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Choisya
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I am one of those who dislike Audrey, perhaps because I am English and she is the only English person in the book yet has an unpleasant character.  At some point in the book she says that she decided to live with Joel's affairs.  She was a typist/secretary so could have easily have earned a living for herself but chose to hang on to him, chose to be a 'groupie' on the political scene, even though she had no strong political convictions herself. Chose to hang on to his wealth perhaps.  Apart from that, I would have disliked her for her bad language alone which certainly is not typical for an English woman of her class. 

 


scouturier wrote:

It's funny how many people dislike Audrey.  Don't get me wrong, she is not my favorite person in the book, but as I go on I can't help but admire her a bit. 

 

Yes she is a royal bitch to her daughters, it seems she is better to Lenny, although so far that doesn't seem to help him much.  I guess I like how she says what she thinks.  As a person who edits their thoughts before speaking I find it refreshing to see that in a person/character.  She almost has the Scarlett O'hara complex of if I don't like it, I will think about it tomorrow, but for Audrey she just completely ignores it or finds a way to try and prove it false. 

 

I think also when you get further in the book you realize a bit why she is the way she is.  Joel's extramarital affairs have certainly taken a toll on her and how she handles things.  I mean it couldn't have been easy to marry him, move to the states and within months he is cheating.

 

Saying that, I also don't believe that there much real love between Audrey and Joel.  At least to the point in the book I am.


 

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jdmiller212
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Re: Audrey and Joel

Audrey from the start knew she did not want the life that she had in England. So when Joel at the beginning tried to shake her up a little when he said he should marry her and take her back to New York with him, she took it seriously.  This showed what kind of personality she had right from the start.  Laughing and taking things not seriously did not seem to be an option for her.  Later you saw how she saw things as her being right and the rest if did not agree, totally idiots.  Even how she related to her natural born daughters, she was always detached as a mother, but as an onlooker, they could not fit into her world.  Lenny of course was her favorite because she had no part in making him, therefore she could not be criticized or judged by what he did or said.  The females in this family had should different personalities, yet all were flawed in someway.  Karla, I think in the end was the only one who really found her way out of the life she thought she should be grateful for and into one she deserved.  Joel fought for what he believed, but also wanted everyone in his family to believe the same, and also felt entitled to his affairs.  I do not think love was ever something that occurred in this family, it was just something that fit for both Audrey and Joel.  The kids never felt love.  They just grew up lost, looking for something that would make them feel good about themselves and something positive to believe in.  I found this book made me at times what to put Audrey in her place, tell Karla she was someone special etc.  I like books that make you feel like the characters are real and you know that there are people out there just like them.
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KxBurns
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I see many great points here about Audrey and Joel and their marriage, whether you find the characters sympathetic or not. I'm in the camp that doesn't particularly like Audrey but finds her brashness totally compelling.

 

I think Chana puts it eloquently here:

"There was definitely no poetry.  Joel was lucky enough to find someone he could share that with, perhaps the fact that Audrey never found it (and never thought to seek it??) was one of the main reasons for her bitter outlook, and one of the reasons she clung so desperately to the political ideals that defined them as a couple and her as an individual.  Joel could mellow, she couldn't.  I don't like her much, and a get impatient with her for her intolerance, but I understand her, and feel more than a little sorry for her."

 

And LucyintheOC, I especially like your assessment of Joel and what motivates him to marry Audrey and to stay married to her.

 

I'm wondering what you all made of the anecdote Rosa recalls in Chapter 3 about Audrey's miscarriage on the train (page 50)? Surely Audrey's handling of the event goes beyond the stiff upper lip of the Brits? What does it say about her?

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Opusquest
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Re: Audrey and Joel

Someone wrote in their post, "It's funny how many people dislike Audrey.  Don't get me wrong, she is not my favorite person in the book, but as I go on I can't help but admire her a bit. 

 

Yes she is a royal bitch to her daughters, it seems she is better to Lenny, although so far that doesn't seem to help him much.  I guess I like how she says what she thinks..." 

 

I don't see how anyone could like Audrey.  She is a bully.  A mean, nasty, stubborn, bully.

 

As far as being better to Lenny-she obviously likes having him ever-present in her life.  She wants his attention.  She seems to place a higher value on the attention and love of the men in her life than her daughters.

 

She does not help Lenny-  She enables him in his bad habits.

 

While it is admirable when people speak their minds I don't find that to be a redeeming trait when they are unwilling to consider, even for a second, any other points of view than their own as having merit.

 

I don't find that Audrey has any redeeming characteristics at all.

 

It isn't heroic of her to live a farce. 

 

It speaks to her arrogance that she believes that she and she alone could hold the love of a man who never committed to her.

 

 

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Icovry
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I agree that religion did bring Audrey and Joel together.  However, I am suprised that there were no comments by Joel or Audrey about Karla marring a "non-Jew".  I thought they would be just as upset at Karla for marring a non-Jew as they are at Rosa for becoming more Jewish. Also,  I would not call Audrey "ignorant", but rather so opinionated that what others say are deemed irrelevant (that comes across not just with her interaction with her kids but also with her friend Jean).

 

 

 

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lamorgan
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Re: Audrey and Joel

They definitely are an interesting couple, to say the least. I agree that there is something in that marriage that has kept them together all these years, in spite of the affairs, drugs and totally opposite personalities.

Audrey obviously turned a blind eye to her husband's flings. They didn't matter as that was the "other" side of him...the side he portrayed to the outside world. As long as he didn't bring it home, it was okay. Almost like leaving work at the office, he was to leave the other women somewhere else, too. Don't talk about it, don't act like they mean anything, etc., etc., and life will be good at home.

There is some part of Joel that loves Audrey -- that's obvious in the way he talks to her and interacts with her. But another part has no concern for her feelings as is quite the womanizer.

As far as their relationship with the children, I think they chose sides from the start. Joel loved his girls and Audrey, perhaps in her jealousy of that, never truly cared for them as a mother typically does.

Lenny, on the other hand, was brought into the family by Joel. Audrey developed an instant affection for him and Joel became distanced from him.

I find it interesting that we aren't told anything about Lenny's father. His mother is in prison and Joel brings the boy home. Is Lenny the result of another one of Joel's flings?

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Choisya
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Re: Audrey and Joel

There is a 'stiff upper lipness' about Brits in this situation Kx:smileyhappy:.  For instance, when I went into labour with my first child I was living on a flooded caravan site.  I grabbed my case, climbed onto a flood bank to get our canoe and canoed off the site - about half a mile. I moored the canoe, walked to a bus stop, half an hour later I changed buses onto a trolley bus which went along bumpy cobble stones and arrived at the hospital, where I gave birth within the hour.  At no time did it occur to me to get in touch with my husband or parents for help - I just gritted my teeth and got on with it.:smileysurprised:   Audrey's miscarriage was of this ilk I think.

 

Has anyone wondered whether the relationship Audrey has with Lenny is Oedipal??    

 


KxBurns wrote:

I see many great points here about Audrey and Joel and their marriage, whether you find the characters sympathetic or not. I'm in the camp that doesn't particularly like Audrey but finds her brashness totally compelling.

 

I think Chana puts it eloquently here:

"There was definitely no poetry.  Joel was lucky enough to find someone he could share that with, perhaps the fact that Audrey never found it (and never thought to seek it??) was one of the main reasons for her bitter outlook, and one of the reasons she clung so desperately to the political ideals that defined them as a couple and her as an individual.  Joel could mellow, she couldn't.  I don't like her much, and a get impatient with her for her intolerance, but I understand her, and feel more than a little sorry for her."

 

And LucyintheOC, I especially like your assessment of Joel and what motivates him to marry Audrey and to stay married to her.

 

I'm wondering what you all made of the anecdote Rosa recalls in Chapter 3 about Audrey's miscarriage on the train (page 50)? Surely Audrey's handling of the event goes beyond the stiff upper lip of the Brits? What does it say about her?


 

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caite
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Re: Audrey and Joel

When I read the blurb for this book after I got it, I could not remember why I had requested it. I was sure I was going to dislike these people and I find it hard to really like a book if I hate the characters.

But surprise, surprise, I found that I really did not dislike any of them...and I am totally sure why.

 

Objectively, there is little to like about them from my point of view. I disagree with their view of the world, their stand on politics and religion, how they conduct their personal lives, their relationship with each other and with their children. Yes, Audrey is nasty and a bully. I think she married Joel because she saw it as an escape, a step up. Joel...well, Joel is not someone I would want to be married to. The kids are all pretty screwed up.

And yet... I found them oddly sympathetic. Perhaps it is way the author portrays them...I am not totally sure.

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PiperMurphy
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I think that Audrey was attracted to Joel as the older, handsome, American lawyer. But I think that she used him as the end to a means. She moved to America and lived an affluent life. I wondered through the rest of the book why Joel agreed to the marriage and why he stuck with it. We never get his point of view. For me, that leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Possibly the answer to why Audrey is the way she is has to come from Joel.
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Curtis_Lee
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I thought Audrey and Joel were great together.  They had their arguments, however, I believe that's what partly keep them together for so long.  They both say what they think and don't care what others think of them.  They are also both "set in their ways."  It seems neither of them really like change.

 

Audrey has her own view on the world which her children don't. In a way, it seems like it was good for her children because they saw the world how Audrey saw it and decided that her view wasn't completely realistic.  A flaw of Audrey's is that she favors Lenny and he knows it so he takes advantage of her.  The thing is, she knows when he's taking advantage of her and still lets him.  Audrey's personality really showed throughout the book as you got further along.  You saw her change for the better, especially at the end during the funeral.

 

Joel seems quite stubborn yet determined to do what he believes is right.  He likes when people write or say negative things about him.  This partly shows his character and how he deals with things.  He finds the negativity funny and it makes him even more determined.  At the end, I believe that his "fans" see him as the lion that Audrey sees him as.  On the other hand, there were people who didn't like him whatsoever.  I'm not sure what I believe I felt for him because we didn't get to know him as well as we did other characters.

 

Before Joel's stroke he was stressed over his current case and was very "on edge."  He even got irritated over that morning's breakfast and not have any shoe polish.  From the sounds of things, some people expected something like a stroke to happen him. 

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dhaupt
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Re: Audrey and Joel


caite wrote:

When I read the blurb for this book after I got it, I could not remember why I had requested it. I was sure I was going to dislike these people and I find it hard to really like a book if I hate the characters.

But surprise, surprise, I found that I really did not dislike any of them...and I am totally sure why.

 

Objectively, there is little to like about them from my point of view. I disagree with their view of the world, their stand on politics and religion, how they conduct their personal lives, their relationship with each other and with their children. Yes, Audrey is nasty and a bully. I think she married Joel because she saw it as an escape, a step up. Joel...well, Joel is not someone I would want to be married to. The kids are all pretty screwed up.

And yet... I found them oddly sympathetic. Perhaps it is way the author portrays them...I am not totally sure.


You know that's exactly how I felt when I finished the book I kept scratching my head asking myself why I thought it was such a good book when I didn't like anybody in it. So I had to attribute it to the fact that the author was that good.

 

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MSaff
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Re: Audrey and Joel

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

KxBurns writes:

 

Your comment about Audrey and Joel's marriage makes me wonder, though -- how strong can a marriage be if it is ALL about just one of the partners? And could Audrey's harsh politics -- which seems to increase as Joel's mellows out -- be an attempt to empower herself in the relationship? In a way, she becomes the steward of the political philosophy that the couple once shared; the expert where she used to be the student. If this is her goal, does it work?

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

I still believe that their marriage was strong.  I saw  a real love between the two of them, and Joel's womanizing, I'm sure took it's toll on Audrey.  Did Joel's politics mellow out or did it take a back seat to the stroke ?  With Joel so drastically ill, did Audrey feel it was responsibility to take the steps politically, that Joel would have possibly initiated ?  I don't think that Audrey's goal was to become the steward, I think it happened as a result of the stroke.

 

 

Mike
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss
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LucyintheOC
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Re: Audrey and Joel

[ Edited ]

Choisya, I don't know if I would classify Audrey and Lenny's relationship Oedipal. I think it is based on codependency. Audrey enabled Lenny and the characters are classically codependent in their relationship/interaction with one another. Since the supporting evidence I would like to site for my reasoning for this comes from a later part of the book, I will not state it since we are restricted here to the prologue and first four chapters. I would be interested to hear your opinion at a later time when we are further into the book.

 

I like what you pointed out regarding Audrey -- she had marketable skill and, as you said, "could have easilty have earned a living for herself." I agree with you that she chose to be one of his "groupies" -- sort of like being the "head wife" in a harem.  She "chose to hang onto his wealth" as you mentioned and, actually, I think this was one of the main motivators for Audrey in marrying Joel -- in the prologue, she thinks about living in a luxurious apartment in New York. And the status she will achieve. Actually, I wonder if this is how Audrey set herself up to become the nasty woman we meet 40 years later: She sold her soul/sold herself out and she lost whatever respect she may have once had for herself.

 

I wanted to metion the discussion regarding religion bringing Joel and Audrey together. I don't know if religion actually brought them together so much as it made them "acceptable" potential candidates/choices for marriage on some emotional level. So if we are referring to religion as a common background, then, yes, I wholehartedly agree...I think religion did play a part in bringing them together.

Message Edited by LucyintheOC on 10-21-2008 09:48 PM
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mwinasu
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Re: Audrey and Joel

nhbooklover,  I swear this is true.  My Mom met my stepfather in a bar on Saturday night and married him  the following Thursday.  They married because my stepsister has the same name as me and our birthday's are on the same day although we are not the same age.  They were drunk and they figured that they had a sign from God.  They were married for 16 years until my Mom died and I don't  think that they ever sobered up in all those years.

It could happen.  It is a hallmark of thrill seekers and risk takers.  I think that it is the one thing that Audrey and Joel have in common.  They both love to stir up trouble but they do not do it for the same reasons.  Joel does it to try to protect the weak and make the world a better place while Audrey does it for her own amusement. I have found that it is best to avoid people like her.

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KxBurns
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Re: Audrey and Joel


LucyintheOC wrote:

Choisya, I don't know if I would classify Audrey and Lenny's relationship Oedipal. I think it is based on codependency. Audrey enabled Lenny and the characters are classically codependent in their relationship/interaction with one another. Since the supporting evidence I would like to site for my reasoning for this comes from a later part of the book, I will not state it since we are restricted here to the prologue and first four chapters. I would be interested to hear your opinion at a later time when we are further into the book.

 

[edited]


Lucy, you are permitted to discuss the whole book on all threads except the ones that are named by chapter groupings (the current thread for Part I, for example). I agree with you completely about Audrey and Lenny's codependence and you should feel free to expound on it here, or save it for when we get to Lenny -- up to you! I think the scene where they visit the prison is a perfect illustration of their codependent dynamic.

 

 

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KxBurns
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Re: Audrey and Joel


mwinasu wrote:

[edited]  ...They both love to stir up trouble but they do not do it for the same reasons.  Joel does it to try to protect the weak and make the world a better place while Audrey does it for her own amusement. I have found that it is best to avoid people like her.


I agree with the gist of what you're saying but at the same time I feel like Audrey's motives go deeper than just amusement.

 

And while I do agree that Joel seems to have often acted on the behalf of others, he also stirs up trouble out of selfishness. Maybe he got so accustomed to flouting convention and defying rules that he began to live his personal life that way, or maybe this was always his general approach to life and it made him well-suited to be a rebel and a dissident? Anyone have any thoughts on this?...

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pocogirl
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Re: Audrey and Joel

These are great questions!

 

Audrey, in the prologue seems outwardly quiet and unsure of herself.  Yet I also think that there seems to exist this need to be someone other than who she genuinely is.  Being herself is not sufficient.  It seems that there is an inward drive for her to be considered as a great crusader for the cause.  I can't yet discern if it is truly what she believes or a means of drawing attention to herself.  Again, to fulfill a need to "be somebody".

 

Joel strikes me as a player.  While I am sure he is an excellent lawyer, I am not convinced of his true passion to be an excellent husband or father.  They seem to play subordinate roles to his headline grabbing antics and who you know status. 

 

I think that is what draws Audrey to Joel.  He feeds that part of her that she desparately wants.  Yet, initially anyway it seems to be futile in the overall theme of their lives.  I don't see so much love hetween them as a comfortableness with the status quo of their mundane existance.

 

Yet there is something captivating about all of that leaves you craving to know more about them.

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IBIS
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Re: Audrey and Joel

The quote in the front of the book...  "The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions and without becoming disillusioned" is the stage from which I saw Audrey and Joel as studies in contrasts...

Audrey is 19 when she meets Joel, who already is a respected activist lawyer at 32.  
Audrey is unconcerned about how others at the party perceive her;  she stands aloof from the other guests. She brings a total stranger to her parents' dreary home, knowing that her parents keep an over-heated squalid household. She doesn't worry about consequent negative perceptions that Joel may have.
In another scene, her friend Jean observes that Audrey has the "gift for conviction"... Audrey carries a huge and burdensome collection of a priori convictions... and she feels bound to protect these convictions throughout the rest of the story...
She will process any catastrophe, any different viewpoint, and assimilate it to fit her worldview. A good example is how she perceives her son, Lenny... everyone recognizes him for the slacker he is, but Audrey processes everything about him within the context of her priori conviction she has of him as the "good son".
In other words, she thinks that she has no illusions about her worldview. But we find later in the story that it requires great energy to maintain that fiction. The challenge of living without illusions and not  becoming disillusioned will test Audrey sorely through the rest of the "The Believers".
Joel on the other hand is very concerned about what people think of him. He wants to be liked. He tells his listeners an ingratiating anecdote of Paul Robeson. When her father misperceives his career, he does not correct him because he fears contradicting any story Audrey may have told her parents. And although he found the visit to her parents' home awful, he tells her gallantly, "I'm having a great time."  He genuinely wanted her to like him.
Joel has a more forgiving humanistic understanding of the world than Audrey does. He tells Rosa on p. 59, "Only ideas are perfect. People never are." And also, "When you've lived a bit longer, you'll be more forgiving."
In other words, Joel does not have illusions of how the world works. In defending social pariahs, he has learned to expect hostile attention. When he dies after his debilitating stroke, he was in the process of defending Hasani against charges of terrorism. He urged his client not make a deal, and he planned his defense without compromise.
IBIS 
IBIS

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BookWoman718
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I don't 'like' the character of Audrey; she's far too casually cruel to her children and to others. (But I did love reading about her, right to the end, hoping all the time that her daughters would find a way to remove themselves from her poisonous influence on their lives and personalities.) There's a couple of paragraphs near the end of Chapter 11, in which Audrey, after her nastiness during the sit-down meeting with Bereniece and Daniel, wonders how she ended up like this. Her 'brashness' began as a sort of persona that she donned after moving to the States, and probably out of a need to build self-confidence among Joel and his older, more established friends and associates. She realizes that 'somewhere along the way, her temper had ceased to be a beguiling party act that could be switched on and off at will. It had begun to express authentic resentments..." And she hadn't noticed this taking place: "she had gone on for a long time, fondly believing that the strategems of her youth were just as appealing as they had ever been." And then it was too late, her anger had become a part of her. Audrey, young and impressionable when she marries Joel, has entered so thoroughly into his worldview, and has so thoroughly assumed the identity of his wife and partner, that she no longer is anyone else. His life IS her life. She hurts from his infidelities but accepts them; enables him as she will later enable Lenny, demanding nothing in return. (This isn't exactly unheard of among wives of prominent men, especially of Audrey's generation.) After his stroke, she can't face 'letting him go' because, then who is she? It's only when he's gone that she realizes that she can make herself the "Widow of" just as she was the "Wife of" - and that includes claiming Joel's mistress and his illegitimate child as her own, a part of "her and Joel's family." I so admire Zoe Heller's skill in writing this. First of all, because she found the humor in the human frailties, not of right wing zealots or greedy corporate types (omg, will modern literature and films NEVER tire of those oh-so-familiar and predictable bad guys), but of honest-to-gosh East coast liberals. And Jews, to boot! Sure, Woody Allen loves to depict their sexual neuroses, but to actually hint at hypocrisy in their political stances? So refreshingly not-PC. Secondly, Heller is carrying all this off while treating some really serious issues. Someone asked, who are the believers? Almost everybody. Joel and Audrey in their political activism, and their total scorn for anyone who doesn't think as they do.. Rosa, who is trying so hard to find meaning and continuity in her life, yearns to be a believer. Lenny, who seems to believe he is entitled to everyone's assistance however badly he behaves. Karla, who first believes she is unworthy of love, and learns to believe in a kind of warm and accepting love that she has never known before. Khaled, who believes that his vision of Karla is the true one. The observant Jews that Rosa meets with whose religious beliefs define their daily lives. All of these are the kinds of beliefs that any one of us could have. Do we recognize ourselves in these characters, or just 'others'? Could we really be so cruel, so clueless, so dismissive of others, so disloyal, so impatient? Do we take advantage of others? Do our lives express the values we espouse? Heller has, with intelligence and humor, nailed some very interesting questions.
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kiakar
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Audrey and Joel

 

That was a wonderful precised post you just posted. That would work well for the review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


BookWoman718 wrote:
I don't 'like' the character of Audrey; she's far too casually cruel to her children and to others. (But I did love reading about her, right to the end, hoping all the time that her daughters would find a way to remove themselves from her poisonous influence on their lives and personalities.) There's a couple of paragraphs near the end of Chapter 11, in which Audrey, after her nastiness during the sit-down meeting with Bereniece and Daniel, wonders how she ended up like this. Her 'brashness' began as a sort of persona that she donned after moving to the States, and probably out of a need to build self-confidence among Joel and his older, more established friends and associates. She realizes that 'somewhere along the way, her temper had ceased to be a beguiling party act that could be switched on and off at will. It had begun to express authentic resentments..." And she hadn't noticed this taking place: "she had gone on for a long time, fondly believing that the strategems of her youth were just as appealing as they had ever been." And then it was too late, her anger had become a part of her. Audrey, young and impressionable when she marries Joel, has entered so thoroughly into his worldview, and has so thoroughly assumed the identity of his wife and partner, that she no longer is anyone else. His life IS her life. She hurts from his infidelities but accepts them; enables him as she will later enable Lenny, demanding nothing in return. (This isn't exactly unheard of among wives of prominent men, especially of Audrey's generation.) After his stroke, she can't face 'letting him go' because, then who is she? It's only when he's gone that she realizes that she can make herself the "Widow of" just as she was the "Wife of" - and that includes claiming Joel's mistress and his illegitimate child as her own, a part of "her and Joel's family." I so admire Zoe Heller's skill in writing this. First of all, because she found the humor in the human frailties, not of right wing zealots or greedy corporate types (omg, will modern literature and films NEVER tire of those oh-so-familiar and predictable bad guys), but of honest-to-gosh East coast liberals. And Jews, to boot! Sure, Woody Allen loves to depict their sexual neuroses, but to actually hint at hypocrisy in their political stances? So refreshingly not-PC. Secondly, Heller is carrying all this off while treating some really serious issues. Someone asked, who are the believers? Almost everybody. Joel and Audrey in their political activism, and their total scorn for anyone who doesn't think as they do.. Rosa, who is trying so hard to find meaning and continuity in her life, yearns to be a believer. Lenny, who seems to believe he is entitled to everyone's assistance however badly he behaves. Karla, who first believes she is unworthy of love, and learns to believe in a kind of warm and accepting love that she has never known before. Khaled, who believes that his vision of Karla is the true one. The observant Jews that Rosa meets with whose religious beliefs define their daily lives. All of these are the kinds of beliefs that any one of us could have. Do we recognize ourselves in these characters, or just 'others'? Could we really be so cruel, so clueless, so dismissive of others, so disloyal, so impatient? Do we take advantage of others? Do our lives express the values we espouse? Heller has, with intelligence and humor, nailed some very interesting questions.