Riding in cars with boys, by Beverly Donofrio
NOTA DE LEITURA
Há pouco tempo vi por acaso na TV o filme “Riding in cars with boys”, de Penny Marshall, com Drew Barrymore no papel principal. Estreado em 2001.
Fiquei muito impressionado, mas quando li nalgumas criticas que o livro e que se baseou era muito mais duro, fui à procura deste para o ler. O filme é baseado na autobiografia de Bervely d’Onofrio, americana com antepassados italianos na família como o nome sugere. De facto, o filme é praticamente delicodoce, em face da dureza do livro.
O livro não está publicado em Portugal; foi traduzido no Brasil com o título “Os garotos da minha vida”, enquanto em Portugal o filme tem o título de “Os rapazes da minha vida”. Ambos os títulos estão errados, porque o tema principal é a vida da protagonista, Beverly, Bever ou Bev. Ela é filha de um polícia e de uma dona de casa, mas tem o sonho de ser escritora. O sonho desfaz-se quando, aos 15 anos, fica grávida de um rapazola vadio e drogado. Os pais obrigam-na a casar com ele. A vida em comum é muito acidentada com a falta de dinheiro. Tem de interromper os estudos e acaba por despachar o marido.
Também ela entra nas drogas e relaciona-se com a escumalha da zona. A relação com o filho é também difícil e por vezes assemelha-se mais à de irmãos do que de mãe e filho.
Beverly é salva pelas instituições que lhe permitem realizar o sonho de estudar. Consegue fazer a universidade e mais tarde um mestrado sobre escrita criativa.
A história acaba bem com a protagonista a fazer as pazes com os pais e a harmonizar a sua relação com seu filho já adulto.
Escreveu depois o livro e foi colaborar com a equipa da produção do filme.
Riding in Cars with Boys
'Trouble began in 1963... the age old trouble,' says Beverly Donofrio of the
teenage pregnancy which opens this inspirational and edifying memoir. Now living
in New York and with an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, this
is Donofrio offers an account of her struggle to 'survive, fit in, resist the
urge to fuck up and ruin everything'. She describes her reluctant, disastrous
marriage at 17 and subsequent battle to educate herself, while bringing up her
son alone on welfare, with a humour and tenacity that is touching and shockingly
funny. While she initially sees her son as her personal nemesis, as an adult she
realises that motherhood liberated her and kept 'a portion of my interest
focused on nothing but joy'. This sends her spare, witty prose dancing across
Riding In Cars With Boys: Confessions of a Bad Girl Who Makes Good
Riding In Cars With Boys: Confessions of a Bad Girl Who Makes Good, by Beverly Donofrio (Penguin, $9). up in a public housing project in Wallingford, Conn., the daughter of a cop, Beverly Donofrio got herself in real trouble as a high school senior in 1963. ``The trouble I`m talking about was my first real trouble, the age-old trouble. . . As in pregnant,`` Donofrio writes. In this memoir, she describes her life as a teenage mother, first married to her son`s father, smoking pot, cruising in cars and dreaming of free love in California, then as a single, divorced mother on welfare. Yet, at age 25, Donofrio steps onto Wesleyan University campus with a scholarship and books in one hand and her son in the other. ``Readers will want to discover for themselves how Donofrio got from the projects and welfare to Wesleyan University (`whitebreadsville`) and all the manner of good or different things after that,`` reviewer Phyllis Theroux wrote in the Tribune last year. ``This is a writer you pray will eat right, get enough sleep and stay around long enough to fill up the shelf with other books as good as this one.``
Riding In Cars With Boys:
Confessions of a Bad Girl Who Makes Good
By Beverly Donofrio
Morrow, 204 pages, $16.95
Beverly Donofrio was one of those ghastly teenagers that parents pray their children never bring home, much less turn into. Boy-crazy, foul-mouthed, rebellious and immature, she grew up poor and fast in a public housing project in Wallingford, Conn. The daughter of a cop and a clerk at Bradlee`s variety store, she begins her astonishingly forthright memoir, ``Riding In Cars With Boys,`` with getting pregnant in her senior year of high school. Donofrio`s odds of succeeding in life weren`t terrific to begin with, but she had a knack for making them worse.
``Maybe,`` she writes, ``it was poetic justice for being so contemptuous of my mother and her position in life-as my father`s servant-that landed me, before I graduated high school at the altar.`` The groom, a high school dropout with greasy hair, pointy boots and a brother in jail for holding up a Cumberland Farms store, shows up at the church terrified.
``I took his hand,`` writes Donofrio, ``and it was cold and shaking. I felt the way I did whenever I saw a midget or dwarf or a hunchbacked person-like I wanted to take them and adopt them or something. So I covered his shaking hand with my hand and looked into his eyes and said, `I love you,` even though a minute ago, at the top of the aisle, I wished he`d die before I turned thirty-five. The kid would be eighteen then, a legal adult, and I could start another life while I was still reasonably attractive.``
This then is our heroine-sharp, compassionate, practical and .
``Riding In Cars With Boys`` (her first of many mistakes) is the story of her life from about 18 to about 35, and she does, indeed, have the chance to start over-although her husband, Ray, doesn`t have to die, as in her original scenario.
In fact for a while she actually thought the two of them, plus her baby son, might have an ``Easy Rider`` time of it, saving for a Harley, dreaming of free love in California and smoking pot, an act that put a shine on everything in Wallingford: The air through our windows smelled of damp earth. We were awed by each leaf flapping separately on the trees. We peed in cornfields and ran through sprinklers on golf courses.``
A flower child who used to take her son on shoplifting sprees as a decoy, Donofrio argues with her mother (who could get shocked over no shelf liners)
on large topics like the importance of letting children pick their noses in public:
```You`re saying I should`ve let you pick your nose?`
```Honest to God, Beverly. I don`t know who you take after.` ``
Not her mother, whose heart frequently breaks over her daughter and grandson, off-camera. Not her father, who is emotionally hamstrung and incapable of directly dealing with her, except to lay down ultimatums he usually can`t enforce.
There is a strong Bette Midler quality to Donofrio's writing, but she is no standup comic playing life primarily for laughs. In fact the beauty of this memoir is that the author has a guileless instinct for telling her story, which simply shakes out like yarn from a skein, with no particularly noticeable flourishes. But suddenly we catch our breath or feel a shiver or-more frequently-explode with laughter.
Among other things, Donofrio`s ear for dialogue, real or remembered, is extraordinarily good. After she had left a note telling her parents she had gotten pregnant, she came home that afternoon to confront them.
```You`re killing your father,` my mother said.
``I shrugged my shoulders.
```Your father and I think you should give the baby up for adoption.`
```No.` I`d already made up my mind about that.``
Back and forth they parry, discussing whether Beverly`s will take the baby, an option she rules out. Then her father says: ``You think it`s fun? You think it`s easy?
```Mom was when you got married.` This was my ace in the hole. I`d figured it out by subtraction, years ago. This was the first time I`d mentioned it.
```That`s enough.` My father stood up.
``At the risk of getting slapped, I said one more thing after my father told me enough. `All I`m saying is it worked for you.`
```All right. I give up. She knows everything.` My father smacked the back of his chair. `I`m telling you, Beverly. You better be . . . sure, because once you leave this house, you mark my words, you can`t come back. You made your bed, you sleep in it.``
Readers will want to discover for themselves how Donofrio got from the projects and welfare to Wesleyan University (``whitebreadsville``) and all manner of good or different things after that.
What this reviewer wants to say is that if publishers are still writers ``major new voices`` then Beverly Donofrio is one of them. In fact, after listening to her voice for a while it`s difficult to remember anybody else`s.
This is a writer you pray will eat right, get enough sleep and stay around a long time to fill up the shelf with other books as good as this one. ``Riding In Cars With Boys`` will be a classic. Unless you hate to laugh, read it now.