"O heart, small urn of porphyry, agate or cornelian,
how imperceptibly the grain fell between a heart-beat of pleasure
and a heart-beat of pain; I do not k"O heart, small urn of porphyry, agate or cornelian,
how imperceptibly the grain fell between a heart-beat of pleasure
and a heart-beat of pain; I do not know how it came
nor how long it had lain there, nor can I say
how it escaped tempest of passion and malice,
nor why it was not washed away in flood of sorrow,
or dried up in the bleak drought of bitter thought."
If this passage doesn't grab you, you're probably not going to be drawn in otherwise. Very surreal; crystalline images; very strange spiritualism at moments (some over the top, yes). But moments of astonishing honesty, deep-cut affect. Read this in undergrad & was too banal to even try to "get" this, but it's just wonderful....more
A very quick read for my Lesbian Lit course this semester, and one of the very best things I had the opportunity to study this spring. Bechdel managesA very quick read for my Lesbian Lit course this semester, and one of the very best things I had the opportunity to study this spring. Bechdel manages to capture the almost overwhelming complexities of the parent/child dynamic when queerness enters the equation--and here, doubly so, as she recounts her discovery that her father was also gay. Her descriptions of the very antiquarian house and family from which she sprung may not ring particularly intimate for many of us, but the ways in which she illustrates her understanding of this 'strangeness' as her own personal 'normalcy' extends the experience outwards, to basically anyone who has lived in some kind of family setting. The "Fun Home" of the title is in fact a funeral home, which manages to capture, much as Six Feet Under did, the atmosphere of family life that leaves the narrator often paralyzed, awkward, and with a wealth of rich experience at hand.
The illustrations are not ornate, though detailed, and not glamorous or showy, even though there's so much to look for in each frame. There's something almost indescribable about the ways in which the images of this graphic novel complement the content; somehow, she manages to create layers upon layers upon layers of meaning with seemingly very little at hand. But, for instance, in a lovemaking scene, when the image is the sex, and the caption is-not dialogue-but narration of another piece of literature, we've got to draw from our understanding of Bechdel's text, of the text that's being described, of our own sexual experiences, and pull everything together to understand the very simple image that's being presented. It makes these sorts of moments incredibly memorable, poignant particularly for those of us who have experience, not necessarily gayness or lesbian existence, but perhaps simply hardships in discovering our identities, or even just had awkward comprehensions of our sexual beingness, and our parents' influence on that.
I could gush on and on, but I suppose I should say just simply--everyone should read this. It's quick, it's fun, and it manages to capture the search for identity and home that *everyone* has to undergo, even if they aren't lesbians, or their dads aren't gay, or they weren't raised in a funeral home. It's wonderful....more
Don't even feel like rating this because, well, I keep convincing myself that I just don't "get" Hemingway. I've never been one for the boy's boys cluDon't even feel like rating this because, well, I keep convincing myself that I just don't "get" Hemingway. I've never been one for the boy's boys club, and Hemingway seems to me the real figurehead of that scene. Just about the only book--in fact, I think the only one--I've tried to get through twice and just...I couldn't do more than 150-200 pages either time. Not sure if this says something about this novel or something about me, but either way, I won't touch this one again unless absolutely forced to....more
I've spent a semester getting through this massive volume (for a class, I should say), and I figure I'll do mini-reviews for each novel rather than anI've spent a semester getting through this massive volume (for a class, I should say), and I figure I'll do mini-reviews for each novel rather than anything similarly massive. So let's give it a whirl.
Sense and Sensibility: This is actually the only Austen novel I've read on multiple occasions, so I have a bit more familiarity with it than any of the other five. This is, in my humble opinion, a fairly dark novel for Austen. Marianne's melodrama is of course frequently mocked, but Elinor's resignation and the story of the Elizas present really bleak insights into Austen's imagination. S&S is perhaps the least laught-out-loud funny of Austen's oeuvre, but the relationship between Elinor and Marianne is one of the most fascinating (and eroticized) female-female interactions among all of her novels. Willoughby, despite his profligate nature, is really hot--especially in Emma Thompson's film adaptation, so that alone should make you want to read/see this! No, but seriously, S&S is strangely close to my heart, perhaps because of that strong sisterly bond, and the female-centered communities of the novel.
Pride and Prejudice: What can I say about P&P that hasn't been said before? It's my favorite Austen novel, with my favorite heroine (Elizabeth) and hero (Darcy), along with a wonderful supporting cast (the Bennets, Mr. Bingley, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Collins, Charlotte Lucas). The humor is all there, the emotion rings true, the characters are all complex and imaginable while you're reading. Quite simply one of the very best novels of English literary history.
Mansfield Park: I won't belabor this part, because "MP" is really truly my least favorite among the novels. The writing is good, the plot is complex, but Fanny Price is absolutely insufferable. If this book had been about Mary Crawford, I might have enjoyed it. The Crawfords are fabulous characters, and there are fascinating questions of subversion in the novel--but this is also the most evident text in which Austen deliberately upholds the status quo, even after suggesting alternatives to it (through the Crawfords, Mr. Yates, even Fanny's brief challenge to the slave trade). Sir Thomas Bertram is Patriarch Supreme, and he ensures that conservatism wins in the end. This is a bit of an unpopular opinion, but for a legitimately good adaptation of this novel, see Patricia Rozema's 1999 film version--it's absolutely wonderful. A real feminist update, and it even features Miss Honey from "Matilda" as Mary Crawford!
Emma: After P&P, this is my second-favorite Austen novel. Emma may be self-centered and manipulative, but she's one of Austen's only flawed characters that we genuinely sympathize with. And I think she's a quite welcome change between the passive, troubled heroines (Catherine, Fanny, Anne, Elinor) and the more vivacious ones (Elizabeth, Marianne)--she's a joy to read. This is also one of the very funniest of Austen's works--I found myself chuckling or openly guffawing almost constantly while reading. Great cast of characters--Emma herself, of course, along with Mr. Woodhouse, Jane Fairfax, the Bates (ha!), and arguably the gayest character--Frank Churchill-in her body of work. Furthermore, I think the resolutions presented here are the most developed and mature of her career--because she actually takes the time to allow them to develop, rather than simply tying everything up neatly in the final pages. Emma is a really lovely novel, and of course, if you didn't know that Clueless is a modernized adaptation of it, now's your chance to rewatch it with that in mind.
Northanger Abbey: Features much of Austen's always-wonderful wit, but I think it's pretty self-evident that this is a first novel, and if you've read the juvenilia, I think you'll recognize much of that exuberant naivete bleeding over into "Northanger." While the humor was all there, my issue with the novel was that I had little sympathy for any of the characters. Catherine, as the opening line suggests, is not much of a heroine--she's bumbling, easily manipulated, excitable, and simply not complex enough for me to truly identify with her. Henry Tilney is, well, kind of a douchebag. A classic example of the "Educating Jane" theme that frequently runs through her novels, because Henry (perhaps like many Austen heroes) becomes a father figure for Catherine. I found that pretty infuriating. Strangely enough, though, I think "Northanger" is possibly Austen's most (I use this term loosely) 'postmodern' texts, because of the novel's challenge to so-termed master narratives, particularly of the Gothic. So I found that pretty fascinating. On the whole, though, this is right with "Mansfield Park" as my least favorite Austen novel.
Persuasion: Wonderful novel. Austen's most mature work, and one of the most heartfelt, particularly because you can feel Austen's own regrets coming through Anne Elliot. Not only that, but there's a sense of the past here, a sense of the characters having histories and interiorities--which doesn't necessarily ring true for her other novels. Of course, I do find myself wondering what it might have been had she survived to continue working on it (it's finished, but not heavily revised), because there are moments where it feels slightly unpolished. Anne Elliot is almost like a much more grown up, and far more fascinating, Fanny Price--quiet, with regrets and a lot of sensitivity, but Anne is genuinely a memorable character. This is a tale, first, of unrequited love and the pain that comes with it--but, as with any Austen novel, there's a happy ending. It's the journey to that end that makes this such a worthwhile novel.
Lady Susan: Oops! Haven't read this one. But I need this compendium off of my currently reading shelf! I promise I'll read Lady Susan at some point!...more
Ah, Austen. Well, I can't say that so confidently, as this is the only Austen I've read so far (blasphemy, I know)--but I'm taking a seminar on her thAh, Austen. Well, I can't say that so confidently, as this is the only Austen I've read so far (blasphemy, I know)--but I'm taking a seminar on her this semester, so I figure I'll be well-acquainted with her by the end. I actually read Sense and Sensibility for another class a couple years ago, and as I settled back into it this time around, realized I remembered none of it--which was surprisingly lovely, because I enjoyed it all the more now.
I'll confess, I can understand the complaints lodged against Austen--yes, the novel is very much a study in manners and the marriage contract, and sometimes, the loose ends seem a bit too easily tied by the end. But I don't think this discounts her or the novel--for one thing, she was very much a pioneer in the genre and in women's writing. As Woolf has famously noted in A Room of One's Own, who is it that decides a novel is important because it centers on war, and dismisses another because it is located in a sitting room? Austen sticks with what she knows here, and succeeds with flying colors. The characters begin the novel as incredibly two-dimensional--Elinor is a frigid bitch, Marianne is your typical flighty, over-emotional wreck, Mrs. Jennings is an oblivious, gossipy hen, etc. Even Lucy takes on some semblance of moral complexity (though I still can't stand her). But what Austen does so well in the novel (and something she's dismissed for) is creating an impeccable structure--a sort of flawless architecture--that brings about believable evolutions in character, plot shifts that work perfectly, and dialogue that never ceases to sound entirely succinct. Not to say anything about her sharp wit!
I certainly found myself rooting for Elinor and Marianne as the novel went on, and falling into the emotions her cast so wonderfully puts on display. If I'm to make any complaint, it's that at times, this novel certainly reads like a first novel. For one thing, what the hell was Margaret Dashwood doing in there? She garnered maybe three lines for herself, and I thought at first that perhaps she would mark some significant plot point...but no. There was, quite frankly, NO reason to have her as a character. She was given no real attention, offered nothing to the form or shift of the novel...she didn't have any purpose whatsoever. That character, and a few other minor instances read very strangely--innocently, I guess, from a writerly standpoint. But as I said, the rest is all cake. Besides, I made sure not to OD on the world of Austen by pairing my reading of the novel with, first an Angela Carter one (erotic, pomo insanity), and then Toni Morrison (gritty, real, heartbreaking). And now I feel more ready than ever to make my way through her oeuvre! ...more
An astonishing debut novel from one of our greatest living novelists. I'm too attached to write anything v. smart, so suffice it to say that Morrison'An astonishing debut novel from one of our greatest living novelists. I'm too attached to write anything v. smart, so suffice it to say that Morrison's imagining of the damaging parameters of beauty and love as determined by white normativity (the Dick and Jane primer structures the novel's chapters) is both tragic and lyrical - complicated rather than maudlin. Her handling of incest, in particular, is I think ridiculously important for its ability to navigate personal and national/cultural trauma.
Also on my recent re-read, I realized how short it actually is! I gorged on it in an engrossed sitting....more