1: House of Sand and Fog

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III

House of Sand and Fog

My mom passed this one along to me. Of course, I heard about it when it was an Oprah pick back in the day, but I’d never read it. I’ve also seen the trailers for the movie based on the book, but I’ve never actually seen the movie.

So anyway, based on what I knew about it, I expected House of Sand and Fog to have two main characters: the woman who loses her house (Kathy) and the man who buys it (Colonel Behrani). And indeed, they were there, but there was also a third character (whose name is, perhaps not coincidentally, only two degrees of separation from “Loser”) whom I hadn’t anticipated.

This was a quick read, and I give kudos to ADIII (aside: I wonder if he signs his letters like that—Cheers! ADIII or perhaps all best, adiii—ok, I’ll stop) for writing a story in which all three main characters are rather unlikable (each in his/her own way), but you still want to keep reading to find out what happens anyhow. The two key characters do generate some sympathy, but that’s tempered by how they handle the situation (hint: badly). The third character, though, he’s just plain unsympathetic.

The story plays out as a tragedy. Unfairness kicks off the sequence of events, but ultimately, everyone is done in by their own failings.

Message? Perhaps:

  1. Do not ignore bills even if they are sent to you in error (righteous indignation won’t keep a roof over your head).
  2. Do the compassionate thing, even if it derails your plans to regain former social status.
  3. Do not hook up with meddling, loose cannon law enforcement agents who have a misplaced sense of entitlement.

Hmm! Maybe it’s supposed to be seven deadly sins thing:

  • Kathy: sloth, gluttony, wrath
  • The Colonel: pride, greed, wrath
  • L-s-er: lust, envy, wrath

Ah yes, good ol’ wrath. A pinch of rage mixed with a dash of spite. But have we learned nothing? Beware the spite, people, it will get you nowhere:

Jerry: “Excuse me. I’d like to return this jacket.”
Clerk: “Certainly. May I ask why?”
Jerry: “For spite.”
Clerk: “Spite?”
Jerry: “That’s right. I don’t care for the salesman that sold it to me.”
Clerk: “I don’t think you can return an item for spite.”
Jerry: “What do you mean?”
Clerk: “Well, if there was some problem with the garment. If it were unsatisfactory in some way, then we could do it for you, but I’m afraid spite doesn’t fit into any of our conditions for a refund.”
Jerry: “That’s ridiculous, I want to return it. What’s the difference what the reason is?”
Clerk: “Let me speak with the manager… excuse me… Bob!”
(walks over to the manager and whispers)
Clerk: “…spite…”
(Manager walks over)
Bob: “What seems to be the problem?”
Jerry: “Well I want to return this jacket and she asked me why and I said for spite and now she won’t take it back.”
Bob: “That’s true. You can’t return an item based purely on spite.”
Jerry: “Well, so fine then… then I don’t want it and then that’s why I’m returning it”
“Well, you already said spite so…”
Jerry: “But I changed my mind.”
Bob: “No… you said spite… too late.”

Seinfeld, “The Wig Master

(See? Everything comes back to Seinfeld. 😉 )