OK, I just gotta say -- GOOD GRIEF. There's a story here, and I'm gonna tell it, because that is what Goodreads is for! I love you, Goodreads! You keeOK, I just gotta say -- GOOD GRIEF. There's a story here, and I'm gonna tell it, because that is what Goodreads is for! I love you, Goodreads! You keep my thoughts alllll organized.
So, I went to a reading by Michael Ondaatje where he promoted his new book the Cat's Table, and he was interviewed (of course) on stage by another writer who name I can't recall (sorry, lady!). Of course, the inevitable question came up -- what are your influences? Ondaatje replied Faulkner of course, then went on to say that one of the best writers he's ever read is John Ehle, that he hails from North Carolina, and that in order to read his books you will probably have to get on Amazon and find someone selling a used copy from their box of books in the basement.
Luckily for me, I didn't have to go that far. My school library carries a couple of his books! Hooray! So I checked this one out, and have been reading it whenever I can catch a spare half hour. Now, on reading it, my first thoughts were hmm. This sounds awful familiar. REAL familiar, in fact. And, you know, come to think of it? DUH. The premise is a woman named Collie, living in the mountains with her bastard baby child Jonathan, who houses and protects a man who came out of the mountains with his young daughter Paula. Collie lives alone due to her family's sense of betrayal over her bastard child, and because she will not tell anyone who the father of her child is. She has three brothers that all live in town, as do her mother and father. Her brothers all have a hard time hiding their jealousy over male attentions to Collie, because, as the novel demonstrates, she is strong, dynamic, and beautiful. The man who comes out of the mountains, and who earns her favor with his own handsome face, Wayland Jackson, is a clockmaker by trade.
SO AM I THE ONLY ONE HERE READING THE SOUND AND THE FURY AGAIN, GUYS? Caddy = Collie (they both have illegitimate children) and her brothers are all so drawn to her by sexual jealously and other unresolved tensions in both books.
It seems that Ehle has, of course, made some substitutions and improvements. For example, instead of the abusive and neglectful father in Jason Compton Sr, in Mr. Wright, Collie's father, we have a kind, generous and intelligent man. Instead of four brothers, Collie has only three --- however, Gudger, who runs the general store and is bitter about his own penchant to work hard (Jason Jr) is both jealous and resentful of Collie because she insists that Wayland sets up shop in a corner of Gudger's store (in the Sound and the Fury, Jason grinds his ax continuously about Caddy costing him his job). Wayland Jackson, the new apple of Collie's eye, is a clockmaker, and sets up shop to repair clocks. Wayland mirrors the character of Quentin in the Sound of the Fury, who is plagued by the passage of time throughout his section, and who is one of the more tenderly and intimately devoted brothers of Caddy, and who appeared to have a blatant sexual interest in her.
AND, of course, time is a persistent symbol and theme of Sound and the Fury as well. Ok, I'm not even done with this guys. I just had to freak out for a minute and write this down somewhere, because I like it when dots connect.
Also, get this: John Ehle had a daughter named Jennifer Ehle, who became an actress. I am also taking a Jane Austen course this semester, and we're currently reading Pride and Prejudice, and watching the BBC (Colin Firth) version. And uh, of course! Why should it surprise me that Jennifer Ehle stars in this version, playing the role of Elizabeth Bennett?
Tim O'Brien has been writer-in-residence at my school for some time, and he has also taught in the grad program here which, admittedly, has never failTim O'Brien has been writer-in-residence at my school for some time, and he has also taught in the grad program here which, admittedly, has never failed to make me a wee bit jealous. One benefit though was being able to see him speak last week, which was very interesting.
I know that O'Brien went to Vietnam, and Vietnam indeed is a very recurrent theme in his books. In this book, "In the Lake of the Woods," a politician who has been to Vietnam and suffered through horrific brutalities retires to a cabin on a remote lake with his wife for a vacation of sorts, after his political career has crashed and burned. Shortly after they arrive, his wife disappears. The book jumps back and forth between Wade's career in the United States, his tour in Vietnam, and some more somewhat metafictional chapters in which quotations, testimony and factual accounts of evidence have been collected by the nameless, fervently driven writer who investigates John Wade and the circumstances surrounding the disappearance.
I found the prose very elegant, and it was a very striking portrayal of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The reason that I started writing this review, however, was from a coincidence that jumped off the page at me. I finished this book, and begin to study for a test by reading a passage on the function of the amygdala in the brain -- that which brings us fearfulness, anxiety, sexuality, and the fight or flight phenomenon that was also a recurrent theme in this book. I then began reading a passage written by Charles Whitman, a man who killed his wife and mother and climbed to the top of the tower at the University of Texas in Austin:
"I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts. These thoughts constantly recur, and it requires a tremendous mental effort to concentrate on useful and productive tasks...After my death I wish that an autopsy would be performed on me to see if there is any visible physical disorder...It was after much thought that I decided to kill my wife, Kathy, tonight after I pick her up from work...I love her dearly, and she has been as fine a wife to me as any man could ever hope to have. I cannot rationally pinpoint any specific reason for doing this..."
The point being that Whitman had a tumor in a vicinity that affected his amygdala. What struck me was 1) this state of mind was very close, very reminiscent of John Wade's perspective throughout the novel. 2) John Wade's wife was also named Kathy. Coincidence? Perhaps. It was this coincidence that made me perhaps a little more intrigued about the matter on the whole, and what actually prompted the writing of this review.
I'm pretty surprised that this won a Pulitzer. Kind of contrived -- the references to sex, drugs and rock and roll were slightly painful -- and even tI'm pretty surprised that this won a Pulitzer. Kind of contrived -- the references to sex, drugs and rock and roll were slightly painful -- and even though the point of view shifted in each chapter, the author's voice never did.
I did read it in one weekend, which is to say, it was distracting enough of a read to keep me occupied and entertained between weeks of endless academic reading for school. I just can't fathom a Pulitzer being handed out for anything so average. ...more
Read in almost one sitting -- which is to say, two sittings. It was an enjoyable read, and I admire his positivity. I'm not sure that it's exactly conRead in almost one sitting -- which is to say, two sittings. It was an enjoyable read, and I admire his positivity. I'm not sure that it's exactly convinced me to try transcendental meditation, but he sure made it sound nice? ...more
I have to admit to being a little bit hesitant about taking a course in Jane Austen's novels, but now I'm so glad that I did. Northanger Abbey is theI have to admit to being a little bit hesitant about taking a course in Jane Austen's novels, but now I'm so glad that I did. Northanger Abbey is the first novel we read in class, and I enjoyed it so much. Looking forward to more. ...more
Well, I read it! And, I liked it. Around the same time I randomly clicked onto a fitness website and signed myself up for a 10K training program (onlyWell, I read it! And, I liked it. Around the same time I randomly clicked onto a fitness website and signed myself up for a 10K training program (only halfway convinced that I would actually give it a shot), I started reading this memoir from one of my favorite contemporary writers. And the level of romance between Murakami and running (in a loose sense of the word romance at least) is what compelled me to follow the plan into it's third week, and as such, I've run 18 miles since I first read the pages of this book. And I'm so glad.
My favorite statement was in the very beginning of the page: pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. This is a mantra I've held onto myself as I train myself for long distance running, because more than anything, I would like to build the type of endurance and discipline that Murakami elaborates on so wonderfully in this easy to read, conversational memoir. ...more
I first read one of Charles D'Ambrosio's short stories in a Paris Review anthology I picked up -- The Paris Review Book for Planes, Trains, ElevatorsI first read one of Charles D'Ambrosio's short stories in a Paris Review anthology I picked up -- The Paris Review Book for Planes, Trains, Elevators & Waiting Rooms (or something like that). I read it 5 years ago, and the thing that always stood out to me the most was his short story, and it was for how well he wrote mental illness.
Cut to the present, and I am subscribed to American Short Fiction, a quarterly based out of Austin, and I am reading a story where the protagonist name drops this collection of stories, The Dead Fish Museum, and I remember all over again how I NEVER READ IT. Cut to the present-present, and I HAVE read it, and I'm glad that I have. Everything down to the cover makes me feel just right, and even though the characters are all quite decidedly unbalanced, there is such a wonderful and delicate balance in every story I found here. Add in the fact that a lot of stories were based in Seattle and/or Washington State, and the fact that D'Ambrosio can effortlessly capture that unmistakable Pacific Northwest moodiness, and you have me sold. ...more
Joan Didion -- get out of my head. No seriously. Or actually, you know what? Don't. I absolutely love this woman and the way she writes. Her fiction iJoan Didion -- get out of my head. No seriously. Or actually, you know what? Don't. I absolutely love this woman and the way she writes. Her fiction is pretty damn sexy, but her nonfiction? Sublime.
I bought this book for my mom several years ago, a few years after the death of my father. It took me almost 8 years after the death of my father to read it, and I wish I had read it years ago, because her discourse on grief and mourning is about the most solid account I've found. Didion is so vivid, personal and visceral while maintaining a cool distance -- the very same "cool customer" effect she discusses in terms of the shock that immediately followed her husband's passing. She is not a force of nature, but of human nature.
Didion reads as the calm before the storm or the deep breath before the plunge, but always without pretension, and you always have to do the work yourself. I could say a lot more, but I don't even really think it's necessary. I think that everyone should own a copy of this book.
I have a feeling that this was not the Richard Ford I ought to have started with, but I'm okay with that. I like the way he writes, even if this bookI have a feeling that this was not the Richard Ford I ought to have started with, but I'm okay with that. I like the way he writes, even if this book didn't completely thrill me, so I think I'd like to seek out some of his novels. The first and last stories were sort of about the egoistic trappings of the middle-aged white male mind, it seemed to me. I could follow the wonderings of thought well, and could appreciate it, and though I'm glad I read it, in the end it did not change my life.