Rootie Kazootie

Rootie Kazootie is my second novel. It was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, in 1990. It’s my favorite book for tragicomic fun. I kind of fell in love with the main character, Caroline(all my books’ main characters are women, I don’t know why, I don’t plan it that way), and enjoyed going into my writing office each morning to see what nutty, endearing thing she would do that day. This book was optioned for film by Alphonso Cuaron, the now famous film director, and his brother Carlos. They recently did Y tu mama tambien, and Children of Men, and before that Alphonso had done a sweet version of A Little Princess, and one of the Harry Potter films. Alphonso told me he was in a bookstore in Vancouver when he saw Rootie, bought it, read it, and that Caroline reminded him so much of his ex-girlfriend he had to have it. Carlos wrote the screenplay of the book while they held the option. They never made the film, and Diane Lane owns the rights now, as far as I know. Michael Dorris called me before Rootie came out and said, “Louise(Erdrich) and I get dozens of books every week to blurb, we have no time to read them, but this one was so good we did, and I wanted to call you and tell you how much we like it.” (He later killed himself, I never knew why.) Marianne Gingher reviewed it for The Washington Post, and her review was as lively and fun as the book itself, and the scenes she most loved in the book, I had most loved writing, so we met about 6 months later and were together for a long time after that. The name, Rootie Kazootie, comes from an early children’s television show, and it was the name of the character who talked all the time and was never still and always in trouble, a kind of puppet version of Caroline in the book.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Did you see that?” Caroline asked.

“I saw it.”

“Was that Edgar in his new truck?”

“I think so.”

“I heard he was riding around with that pig,” she said, “but I didn’t know he was doing it in a new truck.”

“Just forget it.”

“Lucille told me he’d named the pig Lucille, and I thought, damn, he’s getting worse all the time.”

“Just stay out of it,” he said.

“And then she told me he was going to send her on that diet bus tour, or whatever you call it, and that really got me upset.”

“Let him alone.”

“She can’t help it if she’s fat. All the women in her family are fat. He knew that when he married her. He had to have known it. Didn’t he?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“You don’t know. You do so. You’re just saying that because you don’t want me to talk. You’re still mad about yesterday, aren’t you?”

“I haven’t even thought about it.”

“Yes, you have. You’re doing it right now.”

Caroline had lost her car keys and called Richard at work to bring her his set. This was the second time in two weeks she’d lost a set.

“I know you don’t want me to bother you over there,” she said, “but I can’t help it if I lose things.”

“I’m not thinking about it,” he said.

“Everybody loses things. Especially when they get older. It’s just part of life. The older you get, the more things you’ve got on your mind, and the more things you’ve got on your mind, the less you can handle them, right?”

“If you say so.”

“Oh, I give up. I really do,” she said.

“It’s not that bad,” he said.

“But baby, it is,” she said. “I’m getting to be such a boring person you don’t even want to talk to me anymore.”

“That’s not it.”

“It must be, baby. I know it is. You don’t even have to admit it. I’m turning into one of those crazy women approaching forty you read about all the time.”

“You’re all right,” he said.

“I’m not, though. I feel nervous all the time. Everything’s changing and I can’t keep up with it. You’re changing. I’m changing. My body’s changing. I’ve even got hair growing where I never used to.”

“Come on, Caroline,” he said.

“I do. I’m turning into a man or something. I’ve read about that. Your hormones start drying up and the masculine ones take over. I swear, I’m just a wreck.”

“Just take it easy.”

“The other day in the bathroom, I swear to you, I was on the toilet for fifteen minutes.”

“That’s enough, Caroline.”

“I was sitting there and I thought, damn, what’s happening. I must have lost ten pounds by the time I got out.”

“Do we really have to talk about that?” he asked.

“Well, we have to talk about something. If it was left up to you, we’d never talk.”

“Some things you want to hear and some you don’t,” he said.

“You don’t want to hear about anything. I never say the right thing anymore. I just don’t, do I? I might as well give up. Nothing I do or say interests you anymore. I can’t blame you, I guess. I don’t have a very spectacular life. I thought at one time I would, but it’s just slipped by and now what have I got?”

“Don’t worry so much all the time,” he said.

“I don’t worry. It just sounds like it when I talk. Most of the time I’m real happy. It’s just that when I start talking all this stuff comes out.”

“Don’t talk, then.”

“I knew you were going to say that. Just as I finished that sentence I thought, he’s going to say don’t talk, then, and by golly, you did……

“………You fall in love with everything. It doesn’t work when you get older. You need something else.”

“………Yeah,” he said.

“Yeah what?” she asked.

“You need something else.”

“Are you saying you need someone else?”

“No, Caroline. I was not saying that.”

“Then why’d you agree with me so fast.”

“Forget it.”