last year, i think, i read important artifacts and personal property from the collection of lenore doolan and harold morris, including books, street f...morelast year, i think, i read important artifacts and personal property from the collection of lenore doolan and harold morris, including books, street fashion and jewelry, by leanne shapton and it stayed with me. using the format of an auction catalogue, the book chronicles a relationship. it turns it into an artifact, something to be studied. it takes items and makes them people, gives them a setting to exist within. it dares to put a price on something forcing you to ask questions about emotional worth and monetary worth and the importance of archiving and reflection.
barthes only brought this book to the forefront in my mind. he dissects love, emotions relating to love and the loved one, forcing us to think about the words we use, the emotions we try to help them portray. the book is indeed written in fragments, arranged in alphabetical order by titles. for this we the reader are told that it is meant to show us that no one part is more important than the other, each weighs in equally, and the author presents it to us as such. essentially, barthes breaks up the book by aspects of love, the loved one and the love relationship. then he uses beautiful conversations, fiction and non-fiction excerpts and his own experiences to expound on a topic.
prior to barthes, every book i’ve tried reading on love focused on the rules established around the definition of romantic love, and they isolated me as a reader. i couldn’t see any love i’d ever known (or god forbid, hoped to know) in those pages. with barthes, i could see loves i’d had and loves i hoped to have reflected in that text. i took notes like a madwoman in margins and flagged passages and added other books on love to my list of books to read. i read passages aloud to my husband, to my friends, to former lovers. i felt like my heart was bursting in a wave of understanding and acknowledgement of being understood.
i made notes: page 14, 24, 39 (perfect), 42, 85, 100 (perfect), 104, 199, 233. i wrote in the margins about former and current lovers. i made notes to re-read rilke. to read blake, to finally read goethe, bataille.
on goodreads, a smart woman wrote that she recommends this book to “those who must analyze as they swoon” – that’s the perfect way to describe it.(less)
Sometimes the earth trembles; sometimes you can feel it breathe. The colours are red, purple, blue, gold, all shades of green. The colours here are b...more Sometimes the earth trembles; sometimes you can feel it breathe. The colours are red, purple, blue, gold, all shades of green. The colours here are black, brown, grey, dim-green, pale blue, the white of people's faces - like woodlice. -page 54
reading jean rhys for me felt incredibly important, something that I had been lacking all of this time. a long-time friend had read voyage in the dark and reviewed it and something about the way she talked about the main character reminded me of everything I loved about literature when I first read authors like sylvia plath and virginia woolf.
i started the book and the first paragraph or so, about anna loving and hating london after leaving the west indies of her youth won me over. i felt like i was reading the british version of the lover by marguerite duras (and even after finishing, this is the closest thing i can compare the book to).
That was when it was sad, when you lay awake at night and remembered things. That was when it was sad, when you stood by the bed and undressed, thinking, 'When he kisses me, shivers run up my back. I am hopeless, resigned, utterly happy. Is that me? I am bad, not good any longer, bad. That has no meaning, absolutely none. Just words. But something about the darkness of the streets has a meaning.' -page 57
the book felt well ahead of its time in the representation of anna's life, her sexuality. it read like a book written much later, though originally it was published in 1934. the main character isn't one i can relate to. a girl freshly turned eighteen with little family, traveling as an actress and internally lacking her own sense of self, unhappy (here, i thought of nothing but the bell jar).
People say 'young' as though being young were a crime, and yet they are always so scared of getting old. I thought, 'I wish I were old and the whole damned thing were finished; then I shouldn't get this depressed feeling for nothing at all.' -page 91
near the beginning of the book, when anna is walking with her roommate, she meets the man that will be her undoing, essentially. she and her friend are walking along the street and catching the eye of the man and his friend and the timelessness of the scene stuck with me throughout the novel. many movies play on this idea, many novels do the same. and usually, it leads to that happiest of endings, the eternal romance. instead of the struggle.
throughout the novel, you could just feel the struggle coming on.
Keep hope alive and you can do anything, and that's the way the world goes round, that's the way they keep the world rolling. So much hope for each person. And damned cleverly done too. But what happens if you don't hope any more, if your back's broken? What happens then? -page 130
i make the novel sound sentimental, something like a jeanette winterson poetry-prose novel, but it isn't. that's what makes anna such a captivating character, whether or not you relate to her. her thoughts are precise, her emotions are valid and flow naturally with the story. the writing is quiet but strong -- and the ending, surprisingly relevant to issues women face today.
I dreamt that I was on a ship. From the deck you could see small islands - dolls of islands - and the ship was sailing in a doll's sea, transparent as glass.
Somebody said in my ear, 'That's your island that you talk such a lot about.' -page 164(less)
i found out about the holy innocents because michael pitt is my favourite actor. this means that i did indeed watch the movie before the book but to b...morei found out about the holy innocents because michael pitt is my favourite actor. this means that i did indeed watch the movie before the book but to be fair i didn’t realize there was a book before watching the movie. a conundrum! the movie was brought to the screen under adair’s writing, but to suit the movie, he changed the story and re-released the book under the title the dreamers.
i fell in love with the movie and it’s message after i watched it and i needed to get my hands on the book, the original and un-screenplay version-ed book. it was nigh impossible to get a copy of the holy innocents without paying $200 for its first edition copy but somehow, i managed even that.
i’m hesitant to recommend the book because i had such a strange connection to it. let me explain. the year is 1968 and a french brother and sister, guillaume and danielle, true cinephiles, meet an american cinephile named matthew who is studying abroad. he’s seen guillaume and danielle before at the theatre, noticed how pretty danielle is and how “cool” the pair looks. in no time at all, danielle strikes up conversation with matthew and they develop a strange friendship. they find they have a strange love for old black and white movies, often playing with each other and testing their knowledge.
the book takes place at the time of the french uprisings but our three characters for the most part in the book, stay to themselves in since danielle and guillaume’s parents are gone most of the time. they’re mostly watching movies, re-enacting scenes of them together and quizzing each other on them (like a strange truth or dare where if you get the answer wrong, you suffer the punishment of the other person). but the book is difficult to recommend because of the strange incestuous relationship that guillaume and danielle have, and then later, due to the sexual relationship that begins between danielle and matthew.
i fell in love with this idea of three like-minded, curious about life kids learning about life with a revolution as the backdrop. the made-up rules that govern the life of the three characters are taken so seriously but when you consider that this life is something they’ve so accidentally came to live, it’s almost childlike and endearing.
in no way is the whole novel perfect, and in fact, i’ve been told that the reworked version the dreamers is much better since it cuts down on some of the meanderings that adair allows his characters, but the “banal parts” of the novel contrast so well for me to the graphically described sexuality and the violence of the uprisings near the end. having this part missing from the movie made it less believeable and i wanted to believe this story.
it’s quickly become a favourite of mine, though i’ve never recommended it when people have asked because it’s one of the rare books where the kind of person you are and the kinds of dreams and ideas you have, will impact your reading of it. i don’t think i know anyone well enough to be able to guess at all of that.(less)
It is 1907 and Ralph Truitt is waiting at the train station knowing that, as the richest man in his small Wisconsin town with quite a sordid personal...moreIt is 1907 and Ralph Truitt is waiting at the train station knowing that, as the richest man in his small Wisconsin town with quite a sordid personal history, all eyes are on him. He is waiting for the simple woman whose photograph is in his pocket, a reliable wife, exactly what he asked for in his newspaper ad. But Catherine Land’s face isn’t the face on the photo. And she isn’t a simple woman. Or a reliable wife. She is a woman who has brought with her a bottle of arsenic and plans on slowly killing Ralph Truitt – as soon as she marries him.
When I read books I know nothing of, I like to read their reviews. Quite a few of the reviews written for A Reliable Wife critique its plot points, claiming that they are far too predictable. The book was less about the plot points than it was about the emotional developments that occur within the characters as the plot points unfold. Early on in the novel, Ralph is sick and it is up to Catherine, not yet his wife, to take care of him – I anticipated that a plot point of this nature would occur but in no way did I anticipate Catherine’s reaction to it. In that light, it did not bother me if I predicted what a possible plot movement could be because the characters surprised me.
Its second great critique was the copious amount of sexuality in the novel. Prior to Catherine, Ralph hadn’t been with anyone for twenty years. This could be a great turn off for some – for others, I don’t think it will be a barrier. It isn’t as though it is ever explicit – I think it is actually rendered in a language and tone that fits the rest of the novel.
More than anything else, it was the setting that sold me on A Reliable Wife. The harsh winter of the Wisconsin town is the perfect background for the start of Ralph and Catherine’s relationship. As the story unfolds, and Ralph is healthier and begins to fall in love, the seasons brighten, bringing the small changes in relationships that mimic the growth of the leaves and the green of the grass.
Thank you Algonquin for sending this my way. Unexpectedly.(less)
Enter the world of academia as it specifically relates to women's sexuality and sexual rights. Wendy Chapkis writes about women who voluntarily enter...moreEnter the world of academia as it specifically relates to women's sexuality and sexual rights. Wendy Chapkis writes about women who voluntarily enter into the "erotic labor" industry. In America, especially, we hear of the sex work business and immediately associate it with trafficking and illegal immigrants. We're very wrong in that assumption. There are many women (and men) who chose to work in this industry without being forced or threatened into it. However, Wendy also addresses those who are forced and threatened into staying in the sex work industry. She explores outside of the United States, taking us to the Netherlands, to hear from women whose lives are controlled by the industry.
The first chapter of the book, before she got to the stories, nearly killed me. She discussed the various feminist viewpoints on sex work. Each side had gaping flaws in their logic and rhetoric. One side of the feminist movement, who was antipornography, went as far as to say that "all sex is a form of male domination." Not a qualified statement; the word "some" may have made this more plausible. Instead, they use the word "all." Reading through these flaws arguments from women who've never walked a step in a sex worker's shoes infuriated me. They were so judgemental that it was hard not to skip the entire chapter.
Aside from this, I loved this book and would really recommend it for anyone studying women sexuality or sex work, specifically those working within human trafficking.(less)