All the News I Need
by Joan Frank
Paperback: 210 pages
Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
All The News I Need probes the modern American response to inevitable, ancient riddles—of love and sex and mortality.
Frances Ferguson is a lonely, sharp-tongued widow who lives in the wine country. Oliver Gaffney is a painfully shy gay man who guards a secret and lives out equally lonely days in San Francisco. Friends by default, Fran and Ollie nurse the deep anomie of loss and the creeping, animal betrayal of aging. Each loves routine but is anxious that life might be passing by. To crack open this stalemate, Fran insists the two travel together to Paris. The aftermath of their funny, bittersweet journey suggests those small changes, within our reach, that may help us save ourselves—somewhere toward the end.
“Joan Frank has gifted us with two unforgettable characters in a novel filled to bursting with hard truths and shimmering beauty.” —Bob Wake, Cambridge Book Review
Joan Frank is a human insight machine.” —Carolyn Cooke
“I will be quoting her ‘rules for aging’ at many dinner parties!” —Natalie Serber
Some moments stay with you, pointing in a shivery way like a compass needle.
He cannot account for it. He has more time now than he did when he worked. Much more. Why shouldn’t the days feel slower, more spacious? And yet it feels to him as though the clock spins fast-forward, the way they do in cheesy movies.
After his confession, Fran had given Ollie a look that seemed to open concentrically like a periscope lens. For fuck’s sake, Ollie, she’d said at last. Isn’t the time on earth hard enough? Do you have to take on so much extra-credit homework?
No one ever asked about his love life, or lack of it. Staff parties anywhere in San Francisco resembled (someone once joked) the Star Wars bar, and the city, notoriously, made ample room for oddness.
She knows she will be gasping with relief to hug him goodbye. They go back together on the same flight, but (thank holy God) they don’t sit together on that plane. She’ll settle into her seat numb, voided, as if she’d just shed two hundred pounds.
Can you possibly understand what it means to be with you, Ollie? Can you understand what it feels like being strapped to a grenade?
I struggled mightily with this book and seriously considered giving up more than once. I didn’t have a problem with the plot or the characters; it was the author’s peculiar writing style that was not easy to follow and a bit exhausting. The narrative frequently consisted of the stream of consciousness and the minutia of the inner musings of a cranky man and a fussy woman. Their ideas often skittered and jumped from one thought to another, and occasionally fell into torrents and rants. Many sentences were incomplete. Paragraphs would go on for pages. This was not an easy read and at times my eyes glazed over. The musings of the two protagonists tended to ramble with frequent sharp and vivid visuals. The writing was painfully observant, excessively detailed, ironically and cleverly amusing, densely packed, and read like stage instructions. However, the characters were oddly interesting and baited and intrigued me, although I honestly would not want to spend my time with either one. Fran was a bossy and narcissistic chatterbox and had badgered the miserable OCD Ollie into an unwanted and ill-advised trip to France, despite Ollie’s fears and distaste for travel. Ollie was exacting, prissy, riddled with anxiety, and lived in his head. Although, I will fretfully confess to having some of his same thoughts and concerns from time to time. I adored their Rules for aging and think they need to be enacted as law. But what saved the piece was the ending – sigh. I am such a sucker for the HEA.