Last night I read the final section of Revenge of the Paste Eaters by Cheryl Peck.
My initial reaction when I picked up the book was that it looked funny and fun. And I was very much in the mood for both of those. My reaction upon completing it is that, although choppy and amateurish in style, it is a book that is worth reading. [more at the “more” link]
Ms. Peck works, for her day job, for the welfare department in Michigan. She is fat. She is a Lesbian. She is one of five children. And she talks about all of this at great length. She tells stories of growing up, of being fat, of being a Lesbian, of being a sibling. She does it all with frank honesty. The book, on the whole, reads like a blog. She uses aliases for her sisters (The Wee One and UnWee) and her partner (my Beloved). When I saw that her cat’s name is Babycakes I thought that might, perhaps, be an alias as well. Alas, it was not, and somewhere in Michigan lives a well-loved cat who every day must face reality as ‘Babycakes.’ I’m not sure the purpose of the aliases since anyone who reads the book and knows her will know who she is talking about but I didn’t have any real problem with their use.
The best pieces are near the beginning of the book. I found ‘The Vole Hole’ to offer the most meaning and insight. It describes her job situation in a faceless, windowless corporate environment juxtaposed with that of her Beloved’s job in a small company where her office has a window that opens. (I am lucky enough to work for a small company but have no window in my office and the folks who do have windows must never open them for fear of defying building management’s fierce energy saving strategies. I read this section with more than a touch of envy.)‘Waiting’, ‘Mine’ and ‘Silly Rabbit’ were also very funny. This is not a book about which a whole lot can be said. It was sharp and witty at times, depressing and miserable at others. She has an irritating tendency to start a story in one place and wrap it around to an entirely different one. The style is cryptic at times to the point of being jarring. At other times her words sing out and are so beautifully placed they bring you right into her life. I think she is a writer who could stand to attend some writing seminars to polish her style and find confidence in her voice (which does peep though in several of the vignettes). If she were to do that we would have a formidable new humorist on our hands.