Why, I asked some months back in these pages, do the protagonists in American fiction these days seem so lost? What is it they’re all so het up about? Well... everything. At least according to the narrator of Ducks, Newburyport.
Lucy Ellmann’s monster novel is a more or less non-stop narration of the thoughts of one Ohio housewife, a former college teacher who now bakes pies for money, attempts to keep her household shipshape, feels the pinch of post-bail-out America, is frustrated in the usual ways, and frets persistently about the physical, moral and emotional safety of her offspring (other people’s too) in those ostensibly United States.
Song lyrics, boarlets, clickbait headlines, bits of her children’s homework, first world problems, Schubert, shopping, getting cancer, the Amish, things she’s forgotten, assassinated presidents, FOOSH injuries, actors’ names, wordplays, her mother’s death, Revere Ware pots (me neither), the life and works of Laura Ingalls Wilder, styptic sticks, lines from Shakespeare, fake-brick wallpaper, captions for YouTube videos, her husband’s fear of bridge-collapses, her own Midwest gosh-darn-it lexicon, the plots of classic movies, ‘Indian’ burial mounds, lists of places/diseases/brandnames/pies (Umberto Eco would have very much approved).