Death and surrealism

A French Exit is the fine art of leaving a party without saying goodbye. French Exit, the book, is about a woman who is trying to leave the party of life without saying goodbye to anyone, except maybe her son. It only works to a particular degree.

It starts with Frances (the woman, notorious for finding her husband’s body, closing the door, and going skiing for the weekend instead of reporting it) and Malcolm (her adult son, whose main life ambition seems to be to do as little as humanly possible) leaving a party early because they can, with Malcolm having stolen a framed picture from the wealthy household. You shortly find out that Frances has almost spent all of the money she inherited from her very wealthy husband; she and her son, who leaves behind a fiancée, soon leave for Paris along with their cat.

Their lives get weirder, more absurdist, once they’re in Paris. They collect people around them, ranging from a private detective who only speaks barely-passible English to an unemployed American woman who can see when people are about to die. Weird, in French Exit, is good.

I won’t spoil the ending, but the entire book is death-obsessed and nihilistic in that way that only wealthy upper-class people can be nihilistic. It is funny, and I would recommend it, but only if you’re in the mood for something that most people would consider to be a little bit off.

Another Sci Fi Classic

What’s it about?
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an absurdist take on the end of the world. It’s also a sci-fi classic. There’s been a movie version and a radio play. The second and third books in the series were good, the fourth book was decent, and the fifth one is eminently skippable. But those aren’t this book. This book is about Arthur Dent. His house gets torn down and then the Earth gets blown up. His friend Ford turns out to be an alien who can help him get off the planet seconds before the disaster. They end up having a big adventure, heading off to a planet that builds other planets – Magrathea. There’s also a depressed robot. You know, for laughs.

Why should you read it? 
I’ve read THGTTG so many times, I can’t articulate anymore what makes it good. I can tell you that this time we listened to it. We were road-tripping to Yosemite for a vacation, and I found an audiobook version read by Douglas Adams himself. I grabbed it, figuring my eleven-year-old was ready. She thought it was weird and funny, and promptly grabbed the book off the shelf when we got home. (This is a parenting win, in my book.) The tale is a classic, and the author did a wonderful job reading it.