Karasses and Grandfaloons

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Karasses and Grandfaloons
First, I need to clarify that The Kids are All Right is not the book version of the movie by the same name currently in theaters. How did these two entities make the mistake of using the same title when the release of book and movie were so close together?  

The book is the account of four children of the Welch family who lost both parents and wandered like lost sheep until they found each other and created a family. While the writing lies there flatly on the page, the story itself provides inspiration, gut-wrenching sadness, lessons and, finally, hope.

Since I am in the process of writing my own memoir, I can’t help but make comparisons. I was reminded of two neologisms coined by Kurt Vonnegut: karass and grandfaloon. A grandfaloon is a meaningless group of people such the group called Hoosiers (people who just happened to have been born in the state of Indiana), while a karass is a truly meaningful group of people.

For many people, and very compellingly the Welches, siblings form a karass which carries us through life. But for more persons than we care to admit, family and siblings are grandfaloons, people who are associated with us only through the fickle hand of fate and blood but provide meaningless relationships.

My memoir recounts the difficult journey of finding myself after being born into a grandfaloon. One of my goals in writing it is to give others the powerful permission to say they don’t like their parents or siblings. Strangely enough, this permission may give you the ability to love them even if you don’t like them.

I give thanks that the Welch children found their karass in each other. I encourage each of you dear readers to find your karass whether it is family or not.

I received a copy of this book as part of the Left to Write Book Club. This post is in no way intended to be a review of the book.  

updated: 6 years ago

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GrandfaloonsMonday, November 1st 2010 1:23AM

Brenda, I haven't visited your Blog in a long while and was amused by your reference to Kurt Vonnegut's writings, for which I carry a long-standing admiration.  Most of my family are truly grandfaloons, and as I have been researching my roots in part to understand who I am, I've found such strange quirks that link us.  For example, I recently learned that Ken Kesey 1935-2001 (of the Electric Koolaid Acid bus fame and "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest") is the nephew of the wife of my second cousin, one generation removed.  I'm also the 2nd cousin one generation removed of a young spinster school teacher who died in her first year of teaching at a rural school in Payne County, Oklahoma Territory, after being one of the first students at the University of Oklahoma.  Clara Bonita Neaves (1887-1905) was an elegant young woman living at home with her mother and father, and burned herself to death by her clothing catching fire while she was lighting a coal stove with kerosene, after she had just got ready to drive her horse and buggy the three or four miles to the school.  According to many who knew her, she was a delight, and generous soul to her mother and her students.

What do these grandfaloons have in common?  Just me, a retired, old, student of life, who enjoys meeting people and discovering their weirdness, humor, and even occasional loves.  Perhaps that is why I enjoy reading your own musings, which have such a quirkiness that seems akin to many of my grandfaloons.  Come see us soon.  Idaho is full of grandfaloons.  Bill

Response to ShirleySaturday, October 16th 2010 5:15PM

Shirley, I have been a fan of your blog for some time. Keep on, keeping on.

ShirleySaturday, October 16th 2010 4:50PM

I loved this review and the connection of Vonnegut's neologisms to contemporary families. I feel lucky that I have a karass consisting of one brother and four sisters. They would never let me starve or grieve without comfort. Thanks for finding my blog. I hope we stay in touch.

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Emily@West of the LoopTuesday, October 12th 2010 7:11PM

Yes indeed. Some of us are lucky enough to be born into a family that are truly kindred spirits, as Anne of Green Gables used to say. Others have to find that kind of a family as they go through life.

BrendaTuesday, October 12th 2010 4:05PM

Thanks for the comment, Emily. We sure don't get to choose what life dishes out, but we can make the most of whatever we are given. Cliched but true.

EmilyTuesday, October 12th 2010 3:10PM

As a Kurt Vonneget lover, I really liked your comparison.  This book does support the "Blood is thicker than water" statement and it served the Welches well.  Your memoir about the opposite sounds interesting as well.

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