(University of Wisconsin)So what are you going to do when you wake up one day and figure out that your parents --- your fun-loving Catholic suburban 50s mother are father --- are drunks? And then, twenty years later, you figure out that you and your soon-to-be-a-millionaire Wall Street husband are both drunks (beer, wine, gin, tonic, lime) and you realize this one night when you and he and your drinking buddies are having a party and you find yourself the only one dancing, alone, in front of everyone.
And then husband runs off to marry his Wall Street associate lady and the two of them move up the hill to the gingerbread house and one day there comes a court order that takes your two daughters from you, and then, after a fling with a gorgeous depressive (reads Hemingway, Ginsberg, Melville; has "Paul Newman" eyes) you decide you are a lesbian, end up with a black woman named Mars (who waitresses call "Sir.") What do you do then?
Why, you write a book about it all, and you call it Sex Talks to Girls after a book by the noted 1914 Puritan prude Dr. J D Steinhardt called Ten Sex Talks to Girls and you convince the University of Wisconsin to publish it and damn, is this reader glad.
Because Seaton can make us laugh and cry at the same time, is a natural-born one-liner master, is of the 1945 Betty Bard MacDonald school (The Egg and I) brought into the 21st Century. This, when she was but nineteen, on her would-be husband and her putative religion:
Then he was gone, at least for the rest of my freshman year. I couldn't have sex with Harper because of Jesus, and Harper got tired of waiting outside the church for a virgin with light pouring out of her orifices and nothing going in.
This, on her experiment in glossolalia: "I could speak tongues in my mind if I wanted to. It sounded a little like the Jewish Sabbath prayer, lovely and liquidy and totally unrecognizable to me."
I knew I wasn't making it up, and I knew it was just the beginning of all the "gifts." Still, it felt like a cross between a new bicycle and an imaginary friend, a secret stone in my pocket.
After the departure of Harper, Molly announces to all that she is going to marry Mars, the big black funny lesbian, and her boss says, "How would you like it, Molly, if I came to work one morning and told you I had slept with my horse?"
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After she is forced to give up daughters Clio and Sophie, "When I walked out of the office that day I could see the Hudson down the hill between the shops and banks of the village. Jamie and I would have more time to ride our bicycles, I thought. I thought: I'll have more time to write."
I vomited in the parking lot. I sat for over an hour in my car, waiting for God to show up and do something.
My god does Seaton charm the reader. With a story of giving birth to her second child, who she knew was going to be a boy, and she was going to name him "Dennis Hopper." And then baby arrives, a girl, no Dennis, and "Hello, Sophie, I said, l to the wise child who, without a word, would inspire me through the first revolution of my life."
Where do all these funny people come from: not funny strange, but funny ha-ha? No, I take that back. They are strange. In the midst of the most upheaving of events in their lives they survive and make laughter. Not long ago, we reviewed a sterling book on breast cancer, a wonderful funny melancholic book on breast cancer, Lopsided --- How Having Breast Cancer Can Be Really Distracting by Meredith Norton. She's so much like Seaton, such a soul mate and we wonder where do all the funny tragedians come from, popping out of the woodwork. Where were they hiding? When will they produce their next book, so we can be there to laugh (and weep) some more?--- Betty Rasmussen