I understand this book is supposed to enlighten the reader to the social issues of the times...1940's in Louisiana. And if you are looking for a book...moreI understand this book is supposed to enlighten the reader to the social issues of the times...1940's in Louisiana. And if you are looking for a book that can help you understand the nature of how blacks were treated "in the quarter", then this is a good book for that. There are a multitude of scenes where the reader experiences the carelessness, lack of respect and unfettered bigotry of the whites to the blacks and of even greater interest, that of the mulattos in the area toward the black.
Our narrator, Grant is an interesting character. We get a good picture of who this person is. I definitely understand his being 'lost', as the only educated man among a lot of uneducated blacks in a town still dominated and controlled by whites. He doesn't understand himself and why when given his once chance to get out, he didn't take it. He takes out his frustration on his students, aunt, and girlfriend. I expected some catharsis of his personal situation by the end of the book but there was none. I had assumed that one of the big "Lessons Before Dying" would be his. No. This did not happen and so I am let down. It isn't as if I was expecting a happy ending to this story but if we can leave on a positive note, as the title hints at, then Grant would have been a good candidate for a lesson.
Jefferson, the young black man who is sentenced to death makes big strides in the book, and I suppose we can thank Grant for his interventions although the nature of these interventions were vague and left me feeling like there must have been a few meetings we missed. I feel this because the progress Jefferson made far exceeds what we experienced in the meetings outlined. He goes from a barely verbal, nearly catatonic, emotionally abusive prisoner into a caring, repentant, introspective man no longer too fearful of death. The whole idea was that he was to leave the world with an improved self image, "man" vs. the "hog" he was labeled with in his defense (i.e. this black man is no better than a hog, and hogs can not premeditate what happened in this crime!) Grant is given the task to change Jefferson back into a man before he dies and this is the only wish of Jefferson's aunt. Grant succeeds and this could have been so profound, so poignant but it fell very flat. There are a few very powerful speeches, and scenes but again they just didn't ring with the feeling and power that they could have had. It could have been so great because this is a very great story. So much here but I just felt the focus was in the wrong place, and not enough emphasis was placed on the important parts which were....uh....a lesson that was learned before dying. I can't put my finger on why that was so important, but I just feel it was.
I enjoyed it thoroughly up until about the last 1/4 when I realized it wasn't going to end the way it needed to. Again, I'm not looking for a happy ending. I'm looking for an ending that makes sense.(less)
**spoiler alert** I wasn't looking forward to reading this book; hitting a little too close to home for me in a few respects. But I did, and I just do...more**spoiler alert** I wasn't looking forward to reading this book; hitting a little too close to home for me in a few respects. But I did, and I just don't know if I'm glad about that fact, or not. It's all about the images that are forever-after plastered into a small corner of my brain. Images in full clarity as if I watched a movie.
For me, this book all came down to the conflict of power between men and women that even now is unresolved...which is why IMHO the book is left...unresolved. We don't know what happens to this poor desolate creature. All we know is that she is full of anger and hatred; she's been abandoned in a sense and has very few options available to her at the tender age of 12.
It doesn't matter what age you are, if you are a woman you will feel very early on the powerful influence that men or a man, at least, has over you. Consider the sound of the father's voice in contrast to the mother's voice. In most circumstances, it's louder, stronger and scarier. It is to be obeyed whereas a mother's voice is more often ignored. This is nothing that can be denied. In a world of feminist liberalism, men still hold loftier positions, have increased salaries and hold places of power more often than women, right or wrong. In poorer populations such as depicted in this book, it is possibly even more pronounced.
Consider Ruth Anne's perspective. She is frequently describing physical attributes...small hands (women) vs big hands (men), small (women) vs. large (men) as well as personal characteristics...the women fall apart as they get older, the men are studly out there on the porch drinking beer and having notoriously bad behavior. The men are forgiven their sins against the women again and again, but the women get "fat" and "old" and "ugly" and they are cast aside. The women in this book are objects of weakness and subservience (with an attitude) but basically held up to high standards but low opinion. The men are pandered to, patronized in their behaviors and laughed about in scrapbooks of jail sentences and police photos in the newspaper. The only woman of account that had any "power" to speak of, was described as being "big" with "large arms", unmarried and coincidentally homosexual, independent and no one to be messed with. So, the only woman able to effectively nurture and comfort Ruth Ann in her hour of most need, is a woman...who is most like a man. Even Ruth Anne's friend, the ugly duckling...is frequently ridiculed by men to the utter annihilation of herself. This little girl is the whole book in a nutshell.
Ruth Ann knows happiness and love in her early years when there was no man around that have direct power over her (uncles on the periphery). She felt power over the future based on her understanding of the rules. The over-abundance of characters in this book, while seemingly excessive is necessary in order to show Ruth the vast amounts of dynamics involved between a multitude of male and female relationships. Ruth Ann soon learns in her young years that men are in control...a fact she learns soon enough when her mother marries Daddy Glen. Thereafter, Ruth Ann is under a man's thumb who is bound and determined to show her who has the power in physical ways that only men have. Ruth Ann maintains control in all of the ways she can...over her own body by her masturbation and disturbing fantasies, her blatant and overt burglary of the Woolworth's, and thoughts of harming others and herself. Her ultimate display of her own personal power remains to be seen.
Probably the most interesting aspect of this book is one I find pervasive across the gamut of books that elicit great deals of emotion. As a person who has dabbled in the idea of writing a book, I find myself only able to write about things that I myself personally have experienced...events, emotions, personal characteristics etc. For events I have no experience in, I feel inadequate to write. I suppose that's where research comes into play so I ask myself...did Dorothy Allison experience these things herself, and thus explains her intimate knowledge of how a 12 year old girl FEELS or did she talk to someone who has gone through these things? I'm just very curious to know how it is she could so thoroughly understand how difficult it was for Ruth Ann to talk about what was going on. I felt constantly amazed by how Allison was able to portray Ruth Anne's utter desolation and confusion...I totally understood from her writing that Ruth Ann just couldn't even form the thoughts necessary to explain to her mother or Aunts what was happening to her, both with Daddy Glen and the fallout afterward inside of herself.
All in all, this was a really well written book. I didn't love the actual violence but in order to tell this story the way it needed to be told, we needed to read it. This book, while not my favorite way to tell the story about power between men and women, is effective in its message.
This book may very well be the longest book I have ever read in my life, felt all the more acute because so much of it was side stories that did not a...moreThis book may very well be the longest book I have ever read in my life, felt all the more acute because so much of it was side stories that did not add to the actual story. However, being the bookworm I am, I am very happy to finally have this book on my "have read" list as one can easily see how much of life's chliches, moral lessons, and other societal fundamentals are actually derived from this singular book. I also can not decide who is more to be praised, the author (who is probably a genius in how he wrote his books, especially the 2nd book after the weird pseudo Don Quixote was published) or the translator. This, because I was literally in stitches most of the time and I suspect a lot of that was the translation. Between Don Quixote himself, Sancho Panza or the random other crazies in the story saying random, hilarious, non-sensicle things, I just couldn't take enough notes of the fodder I have for future conversations.
What I take away from this story is that despite Don Quixote being a mad person, to embark on his strange journeys, and despite Sancho Panza's non-definitive sanity (highly questionable at times), both of these men are absolutely amazing. Insightful, thoughtful, caring, intuitive, creative, wise and stubborn. It makes you wonder about the madness. Aren't we all just a little bit? If I could be half the person either of these men were, I would take crazy and run.(less)
If the thought of Sherlock Holmes is one of trepidation and fear it will be heavy with 1880 rhetoric...lots and lots of rhetoric (because we all know...moreIf the thought of Sherlock Holmes is one of trepidation and fear it will be heavy with 1880 rhetoric...lots and lots of rhetoric (because we all know how those "classics" can be, well then fear not. It's not that way. It's good. It's easy to read. And these short stories are exactly where you can get your feet wet without biting off the whole ...um banana? carrot? Idk what comes on a stick that can be bitten off? I'm terrible with these catch phrases. But you get my drift. Sherlock Holmes is surprisingly light, refreshingly quick, to the point and easy to follow. Never fear, just jump in. (less)
While I read this book, I actually went through a few versions before finding one that I could sort of understand. And then, I finally settled on that...moreWhile I read this book, I actually went through a few versions before finding one that I could sort of understand. And then, I finally settled on that edition via audiobook style. I don't know if this is the edition that got saved with this review but if anyone is curious, I'm sure I can look up which edition or translation rather, I finally used.
Not only that, but I also found a very good website that went through each Canto with a slightly snarky translation/explanation which was fun to read. I read those explanations first then listened to the Canto. My edition also had references to go to that would explain the particular historical references etc that elude the modern-day reader.
I'm definitely not cerebral enough (yet, haha) to understand a blinking thing about this book without further explanation. Looking back after all the "help", I get the meaning, purpose and style of this poem and think it was very colorful and not a little descriptive. I appreciated Dante's take on what he perceives will be hell. It certainly gives insight into the things he worries about his own particular character. Hmmmm, wonder where Dante actually ended up???
IMHO, Dante could have touched a broader population and transcended time more efficiently if he'd have restrained his use of geography (prevelence of Florence,Italy), reference to historical figures from his time that we have no idea of, and also reference to other works that needed to be read in order to fully understand Inferno. I wonder, since Inferno was such a huge hit back when it was written, if they were smarter than we are now or if the language was common enough that the average Joe could understand and even relate to it. Make me feel sort of superficial and ignorant.
However, I know hardly anyone who has read this poem besides hard-core bookworms and scholars so I guess in trying to read more cerebral books this year has improved my perspective. At least I now know what "dis" really means and where it came from. It's not just urban slang lol.(less)
As are 90% of the books I've read this year, this was on a list of "bookworm must reads" that I'm plowing through. And as I've read each book, I've tr...moreAs are 90% of the books I've read this year, this was on a list of "bookworm must reads" that I'm plowing through. And as I've read each book, I've tried to answer the question, "Why is this book on this list." Some are easy...Wuthering Heights (it's a classic), A Short History of Nearly Everything (because it's awesome information that everyone should have). Which leaves me with this book. Hmmm. I can't say that I can really answer that question with any particular insight or real substantiation.
The title tells what the book is about...and really the story doesn't deter from the title in the slightest. It's almost as if you read the title...and BAM...you've read the book. While slightly unfair to James Agee who likely put a lot of premeditation into his story, there's just not a lot here.
What there is, is this. We have a family obviously. We spend half of the book with this family in the present, a little in the past and we get a fair idea of who the family is as a whole. Then the death. We spend a chapter or two on the actual circumstances. Then the rest of the book is the aftermath and how the family deals with the news and issues from the moment they hear about the death, until the actual funeral. This is the quickie plot.
We get short periods of time in each of the primary character's minds as they process the information/death which is, I think, the most interesting part. And for me, it was the children's perspectives that caught my attention the most. Agee takes a great deal of leeway in what he imagines goes through the mind of a 3 and 7(?) year old. In my opinion, he walks out on that tightrope too far and hangs himself but that's just my opinion and experience with young children. This is an example....
When Mary (the mother) and the children are praying over the body of the father at the viewing, Mary uses the phrase, "give us our daily bread". The boy (7?), is said to feel that she is saying one thing but it has another, bigger meaning when she says it. As an adult, I am wondering if Mary is worried about the future and the family's financial/economical position now that the breadwinner is gone. However, Agee wants us to believe that a child of 7 is intuitive enough to "feel" that his mother has a higher meaning in her words. He does this type of childhood "wisdom" or whatever you'd like to call it several times throughout the book and it leads the reader to just not trust the author at all. I am a mother and I generally know how children think because frankly, most children speak their thoughts and it's not usually very intuitive. Yes, there are very intuitive children but this behavior is not normal.
However, on the whole, while you know it's not entirely "real", Agee's ideas of what children think after a parent dies, it is still nonetheless fascinating as you appreciate and remember how black and white their world is. There is little abstract that they understand and their full understanding of the world is so limited. That Rufus really did not understand whether or not he was an orphan was heart wrenching. And Catherine listened to all of the explanations about how her father had died and where he had gone and how he wasn't ever going to come back and yet in the very next breath says, "Yes, but when is he coming home?" So sad.
If the reason why this book is on that list, then I imagine it is to explore the emotions surrounding the death of someone close. And yet it felt hollow to me in a way. Maybe I'm hollow...
I am approximately 1 month or so into a full year of reading a predefined list of books designed to stretch my boundaries and increase my understandin...moreI am approximately 1 month or so into a full year of reading a predefined list of books designed to stretch my boundaries and increase my understanding of the literature world. Wuthering Heights was obviously on that list. Many of the books on that list were never books I would normally pick up as I eternally abhor classics for an eternal list of reasons. Wuthering Heights, for reasons that fail me now having read it, was not on that list. I actually did have a desire to read it. Heathcliff gets a lot of romantical hype and for some reason, it spoke to my wildly elusive romantic side.
I detested this book more than Jane Eyre or Anna Karenina (both of which I have indeed read). The interesting thing is that I didn't dislike it for the normal reasons I dislike classics. I disliked it because everyone is just plain an ass! Tell me it isn't true. What was supposed to be this amazing love story turned into two people that deserve each other because they're awful people. End of story.
It's about the tragic end result of jealousy, resentment and revenge (for petty things IMHO, but who am I). Blah blah, I get it. But what we see is a bunch of lame juvenile grown ups.
You know how characitures take their subject's more notable qualities and exaggerate them? Obama has big ears, Jay Leno has this weird, huge chin, etc etc. This book is a characiture of jealousy, resentment and revenge. It blew these qualities up so big that even an idiot could recognize the point of the story. Nothing subtle here.
Have you heard the term, "He's my Heathcliff"? What I don't get is what this means. Does this infer that this guy is a man who says he loves you beyond eternity and yet is a total putz to every other member of society with absolutely no social skills or any other redeeming quality? Yes, please. Bring him to me! I can't wait for a man like that! Don't. Get. It.(less)
Another audiobook for me...great back and forth first person narration between two sisters. Another take on Little Red Riding Hood but the wolf is rea...moreAnother audiobook for me...great back and forth first person narration between two sisters. Another take on Little Red Riding Hood but the wolf is really a werewolf who eats their grandmother and so the girls go on this big bad vendetta (pun intended). Really a delightful little read...easy, quick and fast-paced. The little romance bits aren't syrupy but sweet in a first-love kind of way. Rosie warmed my heart - well the narrator's sweet little southern voice helped. I love a southern accent.
My only criticism comes with the fact that although the girls were abandoned by both mom and dad (I guess...), and grandma is "devoured", the girls are left alone in their teens. Rosie is 16 and Scarlett is I guess like 18 or 19 at this time? The book takes place 4 years after the grandmother devouring incident. So Rosie ends up falling in love with Silas and by the end of the book they are an item. Yet in the epilogue, Rosie is touring the world with Silas. They are living like they are a married couple just out seeing the sights. Am I the only one who finds this a little weird? Their avoidance of the law is explained in the book, how they get away with their lack of a guardian but to blatantly write in the fact that a 16 year old is now living that type of life just doesn't sit right. I'm not objecting to it as a prude or something; I just think it would be hard to buy. The same Rosie is described as looking still like a very young girl, seems like they'd attract unwanted attention...I'm just saying.(less)
This book is hard to rate for me because of what has been holding my attention lately. For the past few months, I have been on this mindless search fo...moreThis book is hard to rate for me because of what has been holding my attention lately. For the past few months, I have been on this mindless search for a book that compares to .... well, if you follow my reviews then you don't even need me to say WHAT it is I've been looking for. Needless to say that when on a search for THAT kind of book, you find yourself reading a lot, I mean A LOT of steamy scenes. I was feeling sort of weighed down by it all, like my mind was living in the gutter and I needed a break. So I chose this. It's quite different than what I've been reading lately and while that is good, it also made it slightly more difficult to rate. It just didn't hold my attention the way that these other books I've been readink thang do.
I digress...if I can detach my imagination from "the other" and focus it here, I'd have to say that this is a fairly good book! I found something redeeming in every character and enjoyed their interactions. I liked the steampunk setting that existed above the fantastical sub-culture. That was an extra special treat.
I think the love triangle was very conveniently eliminated and I think there is a lot to Dean that we don't yet know and have no idea what role Cal will continue to play in the next books. I do intend to find out because the end was fairly cliff-hangery, darnit.(less)
OMG. This book is such a yawn. Chess is sooooo L.A.M.E. Her issues make me want to chew off my arm, along with her boooooring monologues. How many tim...moreOMG. This book is such a yawn. Chess is sooooo L.A.M.E. Her issues make me want to chew off my arm, along with her boooooring monologues. How many times can we go through her self-doubts, self-recriminations, feelings of self-worth, blah freaking blah. It just makes me want to fast forward. And what is with this thing she nearly did with Lex? What kind of a total dumb SOB is she? She is STOOOOPID! In so many ways.
This writing is becoming so repetitive too. These phrases "Not that she (fill in the blank)" How many times can you include that in one book? According to this author, unlimited.
The relationship with Terrible...YAWN. They actually talked about marriage!!! That is NOT the kind of thing that is hot IMHO. I'm thinking Lex is much more interesting at this point, however Terrible's major explosion was a little interesting. But only a little.
IDK at this point if there is another book, NOT THAT I would read it, to borrow this over-used expression. And I very nearly decided to completely put this book aside, but DNR'ing a 5-book series in the last 4 chapters is just something that rubs me raw. Just can't do it. So I'll listen to Chess belittle herself some more, be a total doughhead, ruin her life because *sob* she deserves it, *wimper, feel sorry for myself, pop some more drugs* and save the world because she's so darn good at it. Then I can finally read something good.(less)