Who’re you callin’ Cuckoo?

To read The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (a pseudonym for J. K. Rowling) is to have moments thinking “Wow, Hagrid’s got game.”  Such is the power of Harry Potter.  Let me clarify: Hagrid is not in the book, but Cormoran Strike, the book’s gumshoe, is reminiscent of him, only reconfigured as an British Afghanistan veteran with more intelligence and sensitivity than your average bear-shaped man.  The fact that he is investigating the death of a supermodel and dipping his ungainly toe into the elite waters of the super-rich and super-eccentric, makes for a good yarn; Galbraith/Rowling is one the best at yarns with characters with whom you want to follow or have a cuppa.  It’s not extraordinarily challenging, or surprising – but she doesn’t cheat, either; the clues are there and there’s a good little twist and a tasty relationship that – I’m guessing here – will make this a genuinely entertaining series.

Which brings up another point:  how much do you have to relate to characters?  What makes you stick with a book versus what makes you a “book slammer,” as I have become.  I think I have to attribute that term to my friend Kate, with whom I was walking and talking (not easy some days given my occasional inadequate locomotion).  She is not a slammer herself – or maybe she’s a secret one – but it was fun digging around what attracts readers.  For me, it’s timing, it’s do-I-want-cry-or-laugh–in-public-while-reading, and it’s authentic dialogue, even if character conversation isn’t the bulk of the book.  I listened to snippets of an interview with Elmore Leonard on NPR and was riveted.  Talk about your no-nonsense dude!  Granted, he was almost all dialogue but in that respect he was King.  One of his points was when he felt like he was “writing” he got rid of it.  I may have to pick up a copy of Rum Punch and check it out.  Here’s to you, Elmore.  Even though I didn’t know you personally I suspect you wouldn’t mind me using your first name.

Speaking of those with “game,” Mr. Halfstory and I took The Son (“I already know which classes I’m going to fall asleep in”), Yvette (“What’s going on?”) and Ramona (“Thanks for ruining everything, Mom”) to meet two of my four half-brothers, whom I’ve never met.  They were the product of my father’s first marriage, before he met my mother (who, it must be noted, also came to the union with four children; the half-siblings with whom I was raised).  Ok, so mathematics aside, they were very nice, and given the fact they welcomed five complete strangers into their circle, one the product of a union that basically separated their family, super-normal.  It was revealed, however, that our dad’s marriage to my mom was not actually remembered as a legal union by any of them, nor are there any documents or pictures or even folklore supporting my mother’s claim to legal status.  And thank god we live in an age there are no inherited jewels in question (that I no of), or Scarlet Letters to be handed out.

Needless to say I did not speak of this to my mother – who has bigger fish to fry these days – mostly because it doesn’t matter; I have a great step-dad and no real emotional attachment to someone who left when I was a year old.  The kids were amused and thoughtful but mostly nonplussed; frankly, there are more interesting controversies on Snapchat and NCIS reruns.

I did have a conversation with my sister, 12 years my senior, who was witness to everything awful in our childhood.

“So, apparently Ma and my dad weren’t married…?”

“Oh, who knows.  All I remember is Mom laying face down on the bed in that crappy green room on DeLong Street, crying like hell.  And I came in and said, ‘here, Ma, here’s the baby.’ ”

“Hmm.  Nothing soothes a broken heart like a baby.”

“Better than my dad:  ‘Oh, he’s dead.  No wait.  He’s not.  There was some kind of mistake.’ ”

“Oh my god, that’s right.  Jeez.”

“I kind of remember her and Nana sitting at the kitchen table talking about him being a polygamist.”

“Well that doesn’t make me feel any better.”

And then we had a good laugh.  Because what else are you supposed to do?

 

 

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~ by alicetownsend on August 28, 2013.

One Response to “Who’re you callin’ Cuckoo?”

  1. Yes, I have slammed(but I feel a little guilty about it.) Can’t wait to read your memoir!

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