They don’t give you a manual, Meredith, and who’s going to prepare you if not your grandpa? I’m not going to to pussyfooting around your bowel movements on account of your innocence, because one day you’re going to wake up and wonder why the world perpetrated treacherous lies against such a perfect creature as yourself…
The Valetudinarian by Joshua Ferris, August 3 2009
Joshua Ferris’ story of a widower adrift in a Florida retirement community, plagued by a wide range of physical ailments, annoying neighbors, and distant children, is both a hilarious character sketch and comedic romp, and an example of Tolkein’s eucatastrophe. Knocked out of his rut by a Russian prostitute and a Viagra-induced heart attack, Arty Groys is set on a course that may be for the better, or may be for the worst, but is certainly more interesting than morosely ordering pizza from his lonely apartment.
This was also the pick of The New Yorkerest; great taste, as per usual.
(A “valetudinarian,” incidentally, is “a person who is excessively concerned about his or her poor health or ailments.” “[F]rom valetudo “state of health,” from valere “be strong” (see valiant) ” I like this little play on words, since the valetudinous Arty does indeed exhibit some valiant tendencies at the end.)
I’d also like to give a little shout out to the Rae Armantrout poem, Money Talks; she packs a lot into a little, as always, turning a billboard into a wry economic commentary.