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
"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
"Why Did I Ever is a rarity: an experimental novel that's both engaging and wholly successful." Time Out New York
"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
"[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
"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
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.