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Why Did I Ever?by Mary Robison
Winner of the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Award for Fiction
Synopses & Reviews
From the critically acclaimed author of Oh! and An Amateur's Guide to the Night, Mary Robison's first new work in over a decade.
After a ten-year silence, Mary Robison has emerged with a novel so beguiling and funny, it has brought her live reading audiences to their feet. Why Did I Ever? takes us along on the darkest of private journeys. The story, told by a narrator named Money Breton, is submitted like a furious and persuasive diary — a tale as fierce and taut as its fictional teller.
Forces are bearing down on Money. Three husbands have left her. I.R.S. agents are whamming on her door. Her grown children are in trouble. And her beloved cat has gone missing. She's back and forth between Melanie, her secluded Southern town, and L.A., where she has a weakening grasp on her job as a script doctor. Having been sacked by most of the studios and convinced that her dealings with Hollywood have fractured her personality and rendered her a multiple, Money talks to herself nonstop, telling her mirrored reflection, "That face needs cheekbones," telling her hands, "Quit shaking, people can see," telling herself finally, "Shut up! I don't care what you think!" She glues and hammers and paints every item in her place. She addresses her former husbands, asking them "You did what kind of work?" She forges loving inscriptions in all her books. She drives in circles all over the South. She occupies herself any way that works. Through it all, there is Mev, her darling puzzling daughter who lives close by but seems ever beyond reach, and Paulie, her son, the damaged victim of a violent crime under police protection in New York. Now, while both her children seem to be losing all their battles, Money tries for ways and reasons to keep battling.
Why Did I Ever? is a book of piercing intellect and belligerent humor. It is certain to have a profound impact, not only on Robison's devoted following but on the shape of the contemporary novel itself.
"Tense, moving, and hilarious...[a] dark jewel of a novel." Francine Prose, O: The Oprah Magazine
"I wish to hell I could write prose like this....The joy in this novel is for the reader, not the characters. Read it." David Gates, Newsweek
"[A] writer with switchblade wit....Robison's incandescent soliloquy on the absurdity of existence hones fiction to a new and exhilarating measure of sharpness." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"Why Did I Ever is a rarity: an experimental novel that's both engaging and wholly successful." Time Out New York
"Mary Robison, almost as an afterthought, has created a novel that speaks volumes about life in Los Angeles: its stopping and starting, its rushing and emoting, its whimsy and its suspicious, subversive humor: not the irony of New York, not the deadpan of Chicago, but the manic insubordination of Los Angeles." Los Angeles Times Book Review
"[A] tour de force of minimalist yet mind-expanding prose....[Robison] injects this funny, fast, dark narrative with breezy candor....Laden with her own emotional upheavals yet fiercely maternal, Breton knows she has to grab her freedoms where she can. This is the lesson and the beauty of this novel, from a writer who makes you think — hard — about life's unavoidable travails, while making it impossible for you to suppress a smile." Lisa Shea, Elle
"Mary Robison is back, and in the nick of time — we've missed her, and we need her....What makes Money memorable, and Mary Robison essential, is that her fundamental bearings are the right ones. Love and compassion are her nature, and they suffuse the page whenever she is talking about her children, even the exasperating daughter." Richard Dyer, Boston Globe
"Robison's characters are vivid, colorful, and likable, and their story is absorbing. Her humorous presentation does not cheapen the tragic content of her novel but realistically portrays one method of survival. Highly recommended..." Library Journal
"[T]here's grace and humor in the slippage between the ideal and the real: sure, we fall short, Robison seems to say, but more often than not a shrug and a quip save us from desperation. The author...creates a narrative out of fragmented paragraphs, and the book works best when she strips Money's most explicit fears away. At these moments, a simple sentence fragment...seems a close to perfect expression of lost beauty." The New Yorker
"[A] sharp, funny, scrappy little novel, served up in bits and shards....[N]o doubt there is a voyeuristic fascination in watching a character attempt to destroy herself. But...Robison doesn't allow us inside the mind of Money Breton. Amplifying this inaccessibility is the novel's wearying structure. Trying to make sense of Why Did I Ever is a bit like coming upon something shattered...and though we want to put it back together again, we eventually run out of energy. Even so, there are a few moments that sear..." Dani Shapiro, Bookforum
"Robison...finds the exact place where language and existence intersect....Her un-self-conscious oddballs, her eye for the curious detail, the way she uses tiny circles of logic to create a worldview — all of Robison's minimalist genius is at work here. And, miraculously, all of this mandarin cleverness creates that least knowing, least sophisticated and perhaps most dangerous quality of all — sincerity." Cathleen Schine, The New York Times Book Review
After a ten-year silence, Mary Robison has emerged with a novel so beguiling and funny that it has brought critics and her live-reading audiences to their feet. Why Did I Ever takes us along on the darkest of private journeys. The story, told by a woman named Money Breton, is submitted like a furious and persuasive diary-a tale as fierce and taut as its fictional teller.
About the Author
Mary Robison is the author of three story collections and two novels. She has written for Hollywood and been a contributor to The New Yorker since 1977. She has taught with many writing programs and is now a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi.
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