I think this is the type of book that people will either love or hate. It has the distinction of being the only book I can think of that involves twenty-something angst, domestic terrorism, hipper-than-thou vegans with names like Mirror and Devadatta, BDSM sex parties, paleontology, and a papier-mâché bust of John the Baptist constructed out of junk mail. It's also full of ridiculous conversations like this:
'It's supposed to be sexy," she screamed, "not some hippy soft porn garden scene. Nobody wants to look up and see ferns."
'And what you've got won't hold a person?'
'Not with the kind of torque we're going to be putting on it.'
'Post a weight limit,' I said.
'The fucking fat chicks would slay me. Slain. I would be dead. No more parties. Ever. I would actually have to slit my throat to have an afterlife.' She kicked a box of glassware. 'This rain sucks and I'm totally going to get a yeast infection if I keep eating this much sugar.' She threw the cupcake in the trash.
'Star Bank Plaza One Visa, how may I help you?'
'I'd like to take advantage of a recent credit card offer.' I told them I was a full tenured professor with no kids. They loved me. I could have bought a plane.
'Would you prefer igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary rock structures on your card, ma'am?'
'Do you have the Deccan Traps? 'Cause I'd like the Deccan Traps if you have it. They're in India. You know, a lot of people believe that eruption caused the extinction of fifty percent of life on earth.'
'No ma'am. We have the Grand Canyon, one with some jewels on it and a Hawaiian volcano.'
'Or if you have a comet smashing into the planet. I'd like that too.'
'Canyon, jewels, volcano.'
'Rim of fire?'
If you've ever been a part of any counterculture scene, you know all the characters here. They're the people you love and the people you love to hate. I identified so much with the protagonist, Della, even though we don't actually have much in common. Having recently finished grad school, she's now a waitress who is just trying to figure her shit out in a present-day America on the verge of a war. It's one of those books that is mostly contemporary but also a little bit science fiction-y, and Vanessa Veselka intentionally keeps the political climate a bit vague. Della's past is similarly shrouded -- we see her super-revolutionary family ("Jimmy says your parents are pretty fringe. Were they like total hippies?" "No. My parents blew up hippies."), we learn about her sister who died in a tragic accident as a teenager -- but while some type of recent breakdown is implied, we don't get too many details. Her mental health--or lack thereof--informs the story, which is a bit stream-of-consciousness at times.
There are so many mixed emotions here. The writing is raw and honest. Della is completely apathetic and nihilistic at times, then filled with rage, then passionately idealistic. I love it. Though it mostly consisted of tragic events and biting sarcasm, I found this novel ultimately very uplifting.