Here was my schedule for today: Work, yoga, work, work, work, work, work.
Here’s what I actually did: Worked, went to yoga, read Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife while eating lunch, then responsibly put it aside to work, but instead…farted around on the internet, took my dog, Louise, to get her nails clipped, drove over to McDonald’s for an ice cream cone (only 150 calories), farted around on the internet some more…
Totally distracted because what I really wanted to do was drop everything and lose myself in American Wife. Honest to God, starting a novel when you’ve got other stuff to do is like having an open bag of potato chips nearby when you’re on a diet.
Full disclosure: I didn’t want to like this book. While no fan of anyone in the Bush family, I have very mixed feelings about appropriating someone’s life for fiction, especially when that person is still alive.
A disclaimer at the beginning of the book states, “American Wife is a work of fiction loosely inspired by the life of an American first lady. Her husband, his parents, and certain prominent members of his administration are recognizable. All other characters in the novel are products of the author’s imagination, as are the incidents concerning them.”
Which is not exactly true. We know, for example, that when Laura Bush was in high school she caused an automobile accident in which a classmate died. Alice Blackwell, the American Wife in the novel, does the same thing. So where, exactly, does the truth of this incident in the book end and Sittenfeld’s imagination begin? The reader can’t help but wonder, was Laura Bush in love with the boy who died, as Alice Blackwell was? Throughout the novel, other similar questions arise.
Nonetheless, it’s as if that damn book is a magnet and I am a person-sized hunk of lead. I am, after all, the person who was halfway through James Michener’s gargantuan novel, The Drifters, when my daughter Kate was born and spent my days in the hospital reading compulsively, Kate propped on my shoulder. My thought: I’d have her forever. I need to know what happened to these people now. I know. It’s terrible. But there it is.
All of which is to say, I give up. I’m going to take a shower, put on my cozy robe, curl up with American Wife, and read until it’s finished—no matter how f*!#Xing long it takes—so maybe I can get something done tomorrow.