can only do one thing at a time. They graciously offer, for instance, to watch the children one evening while you go out for a drink with your friends. You are very grateful because you need a break. You dress up a little, put some makeup on even, and those new earrings you've been waiting for a special occasion to wear. You are humming as you leave. Husband and children wave happily as you back out of the driveway. You have a splendid time and are home by ten o'clock, just as you promised. Husband too has done exactly what he promised: he has looked after the children. He has not done the dinner dishes, put away the toys, taken out the garbage, swept the kitchen, wiped the toothpaste blobs out of the bathroom sink, or picked up the newspaper which is spread all over the house. He has certainly not cleaned the oven, baked banana bread, or put in a quick load of laundry. He has not even put away the milk. He is sitting in front of the TV watching the news and drinking a beer with his bare feet propped up on the coffee table. To get comfortable, he has had to wedge them around a pile of comic books, three dirty juice glasses, a soggy bowl of Froot Loops, and a blue teddy bear. He is pleased as punch. He says he does not understand what you're mad about as you fling your fancy earrings onto the windowsill and run the hot water into the sink as hard as it will go." (p. 335.)
*If your definition of a perfect passage is a passage that makes you go, holy shit, that is IT exactly. I mean, like that is scary how right on it is. Although, in all fairness, Mr. CR usually does put away the milk.
**I liked this part too: "She finds herself praying a lot more than she used to. Her prayers now are about warding off losss. She is no longer dealing with God for gain. She is no longer worried about how to get more but how to keep from losing all that she has got." (p. 269.) There is something so interesting about that, so thoughtful. I found the entire book to be such a great mix of thoughtful and exasperated, which to me (and perhaps Schoemperlen would not like this thought, or agree with it) is such a womanly mix.