Monday, December 15, 2014

Bubblegum Ball Blowout: Part 2

 Yellow Bow Necklace

Peplum tank: Gifted
Tee: Kohl's
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: Betseyville, Macy's
Bag: Bisou Bisou, J. C. Penney's
Sash: Wet Seal

Top: Candie's, Kohl's
Skirt: Necessary Objects, Annie Sez
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Marshalls
Belt: Marshalls

Top: Marshalls
Skirt: J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Etsy, Eleven Peacocks

As promised, this week the gumballs keep rolling.  There's purple, there's orange, there's yellow.  (Well, to be fair, the yellow is for bows, which aren't technically gumballs, but we like to keep things flexible here at the Trove.)  I'm holding a couple of dark green and mint necklaces in reserve to post next week with two more in pink and yellow in a kind of not-quite-red, not-quite-green Christmas countdown.  Because complain though I might, I love Christmas just as much as the next hopped-up-on-candy-canes crafter.

And in keeping with the season, I've just read a book set in winter, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple.  I settled on it in the magazine-slash-trashy-paperback aisle of the grocery store after considering and ultimately rejecting the usual bodice rippers -- all topnotch when that's what you're looking for, but this time I wasn't.  There was a lone copy, and the improbable title and cover (a scarf and dark glasses-disguised cartoon head whose mouth was a perfect "o" against a backdrop of mountains) intrigued me.  I found it all the more exotic for being in the same place as my fruit snacks and cheese wheels, and when the cashier commented that she wanted to read it, I knew I had myself a winner.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is about a wife and mother who disappears two days before a Christmas cruise to Antarctica.  Although Bernadette is a housewife, the word is kind of misleading.  In fact, she rarely leaves her house, which is a former school for wayward girls with blackberry bushes pushing up through the floorboards.  She's ostracized by the other moms, and her husband is a top executive at Microsoft and as such, part of the fabric of the perfect Seattle life that has contrived to constrict her.  Yet it isn't until the middle of the novel that we learn that Bernadette is no garden variety misfit but a former MacArthur genius grant recipient, a star whose meteoric rise and subsequent crash landed her in Seattle in the first place.  The format of the novel is as unconventional as Bernadette herself, comprised of a series of letters, texts, reports, and other assorted correspondence, its overarching voice that of Bernadette's daughter, Bee, who has claimed the role of compiling the letters.    

Although a scathing social satire of technology, the Pacific Northwest, and modern American life, Where'd You Go, Bernadette is, at its heart, about what it means to be different.  The satire part is merely a mirror held up to show us what nonconformity costs.  Some parts are as simple and easy as the movie it's clearly destined to be, others rife with enough symbols to choke a term paper.  But  Bernadette's former mentor says it best in a response to one of Bernadette's rambling, rant-ridden emails: 

"Are you done?  You can't honestly believe any of this nonsense.  People like you must create.  If you don't create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society." (Semple 147)

Highlighted by this caveat, the branches growing through the floorboards come to symbolize the wilderness of unchanneled creativity running rampant in Bernadette's brain.  Yet clipping the branches causes a mudslide and destroys a neighbor's house, illustrating the importance of nurturing creativity instead of slicing it off at its roots.  For all of her neuroses, this is something that Bernadette understands and passes on Bee early on when Bee makes the classic complaint of being bored:

"I'm going to let you in on a little secret about life.  You think it's boring now?  Well, it only gets more boring.  The sooner you learn it's on you to make life interesting, the better off you'll be." (Semple 46) 

Well said, Bernadette.  Even if you did give your social security number to the Russian mafia.  Because that's the thing about this heroine.  She does a lot of out-there, even dangerous stuff.  But you want her to come out okay because, underneath it all, her motives are pure.  She's a frustrated artist and a wonderful mom, her story a slice of social commentary wrapped up in an arctic adventure that's all the more satisfying for warming your heart.

And speaking of wrapping things up, I'll post the third and final installment of jaw-dropping (or perhaps I should say jaw-breaking) gumballs next week, just in time for Christmas.  And then maybe I'll wrap some presents.  

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