What did I learn from this book? That we should all be thankful we don't have to wear masks to block airborne ash from getting into our lungs, for one...moreWhat did I learn from this book? That we should all be thankful we don't have to wear masks to block airborne ash from getting into our lungs, for one. I also learned that McCarthy's minimal style is unlike any other. I'll be one of his readers for a long time. (less)
My girlfriend turned me on to this book, and it's been a wonderful multi-case study on turn-of-the-20th Century Americans, coast to coast. It's been t...moreMy girlfriend turned me on to this book, and it's been a wonderful multi-case study on turn-of-the-20th Century Americans, coast to coast. It's been the most purely American book i've come upon, and I hope to finish before i'm released to the great wild.(less)
So much in this book rang true to me. Hans is at once dense and accessible for the reader, which, as I understand it, can be a very tough balance to a...moreSo much in this book rang true to me. Hans is at once dense and accessible for the reader, which, as I understand it, can be a very tough balance to achieve. But O'Neill reaches it with a true prosaist's grace. Here's one of his most relatable images:
"The room's acoustics, which turned surrounding chatter into a roar, forced us to shout to make ourselves heard, so that our conversation formally shared many of the characteristics of a bitter argument."
And he continues to write like that. Calmly, almost ceremonially assessing every luckless circumstance with a wit and candor so contrary to how we initially react to these commonplace misfortunes. However, I want so much to read of the protagonist as a thoroughly good person that it stung to reach the part of his love stint with someone other than his wife, especially under his absence of any moral reserve. His proffered rationale? "I could think of nothing better than to suggest [her:] dinner." and later that evening: "...it seemed only right that she should follow me into the elevator and into my apartment and that we should begin kissing..." Almost tendering himself victim to the soul-smouldering arson of adultery all willy-nilly. While it's certainly disputable, given the characters' occasional ignorance to common virtues, if you ask me the underlying imperishable force that survives the book is that of the family. It's difficult and, well, outright dishonest to peg this book with just one main theme, but that's what most resonated with me. The re-emergence of the functional family was what I was rooting for from page to page. I recommend that some time in your life you read this book. Though like a good new album, it's better that you catch the wave earlier as opposed to later, especially since this one's so telling of and pertinent to our times.
For those not fortunate enough to be within tossing distance of the Murfreesboro Tennessee paperboy, below are some questions and probes that were included in the local paper here - The Daily News Journal - in June, around the time of the paperback reissue. Whoever had the book before me at the library was kind enough to place the clippings underneath the sleeve. I love it when people do stuff like that. Though there were some grammatical errors, to which I dutifully took a red pen. These helped me more fully understand and appreciate some things I would have otherwise overlooked.
1. Consider the flow of time in the story. Are the flashbacks and forward leaps reflective of the way we think? 2. How do the childhoods of Hans and Chuck explain their characters? 3. Why does Hans seem so disconnected, from himself as he once claims, and from others? Is this characteristic of his culture? 4. Why is Hans nostalgic for New York City? 5. Consider the various possible meanings for Netherland. 6. Is it realistic that someone like Hans, a successful financier, would've become friends with the somewhat shady Chuck? Would that friendship be as likely in a pre 9/11 world? 7. How are both Hans' and Chuck's experiences typical of immigrant stories? 8. Do you like Hans? Do you sympathize with him and understand his motives? Do you identify with him? 9. Why does Hans stay on at the Chelsea Hotel? 10. Why is cricket so important to both Chuck and Hans?
One last note: to those three people who had placed a hold on this book after I had, I formally apologize for keeping it out an unendorsed two extra weeks. Once you start to read it you'll begin to understand why I felt it was validated. (less)