Receptionist: Does he have Alzheimer’s?
David Grant: No, he just believes what people tell him.
Receptionist: That’s too bad.
–Nebraska, Alexander Payne
“He held my hand in one of his and with the other started to build a house from the cards. He laid the foundation on my stomach, and I tried my best not to breathe. I tried to hold very still so I wouldn’t be the one to bring it down.”
–Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
This novel-movie pair explores generational differences that maybe aren’t so different, and family resentments that actually pull its members closer together, all in one refreshingly original, nutrient-dense serving size.
Khong’s prose is playful, brilliant, deliciously gastronomic (perhaps from her editing days at Lucky Peach) and piercing in its hilarity. Reminiscent of Lorrie Moore’s dazzling wordplay and use of scientific facts as double meaning, this book will hit all of your nerdiest, most literary nerve centers.
With this pairing, you’ll find:
- Wandering geriatrics with stubborn senility
- A return to the family of origin in adulthood
- Plot with a strong sense of place
- Whether integrity can be passed through generations, whether it was there in the first place
- A desire to return to childlike black-and-white thinking
- Symptoms of aging unable to negate the wisdom that comes with it
- Somewhat dutiful cronies willing to believe in the most far-fetched tales
- A desperation to reach the past when convenient
- Hunting for dignity in each developmental stage
Both of these teach us that while the good old days never existed, integrity is an old-fashioned ideal that is still more than relevant today. And family can’t be ignored, so you may as well lean in. If nothing else, it’ll be entertaining. For example, “You were distressed because your pair of gloves had gone missing. When I asked you for a description, you said: they are sort of shaped like my hands.”