Invisible Eden

Your taste for great books doesn’t have to be starved during the summer just because the feel-good fascists say it’s time for beach reading—detective novels, joke books, and mass-market autobiographies. But you may include faction, a slangy term for reportage that blends imagined narratives with factual results of journalistic investigation, in your circle of literary genres. In which case you may as well go ahead and give Maria Flook’s Invisible Eden a try.

You could even justify it on academic grounds if you’ve got a doctoral dissertation going on this modern genre of Ameriliterature—begun with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, a warm-blooded account of a multiple murder in Kansas in the late ’50s, and continued in the ’70s by Norman Mailer (thereafter known as Mormon Nailer?) in Executioner’s Song, an account of Gary Gilmore’s anti-heroic life and eventual execution by firing squad for a murder in Utah.

Or you could just forget about the conscientious rationalizations and read Flook’s book for the hell of it, or because it’s got some local color.

By the sound of it, you’d think Flook was hired to write about the 2002 murder of Truro fashion writer Christa Worthington as much to help solve the murder as to sell books to readers of sensationalistic journalism. And who done it anyhow—a stranger Worthington took home from a bar? The hunky pescador next door, father of the daughter who was sitting by her mother’s dead body when people came knocking?

No wonder they hired Flook to write it, too. She lives nearby, and she has a couple of things in common with Worthington, not least of which are the writing life and the experience of raising a child alone. She also has a habit of writing unguardedly about very personal things, which is making a lot of sniffy people on Cape Cod kind of hot around their buttoned-up collars.

I knew Maria Flook as a classmate at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the very late ’70s. She was a nut then—a loveable loudmouth getting her prolific writing career off the ground while raising her own daughter single-handedly. At a Robert “Iron John” Bly poetry reading, Flook, sick of Bly’s pedantic rant about the alienation of Americans from the sources of tragic consciousness in the natural world, burst out in the midst of the crowded lecture hall, “I’m not going to sit under any goddamn tree for inspiration.” And as it happens—name-dropping again—I worked with Amyra O’Connell-Chase back in the early ’80s at a Boston bookstore for a while. Amyra’s the friend of Worthington who got custody of the orphaned toddler.

I sympathize with Flook for the flak she’s getting for her book—and with Amyra for fighting for custody of the child. But I’ve got too many canonized classics on the nightstand already waiting to be read, and I’m not particularly interested in the Cape, and I don’t really want to read this book. Sorry.