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FPP#9: Fanfare and Menopause Jokes

The opening paragraph of a novel coming very soon from Algonquin Books:

In the fall of her fiftieth year, Alma finds herself lost in a dark mood she can't seem to shake. It's late September; she has actually not turned fifty yet, but she has already given that out as her age, hoping to get the fanfare and menopause jokes over and done with. It's not her own mortality that weighs heavily on her. In fact, it makes her sad when she reads that women of her profile (active, slender, vegetarian, married) will probably live — if they take care of themselves — to ninety and beyond.

Someone is dying. Or someone has died. Yes?

But wait: Alma first.

We enter the novel through Alma, a woman passing herself off as fifty while she's still forty-nine. My own mother, each year on her birthday, claimed to be twenty-nine — until my brother turned thirty, at which point Mom begrudgingly gained a decade, conceding that thirty-nine was closer to the truth. Rounding up, though? Who rounds up? Having never witnessed this behavior, I asked a smart female friend what she'd make of Alma lying about her age. "Maybe it means that she's bold," my friend said. "She isn't so intimidated by the number that she needs to run away from it. But it's sad that she thinks she needs to prepare herself. If she actually were strong, she wouldn't bother."

Meanwhile, as for "ninety and beyond"? I can't begin to imagine 2060.

My great aunt Yetis was almost thirty when she fled the Russian Revolution. Seven decades later, I was in high school when a teacher from my hometown went up in the Space Shuttle Challenger and didn't come back. Two months after the tragedy, I visited Yetis in Florida. She was still walking more than ten miles a week. For breakfast each day, Yetis slathered two pieces of toast with marmalade. Odd, the details that stay with you — even now, marmalade to me assures longevity.

Back to Alma, though: What for, her dark mood? Or maybe it would be more appropriate to ask, for whom?

[Turn back to last week's First Paragraph Preview, or skip straight to its author and title.]

Update: Find the author and title.

÷ ÷ ÷

Dave interviews authors for Powell's. He created our Out of the Book film series. He likes cats and dogs.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Jury Master Used Hardcover $8.95
  2. Saving the World: A Novel
    Used Hardcover $5.50

Dave is the author of Out of the Book, Volume 3: State by State

4 Responses to "FPP#9: Fanfare and Menopause Jokes"

    Pop!goes March 20th, 2006 at 6:24 pm

    i like, i like - marmalade, i mean. god i used to love marmalade but it's been years since i've had any. need to get me some of that soon. thanks for reminding me.

    Bolton March 21st, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    Browsing the blog page, I caught this sentence out of context:
    "Two months after the tragedy, I visited Yetis in Florida."

    My first thought was, "There are no Yetis in Florida! Could he mean Sasquatch? No, that's the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Chupacabra's in Mexico and South America. Is there a mythical hairy, ape-like creature roaming free in Florida?" (No Bush jokes, please.)

    Well, guess what -- there IS!

    Dave (Post Author) March 21st, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    YEE-TIS, Bolton. It's pronounced YEE-TIS.

    She was very old the whole time I knew her. She was 82 when I was born, and she lived another 21 years. "When I die," she had teased family and friends, "you put a glass top on my casket. I want to see everyone one of you dancing."

    There was less sorrow at that funeral than at any I've seen. (But alas, no glass casket.) The woman had lived an extraordinary life, and she left with more spirit than I can muster even on a good day.

    Anyway, it was nice to think of Yetis. It's been a while.

    sarchoo March 22nd, 2006 at 7:56 pm

    i like the word "fanfare." it's hard to get excited about an opening paragraph that introduces a depressive at the center ofthe action,but as you point out (i think this is what you're pointing out) there's a lot going on.we don't really know if alma is going to be the center of attention, which makes me more curious about what's coming.

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