i’m in here…

two words: refreshing innocence

I’d never heard of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, but I’m glad I have now, just for its nostalgic value. It is such a delight!

Margaret is innocent in her pubescence, before competition with other girls, one in particular who lies and cheats, takes hold. She gets sucked-in for a while and loses some of her confidence, but her ‘You talkin’ to me?’ eyebrow is intact, so I suspect she’ll be okay, and in the end she is.

Ultimately, as the title suggests, this book isn’t about puberty; it’s a discourse on personal religion.

Margaret is blissfully ignorant in the no-religion cocoon her parents create for her. She has an intuitive and independent relationship with god and she is happy chatting away in her alone-time with an ethereal entity of whose proportions only she knows – maybe it’s a teapot, or a flying spaghetti monster. Her parents’ euphemistic and pusillanimous  ‘Holiday Greetings’ and ‘December Tradition Gifts’, however, are inadequate in buffering the Jewish/Christian tug-a-war raging between her maternal and paternal grand-parents, or placating the religious expectations of her peers.

To silence the noise blocking her spontaneous god tentacles, Margaret decides to explore, against her parents’ wishes, what her friends and grand-parents are all yapping about. She looks for god in temple and church, but finds she only feels god when she’s alone. Everything else, the hats, the singing, the pomp and ceremony, is a distraction.

The battle for Margaret’s soul still rages on and comes to a head when the grand-parents show up. All the adults, including her parents, fail Margaret in ensuing hostile exchanges. They neglect to notice that the rope being pulled in this tug-a-war is a twelve year old girl. In an act of spite and defiance, she vows to never speak to god again.

Margaret’s self-imposed nihilism has dire consequences. In her grief, she becomes petulant, malicious and despondent.

Nature comes to the rescue. She gets her first period, and knowing that god wouldn’t miss such a momentous occasion, she seamlessly resumes chatting away with her spaghetti monster and is happy again. As she says,

As long as she loves me and I love her, what difference does religion make?

She has had it right all along, as children often do.

I really enjoyed reading Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret and will be passing it on to my own little girl. The narration rings true and I find myself reliving all my own ‘firsts’. Which prepubescent girl hasn’t chanted, ‘I must, I must, I must increase my bust’? It is heart-warming and a welcome respite from the weight of some of the other novels I’m reading.

i’m in heresia

Note to Briony: This is what little girls should be getting up to, not accusing innocent people of heinous crimes!


Though still a work in progress, here are the novels that I’ll be reading in 2011.

Struck through titles have been completed.
Bold titles are presently being read.
* indicates reread.

  1. 1984-1948-George Orwell
  2. The Adventures of Augie March-1953-Saul Bellow
  3. All The King’s Men-1946-Robert Penn Warren
  4. American Pastoral-1997-Philip Roth
  5. An American Tragedy-1925-Theodore Dreiser
  6. Animal Farm-1946-George Orwell*
  7. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret-1970-Judy Blume
  8. At Swim-Two-Birds-1938-Flann O’Brien
  9. Atonement-2002-Ian McEwan
  10. Beloved-1987-Toni Morrison*
  11. The Big Sleep-1939-Raymond Chandler
  12. The Blind Assassin-2000-Margaret Atwood
  13. Blood Meridian-1986-Cormac McCarthy
  14. Catch-22-1961-Joseph Heller
  15. The Catcher in the Rye-1951-J.D. Salinger*
  16. A Clockwork Orange-1963-Anthony Burgess
  17. The Corrections-2001-Jonathan Franzen
  18. The Death of the Heart-1958-Elizabeth Bowen
  19. The French Lieutenant’s Woman-1969-John Fowles
  20. Go Tell it on the Mountain-1953-James Baldwin
  21. The Grapes of Wrath-1939-John Steinbeck
  22. The Great Gatsby-1925-F. Scott Fitzgerald
  23. A Handful of Dust-1934-Evelyn Waugh
  24. The Heart is A Lonely Hunter-1940-Carson McCullers
  25. The Heart of the Matter-1948-Graham Greene
  26. Herzog-1964-Saul Bellow
  27. Housekeeping-1981-Marilynne Robinson
  28. I, Claudius-1934-Robert Graves
  29. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe-1950-C. S. Lewis
  30. Lolita-1955-Vladimir Nabokov*
  31. Lord of the Flies-1955-William Golding
  32. Lucky Jim-1954-Kingsley Amis
  33. The Man Who Loved Children-1940-Christina Stead
  34. Midnight’s Children-1981-Salman Rushdie
  35. Mrs. Dalloway-1925-Virginia Woolf
  36. Naked Lunch-1959-William Burroughs
  37. Never Let Me Go-2005-Kazuo Ishiguro
  38. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-1962-Ken Kesey
  39. The Painted Bird-1965-Jerzy Kosinski
  40. A Passage to India-1924-E. M. Forster
  41. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie-1961-Muriel Sparks
  42. Snow Crash-1992-Neal Stephenson
  43. The Sound and the Fury-1929-William Faulkner
  44. The Sun Also Rises-1926-Ernest Hemingway
  45. Super Sad True Love Story-2010-Gary Shteyngart
  46. Things Fall Apart-1959-Chinua Achebe*
  47. To the Lighthouse-1927-Virginia Woolf
  48. Ubik-1969-Phillip Dick
  49. Ulysses-1922-James Joyce
  50. Under The Net-1954-Iris Murdoch
  51. Under The Volcano-1947-Malcolm Lowry
  52. Watchmen-1986-Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons*
  53. White Teeth-2000-Zadie Smith*
  54. Wide Sargasso Sea-1966-Jean Rhys*