Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lyrical Romance Novel: Banana Rose, Author: Natalie Goldberg

Lipton tea, Carlos Tevez kisses and soft-bodied writers.

Prose-poetry sentence alert:
“Her eyes looked like she’d eaten chunks of turquoise for lunch--they were that blue.”
Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg

Lyrical sentences such as that one will happen when a person who writes books of poetry and paints wonderful paintings, like the talented Natalie Goldberg does, writes a novel.

“I could tell with each book she was realigning her thought system.”
Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg

With some books, I do that, too. What about you?

“Sometimes I thought Blue was nuts, but it was the kind of nuts I enjoyed. Plus I knew her kind of nuts also made her wise.” Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg

I know people like this. Especially where this book is set; New Mexico. People who most of society ignores but I know they have unique, valuable wisdom to impart.

“No one danced as a couple. We each moved to our own energy, communicating with the music, sometimes in sync with someone for a few moments until the energy moved on. You weren’t a good dancer or a bad dancer. You just danced and followed the patterns of sound and light from blinking projectors.”
Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg

I’ve been two places where dancing was like this. The hippie music scene in Albuquerque, NM and the Center For the Moving Arts in San Diego, CA on dance jam Tuesday and Friday nights. Very freeing. I thought of trying to start one here but there are all these factions that are intolerant of each other and I would spend all my time trying to police them. No thanks.

“It was a rabble of Monarch butterflies, thousands of them…He said his whole boyhood was in that moment. Nothing was before or after. His body opened and the frail yellow animals fell on his heart.”
Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg

Three things. One - I’ve had moments like this where some image symbolizes a period of time in my life. Two - a group of butterflies is called a rabble - awesome. Three - this is the third reference to Monarch butterflies in my life in three days. What does this mean? I’m going to have to consult Julie of Welcome to Julieland -

“Most of us were refugees from the outside world, and a slight change in the weather shook our delicate balance with the universe.” Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg

Me, too. I feel like I constantly fight for my health here where agri-business chemicals and lawn chemicals hang in the air and the weather is deadly for humans. If my grandkids weren’t here I’d be long gone.

“You had an inkling it would be a lot sweeter missing and longing for Taos than actually living there just then.”
Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg

I have an even stronger feeling than an inkling that it is sweeter missing New Mexico than it would be living there if I tried to move back. So where will I go when I leave here? Again with the feeling that I don’t really ‘belong’ anywhere.

Shimmering angels alert:
“Nell, we saw angels. Three of them…They were sitting around a fire and their bodies shimmered like rippled water that you can put your hand through…Then the angels got to realizing we were there. We could tell, because they began twinkling faster.” Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg

“Trees didn’t ask the sky to be trees. I understood this now. I could be a painter.”
Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg

I don’t need anyone’s permission to write or to be whatever damn thing I am. Neither do you.

“It was then that I decided not to drink anything but Lipton’s. Lipton’s didn’t ask anything of me. With Jubilation, I had to consider the state of my soul.”
Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg

I’ve experienced this sensation with certain products. I’ve also experienced the reverse where the company puts some piece of philosophy on it’s product that I entirely resonate with and appreciate. Oh, and I love Lipton’s Cold Brew iced tea. Have you tried it? It’s as simple as putting the tea bag in a pitcher of cold water and letting it brew and it tastes as good as the other.

Melodrama alert:
“I noticed a sign that said the elevator had a capacity of two thousand pounds. I was fearful that my heavy heart put us over the weight limit.” Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg


“I knew I had to make something important enough to get me out of bed each day, so I gradually focused on my painting.” Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg

It’s that way for me with writing. Of course, there are people that are this important to me, also. But they can’t be MY reason for getting up in the morning. They have to have their own lives and so do I.

Writers prepare for a laugh:
“Anna, quit being so athletic. Writers are supposed to be lazy and frail. You’ve got to get in proper shape. Words have to ooze out of you. A firm body produces nothing.” Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg

Well that’s good because I don’t have a firm body.

“If you became Anna’s lover, I’m pretty sure it would be her kisses that you would remember, how they led you way out into the open as she turned herself inside out in giving them to you.” Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg

Who wouldn’t want kisses like that? I wonder if Carlos Tevez kisses like that? Just kidding, he’s too young for me, wink, wink.

I’ve read this book a dozen times. Each time loving it. That’s why I searched it out and read it again, digging for the truths I knew it contained. The problem is, this time I reacted differently to reading it. I cried my eyes out through the last part of the book. I think I’ve developed an intolerance for sadness. It’s like I’m coming out from under a cloud of sadness that I’ve been under forever and I just want to have fun. Not pretend fun. Not go to a bar and drink with all the other sad people pretending to have fun. Fun Fun.

But this book still has things to offer. New Mexico, for one. In New Mexico it’s possible to find many people who refuse to settle for any life but the one life that is genuine for them at any given time. Many people would think that protagonist Nell was drifting or lost but she wasn’t. She was refusing to settle for anything less than the growth and change her life called for. I resonate with this. I do it myself. It’s lonely a lot of the time. One needs Cherries and Betties for this life. I’m glad I have them, now.

This book is not romance genre. And it does not have an HEA. It has been described as achingly raw and it is. It’s also achingly beautiful. It does have an HFN, sort-of. It’s happily for now because you know Nell is back home in Taos and she’s going to be alright.

This is Natalie Goldberg’s only prose novel. She writes poetry and books about writing. She teaches writing workshops. Another of her books that I love is Long Quiet Highway. It’s autobiographical about her twelve years of studying Zen Buddhism with Zen master, Katagiri Roshi, whom she loved.

Poet references: Basho, Cesar Vallejo, Linda Gregg, and Pablo Neruda. For a sweet movie about Neruda see The Postman (Il Postino).

Painter references: Klee, Bonnard, Mark Rothko

That’s all for now. I’m going to find something fun to do. (Pucker up, Carlos, hehehe!)


  1. Oh, thank you for the Natalie Goldberg quotes. I hear them in my heart.

  2. Glad they resonated for you. I love books that speak to me like this.

    Judy, Judy, Judy

  3. I'm still thinking about this butterfly thing. But for the moment I am VERY behind in my beta reading.... so we'll have to come back to the monarchs in a day or so.
    (how awesome are you to mention me in there amongst all those "truths")

  4. “I could tell with each book she was realigning her thought system.”

    I have read some books like that.

    Re the dance thing and the factions. LOL. There's a good book in there. Or at least, a good subplot to a book. (But then I always think in terms of comedies.)

    “It was then that I decided not to drink anything but Lipton’s. Lipton’s didn’t ask anything of me. With Jubilation, I had to consider the state of my soul.”

    --> Hm yes. There are also a lot of companies these days that expect this of their employees, even as they pay them minimum wage and demand they upsell every customer or get warnings. Whatever happened to just being companies as opposed to Purveyors of Lifestyles? It's like being asked to join a cult when you work for them, or buy from them. lol

  5. Julie - never fear the butterflies are ongoing. Another random whisper from them just yesterday.

    Mabel - I never considered a subplot with the dance stuff. Will have to think about that.
    So true about the companies that want an employees soul + a comittment to work for them a for a lifetime - all for minimum wage.