Chris recommended this "goofball novel" to me because it deals with the inevitability of depression for those who are intelligent and carefully consid...moreChris recommended this "goofball novel" to me because it deals with the inevitability of depression for those who are intelligent and carefully consider the world around them. This is true, but I don't think it treats the subject in any meaningful way. The author seems to have the trappings of intellectual culture confused with the mental processes that define people as intellectual. I need to be told more than "this guy knows Aramaic" to understand that he's smart, and more than "his friends tied him up and read Descartes to him" to understand that he has reengaged his brain. In a particularly egregious chapter, Antoine lays out his most structurally sound argument of the book--why he should kill himself--and then, after studying how to do so efficiently, decides not to, without explanation. Not every book needs to make me feel better about the issues it raises, but this is pop lit: it wants to bring me back around to a moral, and just doesn't put in the work.
That said, this book is packed full of clever quirks--too many. I want to say it has "quirky characters" except no one in this book is fleshed out enough to be properly called a "character", even if they do glow in the dark and/or speak entirely in metered poetry. (Most maddening about the latter is that the author doesn't even write the poetry; he just writes, "Aas told Antoine, in a moving sonnet, that...". This may be the fault of a lazy translator, but I can't imagine a translator getting away with that.) (less)
I think this book is probably more amazing than I was able to appreciate on an initial read-through. It's a dense book with prose that isn't dense at...moreI think this book is probably more amazing than I was able to appreciate on an initial read-through. It's a dense book with prose that isn't dense at all--like a lot of my favorite books, but hard to really get if I'm not in hardcore analysis mode.
The blurb on the back makes it sound really cheesy. Yes, this book is (among other things) about "multiculturalism" and "the new American Dream", but it treats these things (and love, and family, and the book's other themes) with complexity, and with a certain indifference that I found interesting--and also hard to meet with something more than indifference myself. (less)
Clare and Irene are both light-skinned African-American women. Clare has left the community to pass as white; Irene married a dark black man and works...moreClare and Irene are both light-skinned African-American women. Clare has left the community to pass as white; Irene married a dark black man and works for the Negro Welfare League. They meet again and complexities ensue.
This book is fairly nuanced (especially, I sense, for the '20s) in how it deals with the instability of racial boundaries and with the intersection of race and gender issues. This didn't keep it from boring me most of the time. The characters did a lot more thinking and talking about the issues than living out experiences that dramatized them. Cf. everything I wrote about Anna Karenina. Maybe I don't like old books. (less)
I liked it, despite myself. Hale tries to make syntax interesting and accessible by dressing it up in sex-terms. And she sounds like an idiot doing it...moreI liked it, despite myself. Hale tries to make syntax interesting and accessible by dressing it up in sex-terms. And she sounds like an idiot doing it. But damn it, even though I have a college degree, reading this book was my introduction to technical grammar stuff. I'm sure it was only a page-turner because I was so grateful for the education, not because she did a particularly good job making the book. But I'm in no position to get too hoity-toity here. Hell, she taught me the term for why her writing sucks: she fails to "find the right pitch."(less)
Fun second-wave-feminist light reading. I appreciate her for trying to write about "the movement" from inside and outside at the same time, even thoug...moreFun second-wave-feminist light reading. I appreciate her for trying to write about "the movement" from inside and outside at the same time, even though it's a terrible idea. And reading her account of an interview with Linda Lovelace during the first media frenzy over "Deep Throat" made me finally understand why no one believed Lovelace when she later announced that she had been forced at gunpoint to make the movie.
It would be fun to read this right after Manifesta, which is also a nice, easy read for those looking for a historical overview of popular/political/not-heavy-theory feminism.(less)
I was so excited in high school to read this book because I'd heard it had lots of sex in it AND it was the kind of book grown-ups say you should read...moreI was so excited in high school to read this book because I'd heard it had lots of sex in it AND it was the kind of book grown-ups say you should read anyway.
Bleh. I don't actually remember the story that well, but what I do remember is Lawrence's fatal combo of thinking himself an expert on female sexuality and completely misrepresenting it. Some of the worst men-writing-women I've encountered. Also: not even a very sexy book. A colossal disappointment.
I've heard other Lawrence books are more worth reading, but I'm skeptical.(less)
It's another in a string of books I've read recently that was coated in filmy critics' praise and which I, you know, liked well enough I guess.
The bo...moreIt's another in a string of books I've read recently that was coated in filmy critics' praise and which I, you know, liked well enough I guess.
The book contains a novella, Kitchen, and a short story, "Moonlight Shadow". General plot synopsis of both stories: Young woman loses one or more intimate relations, then bonds with a similarly aggrieved young man over noodle soup and the process of getting used to the aloneness of life's path. Both stories have enough quirky details to keep this arc from being entirely banal.
This book is really... cute? I worry that I'm saying that just because it's by/about young Japanese women. The subject matter is not "cute" or treated dismissively, but the narrative still seems oddly light. Maybe it's just the simplicity of the language. I haven't read much that was translated from Japanese, so I don't know how much of this spareness is Yoshimoto's writing and how much of it is how Japanese sounds in translation.(less)
Batchelor is not pro-Buddhism as a religion, or pro-religion at all. He advocates gently but incisively for a "passionate agnosticism"--admitting that...moreBatchelor is not pro-Buddhism as a religion, or pro-religion at all. He advocates gently but incisively for a "passionate agnosticism"--admitting that you don't know and probably never can, but that this doesn't let you off the hook, since the attempt to find out is necessary to your mental/spiritual survival. He presents Buddhist techniques as common-sense, highly effective ways of dealing with existential problems, and Buddhist philosophy as a framework for understanding things that will become self-evident through doing the consciousness work.
This is the second or third time I've read most of this book before having to return it to the library. I don't identify as Buddhist, but keep coming back to this book for different reasons. In college, the book helped me become aware of the inefficacy of my thought patterns and try to begin to clear some of the clutter and use my mental energy more effectively. That point is exactly as salient for me as it ever was, but on re-reading I also found crucial new ways of thinking about mortality, which has really been anguishing me lately. Batchelor points out that a fixation on death's certainty and the mystery of its timing is a good thing, because it leads to the question "what should I do with my life?" Keeping that at the forefront of one's mind is basically impossible without an emotional/physical concern with life's finiteness. I'm also interested in Batchelor's explanation of meditation itself as a tool for translating thought into emotional/physical knowledge, and that the latter is necessary to get things done.
I don't always require groundedness and common sense from spiritualists, but this book achieves this admirably. I also find a lot of pleasure in reading Batchelor's exceptionally clear, elegant prose.(less)
Another 3rd-wave feminist classic that reads like a 'zine published on a university press. I read it for a class, and it got me started thinking about...moreAnother 3rd-wave feminist classic that reads like a 'zine published on a university press. I read it for a class, and it got me started thinking about some of the issues facing women of color, but I've never been motivated to dip back into it.(less)
This one feels like more memoir-for-the-sake-of-memoir (as opposed to memoir-as-national-history) than the first one, but A) I like memoirs, and B) th...moreThis one feels like more memoir-for-the-sake-of-memoir (as opposed to memoir-as-national-history) than the first one, but A) I like memoirs, and B) there is still a lot of social commentary tucked in here about the immigrant/emigrant experience, the hostility between Iran and the West, etc. Still funny and lovely, but not quite as seamless and directed as the first book. Eh, who cares; if you read one, you should read them both. I think the two books took me about four hours total.(less)
I read this in a 200-level English class on the historical evolution of fairy tales. My main reaction to it at the time was, "wow; I didn't know chick...moreI read this in a 200-level English class on the historical evolution of fairy tales. My main reaction to it at the time was, "wow; I didn't know chick lit could be done so well," but of course, it isn't chick lit: I just wasn't used to books actually about women and their relationships.
The novel isn't really a retelling of "The Robber Bridegroom" so much as it is a story that uses the fairy tale as a trope. It's probably a better book if you've recently read the Grimms' version of "The Robber Bridegroom," but Atwood catches you up even if you haven't. A little girl insists that anyone who tells her a fairy tale tells it so that every character in every story is female; the characters (and the reader) then reflect on how and why it is weird to have Little Red Riding Hood victimized by a female Big Bad Wolf, Sleeping Beauty kissed back to life by a princess, etc. etc. And then, of course, that's what the whole book was about! All along! Holy crap!
I don't know if I'm making the book sound dumb. It's a lot more complex than this; I just don't really remember the main storyline or characters very much. When I read it, I knew I'd have to write an essay about how it manipulated fairy tales, so that's what I remember best.(less)
I don't know how you could write a book like that without a lot of drugs--or how you could write it with drugs. For the first 20 pages or so I was con...moreI don't know how you could write a book like that without a lot of drugs--or how you could write it with drugs. For the first 20 pages or so I was constantly trying to figure out what was literal and what was symbolic. Then I realized that all of it is both, and that I'm not stupid, it's just that the book makes no narrative sense, but it does a brilliant job of capturing dream-logic, and makes a lot of intuitive sense. It's a very political book even as it constantly undermines its arguments with the not-sense-making; it's like reading the jumble of amorphous thoughts someone has before they convert them into a nice, coherent, linear essay. It may not make sense, but the emotional content feels purer than in rhetoric.
Plus, the book is full of sentence candy: "All the men were gone, so there were dead fish everywhere." "We can't stay here. We can't only masturbate and be whores." But any book this intensely poetic starts to feel laborious before it ends. Maybe it's my failure as a reader, but after 150 pages or so I found it hard to maintain the focus necessary to continuously appreciate the micro-level brilliance of this book, when on the larger scale it doesn't seem to be going anywhere.(less)
I read this for a Fairhaven class on the anthropology of shamanism. The professor, Leslie Conton, has been dogged by controversy surrounding her exper...moreI read this for a Fairhaven class on the anthropology of shamanism. The professor, Leslie Conton, has been dogged by controversy surrounding her experiential methods as an anthropologist, as her ethnographic work has consisted of studying various cultures' shamanic practices by training as a shaman in those cultures. No longer allowed to conduct shamanic journeying workshops as part of the class, she assigned Secrets of the Talking Jaguar because it was "the closest thing she could give us to an experiential education" on the subject.
Well, that whole subject is very sticky and I don't think here is the place to write any more about it. But Prechtel's memoir was definitely in stark contrast to the dryer, more purely ethnographic materials assigned, and I relished it. I don't know how an author can describe the ineffable, and I imagine the answer is that he can't--but this is still a beautiful, evocative piece of writing.
Traveling aimlessly around Central America, Prechtel happenstantially (I want that to be a word) ended up in a Tzutujil Mayan village in Guatemala, was chosen despite his protests to train under the village shaman, and stayed (I think) 15 years, before being forced to leave due to political circumstances. It doesn't sound true, but as far as I can tell, it is. Now back in the U.S., Prechtel is working to inform people about the sociopolitical situation of indigenous cultures in Central America. A pretty amazing dude. This book is mostly about the spiritual and social aspects of his shamanic training and practice, and the relationship of these things to his experience of being a cultural expatriate/import.
I lent my copy to David Ney a couple of years ago after he tried to convince me to read Carlos Castaneda, and he still hasn't read it. So if you want to borrow it, I'll get it back from him.(less)
I loved this book when I was 14. I have often wondered if I would still love it now. Dystopian censorship sci-fi is a genre I got a little tired of ki...moreI loved this book when I was 14. I have often wondered if I would still love it now. Dystopian censorship sci-fi is a genre I got a little tired of kind of quickly, and I wasn't old enough when I read this to be able discern its relative degree of subtlety.(less)
Another one of those books that makes me worry that I don't actually like poetry. Forché gives me a line or three per page that really strike me, but...moreAnother one of those books that makes me worry that I don't actually like poetry. Forché gives me a line or three per page that really strike me, but I would have to work harder than I apparently want to in order to understand what she is talking about beyond the fact that she has known someone(s?) who died. She plays with the boundary between comprehensible description of reality and abstract imagery, and her transitions between the two are so frequent and seamless that I find it pretty hard to follow. I am not sure whether I envy her confidence in writing a book that expects such a commitment of energy from the reader.(less)