Thursday, August 1, 2013

Curtis Sittenfeld's "Sisterland" (2013)

 
I am reading Curtis Sittenfeld's new novel, Sisterland
 
I like this book a lot.  Sittenfeld's writing is eminently readable but complex enough to be interesting. I'm listening to Phillip Phillips while I write this, and I wander if Sittenfeld (together with Tom Perotta) is the Phillips of current American fiction? 
 
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Sisterland is the story of twin sisters convinced they have psychic powers.  One of the twins has predicted a large earthquake for the St. Louis area (their hometown) in the near future, while the other protagonist is trying to "escape" her psychicness. 
 
It's a fantastic premise and it makes for a compelling plot, but one of the themes I am taking away is loyalty -- in particular, loyalty to family.
 
"Good" twin Daisy is incredibly loyal to "bad" twin Vi, notwithstanding Vi's frequent bad behavior and lack of appreciation for Daisy's support.  Daisy is also loyal to their father, even though he does not treat her particularly well either.  It seems to be an unconditional loyalty: whereas Daisy thinks about and rationalizes her other behavior and decisions, she does not question her love for her sister and dad -- she just gives it.
 
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I also like this book because Daisy is raising two young children (a toddler and a baby), and the child rearing passages feel very relevant. 
 
584. I assume that Daisy is a semi-autobiographical stand-in for Sittenfeld, at least in terms of living in St. Louis and having the young children, but I haven't wanted to confirm this until I finish reading the book.  What about the twins' psychic powers: is there any link there to Sittenfeld's life?  (Regardless, from exploring Laura Bush in American Wife to the psychic questions here, Sittenfeld has come up with some great ideas for her writing.)
 
585.  I have never read a book with as many references to street names as Sisterland. Do all of the geographic references have thematic importance?  What other books spend significant time on geographic place names?
 
586. Earlier this summer I read Meg Wolitzer's The Position, and I am planning to listen to Wolitzer's The Interestings in the near future.  Who sells more books: Wolitzer or Sittenfeld?  How do their sales numbers compare with Jonathan Franzen's?

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