I didn't like this book much, and my not liking of it makes me feel like an uncultured, anti-intellectual ass in some respects. This feels like the ki...moreI didn't like this book much, and my not liking of it makes me feel like an uncultured, anti-intellectual ass in some respects. This feels like the kind of book that, in order to be considered an intelligent, sophisticated person, I should look on with admiration. It's about real, salt-of-the-earth folks living in the Ozarks! It takes family drama to an extreme, and violence to an extreme as well—kind of like Cormac McCarthy if he remembered that women actually exist! Shouldn't I be constructing lines about how gritty and real it is right about now?
I don't know. Maybe it is true to life: the author is from the Ozarks, and I'm sure he knows his setting well. But I have a hard time fully believing his depiction of it, and here's why: this is yet another novel about “real” “poor” “working class” people in which no one ever has any fun, or tells a joke, or seems to enjoy themselves one bit. All the characters in this book are more of the same stern-faced, taciturn folk who crop up in literary works of this type—I think I'm meant to find their stoicism noble or something. But I have a hard time buying that there are these entire communities of people who go through their whole lives simply being stoic about their lots in life and not doing anything to make their time here more enjoyable. In my experience, hard times often birth wonderfully dark and bitter senses of humor, and elaborate storytelling is crafted as a way to fill the cold, harsh hours. Not the people in this book, though: they just shiver and stare moodily into the distance and maybe ponder that time, ten years ago or so, when they went swimming. Damn, if that wasn't the best time of their entire lives!
What else am I sick of? Man, I pondered long and hard, trying to think of a delicate way to say this, but I failed, so. Let's just lay it out there. I'm sick of straight men writing lesbians. Not across the board or anything—that would be seriously hypocritical, as I'm a straight woman who loves to write about gay men (although I do think there's a subtle distinction to be made about the implications of each of those things, considering each group's current place in society. Or at least action/adventure-oriented society). But I am sick of straight men who seem to think that the only way they can write a tough, kickass woman is to make her a lesbian. Do they think a woman can only be relatable if she eats pussy? Do they think anyone who likes cock—so, straight ladies and gay men—is automatically made of weaker stuff, and thus can't hold up a narrative that requires him or her to take a beating and stand up for him or herself? I feel like these male writers have to disclaim the tough women they write: “But see, she digs chicks (just like we do), so that explains her toughness!” I'm sorry, but: fuck you.
Woodrell is probably having heaped on him more than his fair share of my anger about these things, but it's become a pattern I've noticed, and I'm really, really sick of it. Instead of this same tired B.S., here are some things I would like to see:
1. More books about “ordinary” people, or about things other than the problems of urban-dwelling rich people. 2. More books about the above in which the characters are portrayed as something other than humorless stoic statues. 3. More books about awesome lesbians in which the characters' sexuality doesn't seem exploitive or feel like a “helpful” footnote. 4. More books in which women (and men) can kick ass and still like giving blowjobs.
Another empty novel about emptiness, oh joy! I read this because friends were always like, “You’ve never read Bret Easton Ellis? Whaaaaat?” But now I...moreAnother empty novel about emptiness, oh joy! I read this because friends were always like, “You’ve never read Bret Easton Ellis? Whaaaaat?” But now I have and we never have to talk about it again. Yay.(less)
Beautiful and heartbreaking—one of those classics that, upon reading for the first time, you can’t believe you haven’t read already. Baldwin combines...moreBeautiful and heartbreaking—one of those classics that, upon reading for the first time, you can’t believe you haven’t read already. Baldwin combines many elements that I love in this subtle, restrained story: it’s all repressed gay ex-pats—sort of like a Henry James novel, if Henry James had actually been able to write about what he was actually writing about. This book probably deserves a more reverent write-up than that, but I have my own Jamesish moments, and true reverence makes me white-lightning uncomfortable.
Anyway, enough about me: you should read this.(less)
This book’s kind of a hard sell. “A novel about the financial crisis! Oh joy!” On top of the subject matter, it’s one of those books about a lot of un...moreThis book’s kind of a hard sell. “A novel about the financial crisis! Oh joy!” On top of the subject matter, it’s one of those books about a lot of unpleasant people being unpleasant to each other, so although it was deftly done, it’s definitely a book that I appreciated more than one that I enjoyed. Worth reading, by only if you’re in a very serious “Oh, ain’t modern society awful” mood.(less)
More short stories, of varying quality, and with many wandering into the dime a dozen, disaffected young hipster side of things. Yawn. But a couple of...moreMore short stories, of varying quality, and with many wandering into the dime a dozen, disaffected young hipster side of things. Yawn. But a couple of these were really good. I especially liked the apocalyptic Tetris story. With all the books, and specifically short story collections, that I read, I tend to feel pretty impressed if an author manages to write even one story that sticks with me so favorably. That's how I feel about this Tetris story. And, uh. That's not a sentence I get to write often.(less)
Whoa! Unexpected cannibalism is unexpected! I mean, I guess on the one hand, it shouldn’t be—this is Tennessee Williams, after all; I’ve read Suddenly...moreWhoa! Unexpected cannibalism is unexpected! I mean, I guess on the one hand, it shouldn’t be—this is Tennessee Williams, after all; I’ve read Suddenly Last Summer. But still. That’ll make sure you’re paying attention.
These short stories veered wildly between being sort of tragic and awesome, and being kind of ridiculously OTT and bad. The earlier ones were my favorites; by the time I reached the last story, which was written in the ’70s, I felt like I was reading C-level Armistead Maupin shenanigans. The whole collection has left me feeling confused, but not entirely in a bad way? I don’t know. It’s also possible that my brain simply never recovered from the SURPRISE CANNIBALISM.(less)