Tuesday, May 8, 2007

When good kids do terrible things.

I'm reading American Pastoral currently by Philip Roth. I'm liking it a lot better now that I've gotten past the first part. I must say, I'm not too big a fan of the narrator portion of this thing yet, and now that I'm in the second portion of the book, I'm unclear as to how this even all relates (and is the guy just imagining up history?) but I'm sure this book is acclaimed enough that all will come together in due time...

One thing though that I did keep thinking of while reading this book is how this makes me think of something I've been turning around in my head recently. I'm interested in writing something loosely based around ideas I've come up with around the VTech shootings. Obviously not those in particular because I think I'd be lynched, but more dealing with thoughts I've recently been having about the questions of - whose fault is it? where did it go wrong? what does the family have to do now? I am particularly interested in the VTech shootings because I think coming from an Asian family, it gives it a completely different twist when the family is Asian. The family life is completely different. I'd be so interested in telling a story like this from an Asian point of view.

I think that's what strikes me about American Pastoral - this idea of making it in America, the American dream. Thinking you've got it all going. You're here, everything's working out well. And then - boom - it's all gone, and not because someone took it from you, but because someone you love did something to obliterate it. And then you're left wondering, where did it go wrong? What did we do wrong? There's so much of that in this book right now, the Swede turning over and over in his head where the moment was, the instant where he failed.

Being a parent is one of the biggest responsibilities anyone can ever have. The convos Swede has with Merry about her trips to New York are so realistic - I can see myself as a teenager having similar rebellious convos - and I realize how difficult it is. To achieve that balance of giving your child freedom but drawing the line, giving them independence and their own will and trusting them to make the right decisions but also reining them under your will when circumstances necessitate. And then if things go wrong - you can't help but blame yourself. And even as your children hate you, you can't help but love them.

I know that people are obviously (and rightfully so) angry at the VTech shooter, and possibly blame his family or not. And he was wrong, horribly horribly wrong. And yet part of me wonders about the child within him, wonders about at what point he lost himself. Why he was so lonely and so misguided that he ended up where he was. And. I feel a little sad for him. That things were so bad that he didn't get the help he needed but instead did what he did. And I feel sad for his family, who, probably don't know what they did wrong. As a traditional Asian family, they probably didn't have it in their culture to "talk" about what was going on with the kid and give him support, not the way Americans do, and on top of that, as dry cleaners, probably didn't even have the time. Where does the responsibility lie in situations like these? And as always, I believe there is a difference between judging a person and judging their actions. What he did was awful, evil, inexcusable. But I can't help but wonder if he wasn't a bad kid, just a lost soul. And I feel sad about that. And I feel sad about his parents who will blame themselves, and will keep asking themselves where their lovable boy went. How it could be that someone that they know to be good inside, could have done such an awful thing.

This is a bit of an aside, I guess, nothing really to do with the book, except that it made me think about all these thoughts I've been thinking about around the recent shootings. I wanted to write a book about it, but I guess I can't really, since Philip Roth sort of wrote it already - though I'd have the Asian point of view. I guess I could do it again, in a different way (except, I think Jodi Picoult's new novel is about school shootings now that I think about it, so maybe not). But I guess I wanted to record what this book is making me think about and the issues it's brought up in my mind.

But so far so good.

2 drops:

moonrat said...

I understand now that you haven't updated since yesterday because I FAILED TO COMMENT ON YOUR POST!! I am a very bad girl. All due apologies.

angelle said...

yes, i sunk into depression thinking my one and only fan had forsaken me. but now i am ready to write about books once more. hahaha.

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