LAST night I found this book Singling Out the Couples by Stella Duffy on sale at The Reading Room in Cubao X. I wasn’t in search of anything in particular to read at the time, but I needed something inedible to go with my coffee.
The premise made me curious immediately: how does the princess, the central character, go about wrecking the lives of the loving and the loved? What are her methods? What is her comeuppance? What satisfaction does she get out of her efforts?
This was a rather strange purchase on my part because I am not particularly fond of a) fiction, b) romance, and c) chick lit. I prefer fact, instruction, direct application.
It didn’t help that the cover photo was very dated, the paper discolored with fungus and adhesive stains. The only saving grace was that it was very cheap, priced much less than a quick fast food snack, but I could still put it back in favor of a purchase more in line with my reading preferences. So how come I couldn’t tear myself from the book?
In truth, my curiosity was a betrayal of fear: what if someone like the princess comes along and wrecks my family life? What if ultimately, that someone were me — and it didn’t even take any outsider to orchestrate the destruction of bonds? Because often, it isn’t other people that destroy relationships as many of us believe, but the rather, the inner demons of those inside the relationship.
I bought the book. 7 hours later, I was done reading it.
Once in a while, venture out of your shopping comfort zone — an unexpected and unlikely purchase can turn out to be a rich learning opportunity for you.
Stella Duffy’s novel strips away the narcissism that comes along with falling in love, and in my case it was the narcissistic fear of loss that is fundamental to all of us who have experienced emotional and physical connections in one way or another.
Cushla, the central character, the antagonist, is the embodiment of inevitable chaos and entropy that ensues from exclusive relationships. She is merely an instrument that probes into human weakness and lays it bare for her victims to face, for them to decide whether or not that weakness is strong enough to destroy their bonds. But Cushla isn’t necessarily evil. She is just a catalyst who could be anything, or anyone else. Cushla is death.
But death is also rebirth. That resonated soundly in me, much more powerfully than my fears.
I didn’t fancy Duffy’s flowery prose that much, though her wit can be colorful. The end is also unexpected in a predictable sort of manner, like those horror movies when you think it’s all over but then it isn’t after all, and then there’s more after the end credits roll. At first it didn’t sit well with me, mostly because it spoke of the dystopic truth that we’re all trying to avoid in so many ways, some with success, most without. But ugly or not, it is the truth, and I love that.
It’s that tendency towards failure in the human condition that puts us off from stories like this. Yet it’s also what’s so riveting about this tale.
All in all, this novel is incisive and blunt at the same time, and a good exercise for the frail of heart.
Have you purchased something on impulse that seemed useless to you but turned out to be a treasure? Tell me about it.