Here's another one that doesn't belong on the Summer Reads shelf, unless you wanna know what it feels like to be that poor vagrant souped-up on meth and stuck on the road outside Yuma this time of year. It's written as a first-person, true life confession from a woman hours away from the ten-strapped table and lethal injection at the Oklahoma Big House. It's told as if it is being taped to send to Stephen King so he can write her story. Hearing it would definitely be the way to experience this tale of delusion, stupidity, waste, death. And backgrounded by Foreigner's “Double Vision”, rumbling out of an 8-track player in a 1968 Oldsmobile 442.
You'd think I'd glom onto a story about babes gone rough and criminal. I mean, hell, I liked Jolie the best when she was married to Billy Bob. Outlaw biker chicks. Girls behind bars taking long, long showers. The paradigmatic Dominatrix. But these are whimsies, man, not strivances for the real deal like Charlize's Monster portrayal.
Or, this author's Marjorie Standiford.
But, if the protagonist was a guy, would I have dropped this novel by page 57? Probably, because I've read too many accounts of wasted lives; lives without meaning or purpose beyond the here and now. There are no moral lessons left; The Speed Queen drips only regret and despair, no matter how many happy, defiant, or apologetic faces Marjorie parades out with her five minutes of fame. It is a life lost and one that hurt others, and I already know the reasons. Movies, TV, and video games, right?
I'm being glib, of course. And that's defensive because, being a first-person narration, I cannot get out of Marjorie's head for a balanced perspective. And she truly frightens me. There's no pressure valve of humor here, just her chin-up strength of coping with those buck-up smiles. I understand the reasons she's writing this to Stephen King and why her mind is filled with movie references. And why the reader can never escape the monotonous dullness of the reel-to-reel marching to its final disconnect. For more and more of us, the fantasy of modern culture oversees the reality of it. And we're gleefully guided that way. What is more offensive than advertising feeding us our desires for their profit? Marjorie has taken the bait and her subconscious—being repulsed, abhorred at an almost antediluvian level—has rebelled into resigned acts of destruction. How can you not objectify life if your society considers you merely a consumer of products? And—following the you-are-what-you-eat attitude—since merchandise is amoral, isn't everything permissible?
And then there's the Cult-O'-Celebrity exploitation. Again, the furiousness which media enters and absorbs our life and dreams is a smirking, gotcha smile. If recognition is what you crave, either good or bad actions can achieve that goal.
Other reasons why this kid turned loser? Upbringing? Well, Marjorie states then re-instates how much she loves her parents, but somehow, I think that's the “prayer warrior”(Doubleday, 0385487010, 212 pages, p.26) talking. The image of Dad putting the dead family dog in a trashbag for the garbage men to pick up and Mom lying about Jody-Jo being buried in the backyard doesn't say “love” to me. Lies like that are hard to get around undamaged.
Naturally, the book is more than this. And what do I know? I didn't read the book. I didn't have the guts. Do you?