The story in this book, published in 1948, transcends its time and gives readers a plot of immediate relevance and a protagonist who never apologizes.The story in this book, published in 1948, transcends its time and gives readers a plot of immediate relevance and a protagonist who never apologizes. Especially satisfying is the ending Vidal restored in 1964. It fits the flow of the narrative and deprives the earlier ending of its mandatory homophobia, until recently the price paid for any literary or cinematic treatment of the subject.
The novelty of the book was once its characterization of a gay male who doesn't fit the image. The protagonist, Jim Willard, seems so well fitted to the fuller representation we've come to expect that only a few references reminded me that people such as gay athletes were once thought not to exist at all.
The book stands outside the confines of identity politics. We celebrate the folding of gays into straight molds, as with the recent Supreme Court ruling. Important as it is, it's a matter of fitting into existing straight institutions. But in this book, Jim's sexuality is everything and his relationships with straight males are his main problem. He could easily fit in with their lifestyle but becomes more and more hostile toward exactly the totems of straight domestic bliss so many gays now value.
The plot portrays Jim's growth from a 17-year-old teen to a 24-year old adult. The power of the story lies in its realistic portrayal of that change and reflects the actual experiences gay males commonly have as they struggle to fit sex and romance into their identities. I thought two things would bother me: the female hangers-on and the subject of prostitution, themes so shopworn that their presence in any movie or book put out in the past 25 years testifies to the impoverished minds of the authors. This book, however, handles those motifs deftly and does not allow them to define either the character or the story.
Jim is then the hero or the anti-hero, depending on your point of view. Either way, his character and the author's command of the subject make for an exceptionally well conceived and well executed narrative set off by intelligent, engaging prose. The book poses a problem peculiar to gay males so I can't vouch for its crossover appeal, but gays and gay-friendly readers have here a story that moves at a steady pace toward a thought-provoking conclusion....more
In Gone With the Wind a gripping tale of transformation and survival frames the most tightly written character in American literature against the backIn Gone With the Wind a gripping tale of transformation and survival frames the most tightly written character in American literature against the backdrop of the most defining event in American history. With simple realism and a linear narrative structure, the epic sweep follows the protagonist, Scarlett, through war and its aftermath and on to a fate as astonishing as the events the story describes. So many Goodreads readers have reviewed this book that I'll keep my comments to a few impressions.
The power of the novel stems from the author's superb storytelling. At some point very early in the book I realized I was reading a masterpiece. The author, Margaret Mitchell, does not allow the story to droop into gratuitous sentimentality, and to do this she writes in a perfect register and exercises masterful control over the material. She directs the expansive story arc with such shrewd execution that I can't recall a single boring page passing under my eye. The story combines evocative, exquisitely detailed narration with brilliant dialog. This strong exposition of language includes dialects that don't sound a single false note, words that drop into paragraphs so seamlessly it would make Flaubert want to learn English, and technique that delivers through every chapter.
The first half deals with the American Civil War. Within this part the 80- or 90-page description of the war in Georgia, from the first fighting in Dalton to the point at which Scarlett finds herself floating above her own body, outclasses any account of war a reader is ever likely to encounter and lays out the most powerful anti-war statement imaginable. The second half deals with the peace that follows defeat, and here the reader learns just who these characters really turn out to be. Scarlett takes over where the war left off, and her personality drives the story.
The author doesn't sugarcoat anything about the South; the reactionary tone cannot be watered down without destroying the integrity of the book. On the other hand, besides the anti-war thread woven into the warp and woof of the first half, the story takes on an unabashedly feminist tone during the second half. This is one example of what makes the novel so hard to categorize. But if I had to narrow it down -- and I really shouldn't -- the success of the book depends on one and only one thing: Scarlett O'Hara herself. The permanent present in which she lives sets the stage for one of the more underrated motifs of the writing, the missed signals that confound intimacy among people and to which every reader can relate. I'll let other GR reviewers take this up in more detail, but suffice it to say that the characterization that rocks us through 1000 pages is unmatchable.
With such strengths this book easily qualifies as the Great American Novel, if there is such a thing. If you're from Georgia you cannot read this without an intense clutch of self-recognition. If you're from the South you'll know that your story has been told. But as the people within these pages move from a semi-feudal to an early capitalist mindset, nothing becomes more clear than the distinctive thoughts and actions by which all Americans are known. One way or another, Gone With the Wind will do you proud.
This book left me with divided feelings, but I recommend its well written story anyway. It’s an easy read that throws out lots of thought-provoking idThis book left me with divided feelings, but I recommend its well written story anyway. It’s an easy read that throws out lots of thought-provoking ideas. My hesitation isn’t about the writing, but about the trajectory, a satire with nothing funny about it. It ends on a reactionary note that sounds occasionally in the telling. People will say I misinterpret the story or that I mistake the part for the whole, but jokes about those of us who enjoy, as Pynchon puts it, dropping the soap in the shower, sound tiresomely derivative.
Readers encounter a postmodern detective story in which the heroine discovers, in the spirit of Ayn Rand, a government monopoly that usurped a right pertaining some centuries ago to some other agent. The rightful inheritors of that concession seem to have been in a conspiracy to get it back, hence the mystery. But, as the protagonist discovers, the bad guys have taken steps to wipe out any connection between the curious events in California and the now-forgotten institutions of the Holy Roman Empire.
It’s when those inheritors find themselves driven to the United States that idea of the wrongly dispossessed more clearly asserts itself. The protagonist eventually has to decide whether to join this fight. But so equivocal are the clues that she first has to figure out if she’s even sane anymore.
She knows something is wrong, but can’t put it together, and the story plays to the sense of Orwellian conspiracy that pervades society in one form or another. Oedipa, our protagonist, can’t be insane; she took none of the LSD everyone is hooked on, and only the idea of a conspiracy could indict her mental state. Could it even be real? Could the other obviously insane people be sane and she, the picture of domesticated good sense, be out of her mind instead?
What a great setup for an ending. But here the trajectory falters. Now, every thinking person understands the theme of disenfranchisement and knows about the utterly wasted potential of this country. But all this book does is channel the recognition of those facts down the blind alley of resignation. The ending leaves readers disoriented and despairing. Whatever is going on, the author seems to tell us, it’s too late to do anything about it, so we might as well lie back and enjoy it.
Readers will enjoy this book for its writing and Oedipa’s clever detective work. But it’s helpful to know going in not to expect any grand revelation or any viable path to a saving future. ...more
I read this to see what what's been called America's first same-sex novel sounded like, written as it was around 1870. The author, at the end, leavesI read this to see what what's been called America's first same-sex novel sounded like, written as it was around 1870. The author, at the end, leaves a bit of plausible deniability, but the story is frank enough in other places to earn the title.
What's interesting is that this isn't just a story of the two main characters. The story is a mystery with a little action thrown in, and it concerns everyone in a town in Pennsylvania. Like much of American literature at the time, it exudes the spirit of the nation captured by Walt Whitman, and the description of Pennsylvania makes you want to go back in time and live there.
This characterization of our self-presentation as analogous to a theatrical performance has a few interesting points to make, but the examples are datThis characterization of our self-presentation as analogous to a theatrical performance has a few interesting points to make, but the examples are dated and the social situations depicted often no longer occur or take place in a context of refinement not ordinarily encountered.
For a book written so long ago, the author does an especially good job representing the gay characters. The story is interesting, the writing is good,For a book written so long ago, the author does an especially good job representing the gay characters. The story is interesting, the writing is good, and for a book of this genre it's about the right length....more