The Broken Teaglass

Post college life is a strange and sometimes traumatic thing. No one tells you when you are in college that once you leave, things will be different and that no one really appreciates the various antidotes you learned in your fancy liberal arts school. No one cares that you can write or read or hold up a decent, sometimes even witty conversation at a cocktail party. You basically become a resume, one that either catches someone’s attention or not.

For me, I had a hard time dealing with this revelation. I also had a hard time dealing with the fact that I was sending out my resumé to what seemed like an abyss of nothingness. (Once you send out over 20 resumes and no one replies back to you, you start to doubt your existence a little bit)

But then you get a job and everything seems like it’s going to be ok. You have a purpose (or so you think), but then you realize that working is monotonous and boring. Interaction is limited and most of the time you are either staring at a chart, or a manuscript, or a computer wondering…what happened?

And so with that note I give you Emily Arnesault’s debut novel, The Broken Teaglass.

I’ll be honest, I was skeptical. Like I stated in my last post, I hate mysteries so when this novel was advertised as a murder mystery inside a dictionary company, I thought, how stupid. Then I saw lexicographers who just graduated from college and I became interested…

I work at a publishing house and I’m a recent grad, so I thought, hey I can relate, and boy did I.

The novel is narrated by Billy Webb. a recent college grad who just got a job as a lexicographer at the Samuelson Company. He moves to Claxton, Massachusetts, a nowhere town, where he narrates his basic every-day duties: his unexceptional work place, feeding himself, trying to find a social outlet, visiting his parents, etc. Basically, we get a glimpse into what it takes to make and edit a dictionary — it’s apparently very tedious and very underappreciated — and how it is for a young adult to adjust to the ennui that is working life.

However, the more Billy starts to get adjusted to working life, the more bored and lonely he gets. Enter Mona – a fellow coworker and recent grad who is mousey and apparently, has a lot of opinions about dictionaries. Billy tries to forge a relationship with Mona or at least a friendship, but for some reason, cannot make a connection until….

An unexpected twist! Amongst the ‘cits’ (cits is short for citations that lexicographers  find in novels or magazines or other literary sources that help them to define words) are clips of a novel, The Broken Teaglass by Delores Beekmim. This is strange because there is no record of this novel existing and so Billy and Mona (who finally have something they can relate to) set off to find all the citations of this novel and figure out who wrote it and why.

Thus begins the less than thrilling journey to find out who the mysterious Delores Beekmim is and why her cits are so freakin’ random and morbid. (below is a clip of one of her citations…morbid right?)

“Self-defense is an act that implies you have something valuable to defend. After the instinct, you begin to wonder. What, specifically, was I aiming to save? What, beyond instinct, makes life worth living?”

I’m not going to lie, the mystery isn’t that intriguing but it’s a way for Billy and Mona to finally make some excitement in their otherwise unexciting lives. The two are lonely people who work at a place where everyone is a lot older and there is nothing to do around the neighborhood and these cits are the only things driving these characters to make a connection. And even though it appears that the obvious is going to happen between Billy and Mona, things are not as they seem. (What I’m trying to hint at is that when people read or watch a guy and girl interact they automatically assume they will have a romantic relationship, but that isn’t the case with these two and I am extremely grateful for that)

I’m not going to give anything away, not that any of it is that intriguing, but what the novel goes to show is that people are a lot different than what they seem to be. Billy appears to be a happy-go-lucky jock, but in reality is a lot deeper and a lot more complex. Same with Mona, her back story is a lot more in depth than one would have thought and the same with the other characters in the story. What the novel goes to show you is that people are a lot lonelier than they seem to be and in a way we are all looking for either a connection or something different – like a mystery – to make life worth living.

For me, I enjoyed this book because it simply and clearly stated what  I feel at work and since I graduated from college. Also, I’m a huge fan of words and definitions so the fact that Arnesault was a lexicographer and slips in little fun facts about words (like NERD, apparently there is no written history of this word and its first appearance was in a Dr. Seuss book) is just…so satisfying.

So, if you just graduated or you want a cute, quirky mystery or just like learning about the life of a lexicographer, check this book out. It’s surprisingly, well, delightful.

“Language…eloquence, is supposed to be one of the things that separates us from grunting primates. If you turn it into something you beat your chest over, something that only serves to make you better than someone else, or make you insensitive to other human beings– then you may as well be a grunting primate.” – Mona

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