Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

I'm Jealous of Strangers on TV

All this week I've been formulating a post in my mind. It started one very late night early in the week when I switched on PBS to watch whatever was on while I was working on some paperwork. Of course, something good was one. I'm such a PBS whore. I'll watch show after show, even things I think I'm not going to be that interested in. They all catch my attention. Right now, while I am posting, a show about the Spanish Inquisition (and no, not Monty Python) is on. I've already seen several episodes in the series, and it is fascinating, especially since it was about my ancestors being tossed from yet another country. Go 1492. It wasn't a good year for the Jews.

Anyhow, PBS is on and it's a Frontline expose on kids receiving life without parole sentences in Colorado because their sentencing laws are excessively harsh. Very depressing, and brought me to tears. By the time it was over, I was hoping for This Old House or something lighter.

Antiques Roadshow. Freaking "look what I found in my closet" Antiques Roadshow. I have a love hate relationship with this show. I love to learn about the antiques and to guess what they are worth. I've got a pretty decent foundation in antiques, having grown up in a house where auctions were similar to high holidays services in importance, and collecting was a competitive sport.

What I hate about the show is that I don't have anything really fabulous to bring in. Oh, I've got stuff. Plenty of stuff. But I don't have that special something that will make the appraisers eyebrows rise up in excitement. I did take a painting to one such event, and it was worth way over what I had paid for it at a small country auction ($25) but it sure wasn't gonna pay for my kids college education or anything.

This particular Roadshow was all the best finds from the past few years compiled together to get me really green with envy. Everything was worth a fortune, everything found in Salvation Army shops and yard sales or given by friends who hated the item. It was compelling television, but I'm so jealous. I can't stand it. I want to have a great find all my own.

Which brings me serendipitously to a book I spent the entire day reading. A book from Blogher's Virtual Book Tour, How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life by Mameve Medwed. When I started the book, I had forgotten that it was all about a chamber pot left to Abby Randolph by her mother after she was killed in an earthquake. Abby, who is in the antiques business in Cambridge MA, after dropping out of Harvard, shows the pot to a dealer in the next booth, who tells her to take it to the Antiques Roadshow to be appraised. The experts find that the chamber pot was originally owned by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who had drawn and written on the pot, leaving clues as to it's provenance.

Once the show is aired, a brewing family feud breaks out in a fight over who really owns the chamber pot. From the minute the show announces that the relic is worth &75,000, everything changes in Abby's life, from her business, to her love life, to her family relationships.

The book tells the story of Abby's mother and her close neighbor/childhood friend's mother, who run off together in a lesbian relationship, leaving children and husbands behind. The two mothers die in an earthquake in India which leaves the adult children to divide up the remaining items from the couple. Lavinia, the other mother's daughter, insists that most the items are hers and lets Abby take a few trinkets, of which includes a non-descript chamber pot.

Abby has a booth in a stall antiques market where she sells her treasures. A colleague notices the chamber pot one day and tells Abby that it might be worth something; he gives her a ticket to go to Antiques Roadshow and have it appraised. Abby has nothing really going in her life and gives it a shot. Once the worth of the pot is declared on TV, Lavinia, who is a really unpleasant and selfish character, decides to sue Abby for possession of the chamber pot. Lavinia also includes her brother Ned in the law suit. Abby and Ned have a 'history', and were deeply in love and discussing marriage after Ned finished his first novel. When he gives Abby the novel to read, she discovers that it is the thinly disguised story of her life, including all the secrets and pillow talk she had shared with him. Outraged, she leaves and refuses to speak to Ned again. Soon she encounters Clyde, a slimy boyfriend that moves in to her apartment and sponges off her in a rebound relationship gone sour. By the time Abby has rid herself of Clyde, she has spiraled downward over the number of losses in her life. Only the chamber pot has been abile to peak her interest and push aside her depression.

The ensuing fight for the chamber pot, and the deposition that brings all of the warring parties together, ends in Abby reclaiming her life.

I very much enjoyed this light read. It's a great beach book. Not quite chick lit, not quite romance novel, not quite non-fiction treatise on antiques, it combines the genres to bring an exciting tale of antiquing in New England. Plus, for me it was extra interesting as it was set in my alma mater and describes Cambridge life to a "t". I had to laugh at some of the descriptions of the Cambridge elite, having a relative who was part of that lifestyle, as well as a friend that currenly is as well.

I also liked the descriptions of the antiques and the literary references sprinkled throughout the book. This was a highly enjoyable read, even if it is yet another story of success (twice) at the hands of the Antiques Roadshow!

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Blogger Rhea said...

That books sounds interesting. I love books and films set in the Boston area. Also, I had Mameve as a writing teacher at the Cambridge Adult Educ. school.

13/5/07 8:37 AM  

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