CONTENTS MAY HAVE SHIFTED by Pam Houston (is my Girlfriend)Posted: February 28, 2012
WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT:
After seeing a glowing review for Pam Houston’s Contents May Have Shifted on my Book Blogging Fairy Godmother Rebecca Schinsky’s site, and a pretty great write-up on GoodReads from Amanda Nelson, who is my Book Blogging…Bunkmate at Summer Camp? Book Blogging Bus Buddy on Field Trip Day? I have to think about this more.
Anyway, when your Fairy Godmother and Bunkmate/Bus Buddy both J’adore ca a book, you read it.
It’s not astrophysics.
It’s recommendation physics!
Getting a little tired of using a Synopsis Gadget. You guys want to use a Synopsis Space Laser Death Ray today? I know, me too. Let’s do this.
Contents May Have Shifted is a novel in 144 small pieces, following a narrator also named Pam (almost certain a lot of this is a memoir and only some of it is a novel) (a memoir-vel if you will), a world-travelling writer based in Colorado who, at the start of the book, is getting out of a relationship with a serial philanderer.
(Note: Gentlemen, do not serial cheat or you will, in addition to being a really terrible person, possibly wind up as an asshole character in someone’s memoir-vel. DON’T DO IT.)
Pam The Character flings herself across the globe over the course of these twelve by twelve vignettes. She’s goes to far, far away places like Laos, Tibet, Argentina, Spain, Newfoundland, and New Zealand, and slightly less far away places like Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Lubbock, Texas, and the not-so-far away places are as important as the far away places. As she forces closure on her previous romantic relationship and begins a new one, architects new friendships and cements old ones, and visits a series of healers in an attempt to fix some certifiably traumatic physical and emotional injuries that date back to childhood, Pam shows us that you don’t have to (although you certainly can) travel a great physical distance in order to force change in your life. But if you want change, you got to move.
It’s a less a piece about globetrotting then it is a novel about place and how locations hurt, heal, and change us. I’m a huge Travel Adventure Pick Up My Backpack and Go if I Have Two Weeks Off and the Available Credit to Spare Girl, and I COMPLETELY related to the specificity-and-essential-nature of moment-to-moment existence that consumes a person when she is far enough away from home. I also related to the notion of places fucking you up or conversely fixing you up. Or fucking you up and then fixing you.
The prose is so simple, but it’s not MFA-y, bare-bonesy, Look-How-Few-Adjectives-I-Used-Where’s-My-Gold-Star-Teacher-simple. It’s simple prose that knows the value of its content. And that value is equivalent to all the money is Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin. F that ish, it’s probably more valuable.
If I ever met Pam Houston, I feel like I would want to greet her in some well-travelled, woman-of-the-world kind of way. Prayer Hands from Thailand, a bow from Japan, hello in twenty different languages.
But all I would really want to do is give her a big hug and say “Thank you.”
WHAT KIND OF GIRLFRIEND IS SHE – Your smart, professor-y globe-trotting girlfriend who’s always taking domestic and international flights to fix herself.
And you’re like “Let’s make out! Travel to my mouth! My tongue is such a good Port of Call.”
(The subtext of course being “Don’t leave. Or if you’re going to leave, please take me with you.”)
MY DATE WITH CONTENTS MAY HAVE SHIFTED:
Contents May Have Shifted is going on a Big Adventure Somewhere Amazing.
I want to go too.
Oh snap, I got the okay!