Monday, September 11, 2017

Durga Chew-Bose, vacuums & swans-in-a-pond

There are so, so many great lines in Durga Chew-Bose’s Too Much and Not the Mood, but this one conjoinment of words in particular, for whatever reason, really rocked it for me. From the book’s opening essay, “Heart Museum,” five words synergized into one great, weird image:

A Dyson in the desert

Some context will probably help. The essay plays on her amazement that the heart is such a dependable thing, beating ever onward, continuing its awesome work through all kinds of havoc,

Even when I stand naked in my room after a long day of stupid letdowns, when I consider becoming a woman who screams or hacks off her hair, or tosses her purse instead of hanging it. Even then, when nakedness can’t undo the day, when my heart is lodged in my throat and my whole body falls limp—my whole body like my left wrist when I fasten my watch with my right hand. Limp like that. Even then, when I feel completely poured out and defeated. A Dyson in the desert.

I spent the summer proselytizing: It’s her metaphors that really do it for me – I told everyone, adding an exclamation point, or two. I’ve calmed down some, but the enthusiasm is still there, simmering. 

I didn’t actually know what a Dyson was until I was twenty-five or so, living with an ex-girlfriend who borrowed one from a friend so we could suck two months of accumulated dog fur out of our carpet, and of course some cheap plastic part of this vacuum—the roller, or the bracket thing that holds the roller—snapped in half just as we finished. She was resolute that we would replace the entire machine, or at least have it fixed, if we could, because that’s what you do when you borrow your friend’s expensive tools and break them. We Googled “dyson” and the model type, and quickly realized our options would be limited. She was in school, and I was only making—I am too embarrassed to admit how little—as a landscaper. In the end, the friend was great, and generous, and told us not to worry about it. In fact, she was thoughtful enough to say it was warrantied, which maybe it was or maybe it wasn’t, but that really let us off the hook. 

A few months later we were invited to her wedding, which my girlfriend warned me was to be a $400,000 affair (there are no secrets between some friends), presumably to include a celebrity chef, a barrel of Laphroaig 30-year, ice sculptures and exotic flowers, an orchestra, some swans-in-a-pond, and, and actually I’m struggling to imagine what could possibly make a wedding cost 2.5 times more than the home I am raising my boys in now. In the end, we couldn’t make it and I was honest-to-god relieved. 

The only criticism I have of Too Much and Not the Mood is that Chew-Bose seems to be the type of writer who grew up with a Dyson in the closet. Is that unfair? Is that even a criticism? 

Myself, I grew up very comfortably, I think, knocking out my weekly chores with the Kirby Classic III gifted to my parents when they were married in 1976—the Dyson of its day, maybe. 

Anyway, that line: A Dyson in the desert

A picture of exasperation, exhaustion, arms hanging, shoulders slumped, and—knowing the brand as I do now—resilience. Just lovely.

Craig Reinbold curates this site's Int'l Essayists column and recently co-edited, with Ander, How We Speak to One Another: An Essay Daily Reader. He works in the ER of a Milwaukee-area hospital, which mostly involves poop and pee and, occasionally, other bodily fluids. 

1 comment:

  1. My poor aging Kenmore -- can't imagine it in an essay. Or wait, maybe I can. Thanks. A wonderful piece.