"She was scared right out of her mind. She had to be--to rescue herself. So she quit working to make sense of things--we don't always realize it, but it's hard work we do almost every waking moment, building our thoughts and memories and action around time, things that happened yesterday, and things that are happening right now, and what's coming tomorrow, layering all of that simultaneously and holding it in balance. She cut it out and just kept moving. She was nobody, she was nowhere, doing nothing, but doing it as hard and fast as she could."
I think this is the first review I have started with a quote, but the quote itself (describing the difficulty we have in establishing reality) best explains the book. This novel capitalizes on the "perception is reality" that I know so well from social psychology.
It also is a great follow up from DFW's essay on David Lynch (see my book review from last week on that). I still haven't managed to see Lost Highway, but I think Lynch would love to make a movie out of this novel. The question of continuity in identity (yes, I get that the "real" Mr. Fox is the writer married to Daphne and that the other versions are stories that come from his imagination/muse/Mary) which DFW highlights so much in his essay is omnipresent in this book.
That said, it is mostly a book of fairy tales (and other short stories) embedded within the supposed tale of the writer with writer's block and a failing marriage to his trophy wife.
There were some great post-modern comments (as we look at ourselves looking at ourselves looking at..yep, you guessed it ourselves once again) in the the evil Reyardine who also rescues the boy and is in fact Mr. Fox (only killing off real women instead of fictional creations), Pizarsky as both Mary and Daphne's potential suitors (made me want to meet that guy), and the whole Mary/Daphne and blue woman/brown woman where the one tells the other to write a story while she makes off with other's man.
I wasn't sure ultimately if it was really supposed to be a book of fairy tales or religious commentary/parables (then again, hah, what's the difference?). Most of them were love stories (even if interspecial), but ultimately there were too many instances of characters rising from the dead for my taste.
There were also a ton of great quote (which as always can speak for themselves):
"It occurred to me that I was unhappy. And it didn't feel so very terrible. No urgency, nothing. I could slip out of my life on a slow wave like this--it didn't matter. I don't have to be happy. All I have to do is hold on to something and wait."
"But who finds happiness interesting?"
"We've been trying to fall in love--yes, with each other--but we've been trying to take some of the danger out of it. So no one ends up maimed, or dead. We're trying for something normal and nice."
"I guess most mothers are difficult and dissatisfied, though. I haven't heard of any easygoing ones, unless they're dead and everyone's being nice about them. But even then they don't say, 'She was real easygoing,' they talk about her sacrifice and how she had time to get involved in everyone's business."
"My husband was trying to choose between me, his wife, and someone he had made up. And I, the real woman, the wife, had nothing on the made-up girl. We each had five points in our favour. That son of a bitch."
"And now that he's gone she'd rather not talk to anyone else. Solitary people, these book lovers."
Overall it was worth reading, and I probably gave it a higher rating that I normally would have done for a book of (essentially) short stories except for the relevance to the post-modern quest for identity theme on which I seem to be stuck.