What Seems Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day "review"

    Over the years I have been guilty of a variety of ills.  One of which has been hyperbole.  While some could claim this is not an ill but simply an expression emphasizing exaggeration.  While I could agree, I choose not to.  If you don’t say what you mean, how can you mean what you say?   In this respect I have a somewhat dissimilar view of what Cleage was trying to say with this book.
    In What Seems Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day Cleage attempts to put the reader into the overly emotional world of Ava Johnson; an African-American woman with HIV.  We’re bombarded with a collection of diary-like instances which could be termed as chapters.  In each of these said instances is a hint of underlying  malefactors.   For example, when we first meet Gerry, the main antagonist of this story, we are shown that her grandson smokes dope.  Not three pages later and we are shown through a sermon that this is not the proper escape. 
    No, that’s not exactly right, or, rather; it’s right in one sense but not another.  The first sermon, led by the “Good Reverend” whose name is not mentioned in the chapter, is a fiery speech about damnation and a little salvation.  The Good Reverend incites his flock with age-old rhetoric with the theme of “no hiding places for the wicked.”  During this sermon we are allowed inside Ava’s head where we glean a picture of her paradigm.
    What does Ava choose to see?  She sees the hypocrisy that is embedded within her new yet old community.  Is alcohol an escape? “No,” shouts the crowd of heavy drinkers.  Is dope an escape? “No,” reply the group of patrons who cannot wait to go home and get high.  Is sex an escape? “No,”  retorts the audience of nymphomaniacs.  I’m amazed Ava didn’t just get up and leave if she truly believed what she was seeing.
    Belief is a funny concept, it ties to the faith of the said crowd inveterately.  It does more than simply bounding to our central character Ava, it in fact does the complete opposite.  Her believe is that what is said in this sermon is not the truth, but a mutual wish among the members.  And so, she is separating herself from the group, while trying to merge with the group. I believe she doesn’t leave because she doesn’t truly believe her own mind.  She wants for it to be true – so she watches and judges all the while conforming to the heard.  We aren’t told that she herself responds with the communal “no” but are left to judge ourselves.  I believe that her voice was among the responders.
    If this is true, then Ava believes herself to be a hypocrite, but not in so many words.  After all, hypocrite sounds so negative.  I’m sure she would judge all her actions to be consistent with her own identity.  However, this is not the case, as explained above; there is an inherent conflict in the belief that everyone’s a hypocrite and that herself (part of the everyone sub-set) is not.  By staying with the church she is condoning the function it serves.  The function of this church, not every church mind you, is to justify whatever guilt you may be feeling.  Obviously, guilt is a state of affliction that most would try to avoid.  Affliction relates closely, at least to me, to conflict-ion.  How can someone be in a state of conflict and be at peace with themselves?  Not possible in my eyes.
    Finding peace with herself seems to be the goal of this book to me.  Yet another in a string of self-identity issue novels under the all-encompassing umbrella of the Oprah Book Club.  This is not a bad thing, especially not to me, I happen to be very interested in the notion of identity.  For instance, you have a ship, a very big ship that has seen every sea.  This ship requires repairs due to the usual wear-and-tear any ship encounters through it’s tumultuous sojourns into the great beyond.  Slowly, over the course of say seven years; this ship has replaced each and every part that is necessary and sufficient to be termed a ship.  At what point in this process is the ship a different ship?  Is it always the same ship, or does it become an entirely new ship?  Now extend this to the average human being.  Are you the same person now that you were at age seven?  Biologically, no.  However, you are the same person, right?  Seeing as the average human rebuilds themselves every seven years, from a cellular level, this would imply that Identity does not equal biology.  While DNA is biological proof of our existence, it still is not proof that we are socially the same person from any moment to the next.  My view is that while identity is not biology, it may be reflected through the relationship between biology and social constructions.
    So, while I believe this book is about self-identity more than it is about social welfare, I think it falls short on all accounts.  Barring the fact that these characters are fictional and thereby have no biology to speak of and have never functioned in a social situation; I still believe it’s all a horrible failure.  What Seems Like Crazy.. tries to tackle every problem all at once.  I believe this is a mistake in regards to scale.  The bigger something is, the more contemplation it takes to regard it as a whole, on the other hand; the smaller it is the quicker the experience it produces.  If too small then the quality of what is said is lost due to it’s brief impact.  While many of the ills Ava encounters could be considered small, the sheer number of them causes us to lump them together for easier digestion.  That lump has become too large for the average reader to truly understand that what is happening relates to real things.  The overall experience is much like watching a made-for-television movie about the life of some random person.  We are left with this bitter aftertaste that, to me, illustrates how this plot is plausible yet impossible rather than impossible yet plausible.  The former is a historical “no-no” as the latter makes for fine drama.
    So, in conclusion, I didn’t like this novel.  I found it hard to read due to unrelenting hyperbole mismatched with real social issues concerning social welfare, racism, sexism, and inner-peace.  We watch as Ava watches and are left wanting nothing but relief from the unreality of it all.  All of this wrapped up into a far-fetched “happy” ending that meshes well with the unbelievable characters and their mind-boggling motives.

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