February’s Cafe Parlez: The Giant’s House

Tonight we’re discussing Elizabeth McCracken’s “The Giant’s House: A Romance”.  Chocolate features heavily in the refreshments tonight.  We have lovely chocolate cake from Lois, our monthly baker, brownies from Jen, and fruit, just to balance things out.  The cake is fantastic!!

Elizabeth McCracken subtitles this book “a romance”.  Was it?  Well, not in the traditional sense.  30-year-old professional women don’t go around falling in love with giant teenage boys.  People like the writing style, and agree that Peggy is insane, but funny.  MS thinks it was “deliciously wierd”.   She’s saying that Peggy was given a gift, the gift of being in love.  She has the ability to focus on “the other”.  Did she see him as an oddity, like herself.  She didn’t experience much love as a child.   She is always viewing her own life as a spectator.  ED thinks that’s an excuse. 

James, the giant boy, was kind of an innocent.  She didn’t act on her feelings in an inapropriate way.  She may have been as innocent as he was.  Why did she love James so much?  Maybe because she was an outcast, like he was.  Maybe there was some sort of mother feelings for her, as she had been distant from her mother, and James’ mother was crippled. 

Are we defining “love” too narrowly?  MTR thinks that what he could provide for her was what she was in love with him.  She provided nothing for him, but took from him.  Her love was all self-centered; she didn’t care to know him very well. 

People like Astoria, the library assistant.  Is Peggy a librarian because she’s a control freak?   Does Peggy use James as a control thing?  Or was it an obsession?  LS feels like Peggy was a voyeur, she was trying to live her life through James.  She felt very uncomfortable.  The book describes tourists looking through the window, and feels that Peggy is looking through a window. 

The ending was so “out there”.  Some feel that the author was trying to end the story somehow and suddenly brings in James’ father to have an affair with Peggy.  Why does she say it’s James’ baby???  Would it have been a bigger scandal if she said who’s baby it really was?  MS says the group created a family of sorts.  It was inevitable that she would sleep with James’ father.  She was so focused on James that she wasn’t able to focus on the child she had.  Self-perpetuating.  She wanted James out of this, and, when she didn’t get him, she distanced herself from her child.

James’ mother is fragile, which  makes James more mature than most children his age.  People who have been around children who have depilitating diseases have found that they have  something, maybe it’s wisdom, something special.  They live in the moment, which is something we need to learn to do.  We all live in fast forward, thinking about what we need to do instead of living in the “now”.

Does being in love give you permission to love yourself?  The other person is not supposed to be making you happy; you are responsible to make yourself happy. 

How do strangers and friends react to James?  Stella doesn’t concentrate on his height, just sees the real person within.  She’s the opposite of Peggy.  Then there was Patty Flood, the Christian.  MS would’ve been glad not to have been with her.  But James liked her and missed her, because she didn’t talk about him. 

Why did “Rocket Bride” resemble James’ mother?  Possibly Oscar feels sorry for her so gave her a new life that she couldn’t have.   People like James’ aunt Carolyn.  She’s a good person.  James’ mother saw Peggy as competition.   She was paralyzed and couldn’t see beyond his problems.

Did everyone see James as a person?  The other kids seemed to when they were hanging out with him after school.  He had a lot of friends. 

What is it about us that fascinates us about the unusual people?  We don’t know.  It’s a sad comment on human beings.  Maybe it’s because we’re glad it’s not us.  Or maybe envious.   We make judgements so quickly. 

Time to go.  Next month’s book is “In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez.  See you March 27!


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