This is totally LIT-PORN! That said, if you are a reader, why wouldn't you read this? A highly enjoyable romp. If anybody was watching me as I read th...moreThis is totally LIT-PORN! That said, if you are a reader, why wouldn't you read this? A highly enjoyable romp. If anybody was watching me as I read this on my porch yesterday, they would've been puzzled by the permanent smile plastered on my face. Yes it's meta- and literary but above all it's FUN! Just make sure you don't stop after chapter one, which is a little tough... have some faith, it will all make sense very soon...(less)
OK so I couldn't help but wonder why this book didn't capture me despite the good things it's got going for it. And I think...moreUpdate (a few hours later):
OK so I couldn't help but wonder why this book didn't capture me despite the good things it's got going for it. And I think I figured it out. Alison Bechdel invented a test to determine if a work of fiction has female characters that are more than just cardboard cutouts, there to support a male cast. Well, let's invent another test, let's call it the Offred Test:
Take the characters of a novel, but instead putting them through any of the external trials of the novel, let's imagine them just going through a normal day at home, watching TV, online shopping, feeding the cat. Are they still interesting characters? If not, then they fail the Offred Test.
Basically, I realized that none of these characters including Offred (granted, they're all filtered through Offred's narration/consciousness) were interesting in and of themselves (maybe, possibly, Moira is interesting, maybe). The plot and external situations are what create the interest, the tension. But if you take that away, Offred is actually a really boring person. I wouldn't say flat, 2-dimensional, because there ARE people like this in real life. But WHY would I want to read about them?
This is one of those books... well-crafted, well-written, with a good well-paced plot, but despite all that, it still felt kind of "meh" to me. Or maybe slightly better than "meh"... "Meh" plus?
It could be that I am over this whole dystopian thing (or never got on it?). Or as one of my friends said, it could just be that I do not have the prerequisites, i.e. a uterus (it's a joke!).
However, I didn't dislike it either. I enjoyed the details and the thought that went into creating this world, and the slow-reveal of the entire system. It was all done with subtlety and attention to detail instead of hammering us over the head with "Allegory allegory!" or "Moral moral!". I also liked that we were inside Offred's mind the whole time (other than the epilogue) which means that we as readers were as clueless to the "big picture" as she was. It's probably by design that nothing is known about how things worked except on a need to know basis, as that can only create more fear. The way religious fanaticism was factored in as a political tool was also convincing and scary. Everything is very backwards, like taking ancient practices, reinstating and systematizing them, making it all efficient.
So somehow I read two books in a row where Rachel and Leah (of the Bible) were mentioned. When reading Joseph and His Brothers, I remembered thinking how weird it was that the handmaid (Bilhah) was used as a baby-making machine, and that even though Thomas Mann goes to great lengths to make all the stock characters of these Bible stories full and rich and real human beings, he somehow neglected to make Bilhah and other handmaids into real people. Maybe he was running out of space...(less)
I've been thinking along these lines for some time now. Probably we all have. A lot of these ideas are not new. But it's nice to see them explored, th...moreI've been thinking along these lines for some time now. Probably we all have. A lot of these ideas are not new. But it's nice to see them explored, thought over despite having been thought over already. Sontag does not give us easy answers, because the act of looking at other people's pain is uncomfortable, and probably should always be uncomfortable. No amount of essaying about it should take that uncomfortableness away. However, while words will often cause us to think, photos of war and violence will instead shock us in a more immediate-visceral way into one of our automatic reaction-boxes: apathy-because-overwhelmed, sympathy-therefore-unimplicated, shock-cum-desensitization, outrage-leading-to-action, strangely-attracted-yet-disgusted-slash-shamed-by-shades-of-voyeurism, that's just a SMALL sampling of the many-many possible-boxes of innumerable conflicted emotions an image can bring about. But the positives of an image (immediate/visceral/emotional) can also be negatives (can be taken out of context, used for political purposes, rarely asks the viewer to engage on deeper level, i.e. find out who they're actually looking at, the backstory, etc.) I recently read a good article about a now semi-famous photo of a 9/11 jumper: http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ09...
The photo is sleek, professional, of a man who had decided to jump from the WTC instead of burning to death. He is going down head first, in a deceptively peaceful dive, the tower's geometry as his backdrop. The article was partially about the process of trying to figure out who this falling man was. But reading the article I was quite puzzled at some of the reactions from people. Some wanted the photo never to be shown in order to respect the dead--Sontag talks about this, though not this exact photo, but about the idea of respecting the dead, which oddly does not extend to photos of other cultures, Vietnam for instance. But compare this to Emmett Till's mother, who wanted an open casket so that the world can see the injustice. This reaction is more understandable to me. This idea of respect does have its logic though, which mostly applies only with images, because as Sontag says "there is no way to guarantee reverential conditions in which to look at these pictures and be fully responsive to them." Once it's out there, it can be looked-at in any number of ways. There is no way that a photographer or a family member of the victims can control this after it is released.
This is another thing I can never understand: and that shocked me about the article: how so many families refused to look at the photo, or if they did look at it, looked immediately for evidence that it was not their family member. They did not want to think of their father/brother/son as the person who "gave up hope" by jumping... or who "abandoned" them: "He had a sister. He never would have left her alone." This was inexplicable for me, as there was no hope to begin with, when a building is already burning down/collapsing, but only a symbol of hope. The idea of staying the course is a purely symbolic and futile act--and would anyone call these victims cowards or blame them just because they chose the less painful route out?(less)
What at first seemed like an essay about Cixous's first loves in literature turned out to be a complex network of remembrances/allusions about her con...moreWhat at first seemed like an essay about Cixous's first loves in literature turned out to be a complex network of remembrances/allusions about her concept of the Philippine (i.e., twin almonds -- which reminded me of her thoughts on William Wilson in Ourang-Outang), reincarnation, gates, gardens, telepathy, etc. Even though I really liked it, I don't feel like I gave this the reading it deserved. But the reading it deserved would have required:
a. reading Peter Ibbetson by George du Maurier b. reading Gradiva by Wilhelm Jensen c. reading all of Freud d. reading all of Proust e. everything else by Cixous f. learning French and reading this book in its original language (the translator tried to convey the dizzying level of punning and wordplay going on here using footnotes and original french words in parenthesis, but it only served to remind me how little of the real experience I was getting)
Well, I am saying it to you today, if you want to go further on the narrow path which leads to discovery, you must lose your head, yes, there's a head which must be lost, the head that knows, that is to say, that thinks it knows, too fast, the one Proust denounces and runs away from, this intelligence head which prevents the sensation from finding its name and the trees with arms stretched out entreatingly from resurrecting. For it is the ones who believe they know who are truly credulous, the believers, the arrived, the immobile. Whereas those who are on a walk and do not know, and are tempted by the sirens of oblivion and of memory, and scrutinize the piece of green curtain hung in front of the broken glass screen, wondering what is happening to them, those come near the point of apocalypse. An intoxication whispers to them it is going to take place, it is going to take place... The times are near. As follows: the prisons crumble. The gates throw their bars wide open.
Hélène Cixous is the greatest writer/thinker of the last 50-ish years. There have been great writers who don't think as well, and I love some of their...moreHélène Cixous is the greatest writer/thinker of the last 50-ish years. There have been great writers who don't think as well, and I love some of their books just as much. And great thinkers who do not write as well, and I appreciate their efforts, at times. But Cixous is a great modern thinker because like the Rodin sculpture, she thinks with her whole body, thrust forward. Not only in the mind, headcase, skull-numbed knocker, but also the visceral venereal contagion of the body, and the emotional rut and rot of the gut, she is a full-body thinker. Which is fine and good, but how often do you find someone like that who can also match such thinking-skills with writing-skills?
For that is exactly how you must read her, with your own full intellect, emotion, and bodily-thrust. That is the only way to fully comprehend her thought, which is so well-proportioned along all three axis. There have been others with comparable thinking/writing skills, for example Musil is great at both, but then he is a very male thinker. He thinks mostly with his head, and thus he is top-heavy, prone to toppling over if it weren't for his sense-of-humor which keeps him slightly more light-headed than he would otherwise be (this is totally not a dig, Musil being one of my favorite writers).
It's this human porosity that bothers me and that I can't escape since it is the faith of my skin, the extra sense which is everywhere in my being, this lack of eyelids on the face of the soul, or perhaps this imaginary lack of imaginary lids, this excessive facility I have for catching others, I am caught by persons or things animated or unanimated that I don't even frequent, and even the verb catch I catch or rather I am caught by it, for, note this please, it's not I who wish to change, it's the other who gets his hooks in me for lack of armor. All it takes is for me to be plunged for an hour or less into surroundings where the inevitable occurs--cafe, bus, hair salon, train carriage, recording studio--there must be confinement and envelopment, and there I am stained intoxicated, practically any speaker can appropriate my mental cells and poison my sinuses, shit, idiocies, cruelties, vulgar spite, trash, innumerable particles of human hostility inflame the windows of my brain and I get off the transport sick for days. It isn't the fault of one Eichmann or another. I admit to being guilty of excessive receptivity to mental miasma. The rumor of a word poisons me for a long time. Should I read or hear such and such a turn of phrase or figure of speech, right away I can't breathe my mucous membranes swell up, my lips go dry, I am asthmaticked, sometimes I lose my balance and crash to the ground, or on a chair if perchance one is there, in the incapacity of breathing the unbreathable.
But yes, Cixous. . . her writing is very raw, it's like this lidlessness she talks about, it allows you straight into her thinking and emotion with very little membrane in between. And she's quick to dispose of all writing conventions, grammar, and rules in order to convey whatever she wants most directly. Look, she's already abandoned her writing ship. 'Whatever it takes!' she says above the thunderous roar.
But I remember the string beans. The title of the scene would be: "betrayed in the nick of time by a handful of beans snapped too fast." p.99
But it is also this ability of hers that makes her books difficult: to read her on multiple levels you must read her both carefully and carelessly. Because you must catch all her senses, you need to slow down to get the intellectual sense, but then you have to go back and read it again fast to get the rush of the words, the intonations and catch of her breath, the whats-said beneath the immediate sense of the words. Just as she herself does constantly when she thinks: as when she thinks about the conversation with her mother, she interprets her words one way but also observes the way she handles the string beans as saying something completely different with her body.
This book is a personal investigation, a thinking-back to her firstborn son's early death, a coming to terms with something she had not fully thought through before. (view spoiler)[What gets me in the end is how simple the 'solution' was. Being such an intelligent person, how did she not think to ask her brother for the cause of death? Was it that part of her really didn't want to know, that she was holding out on the answer which she must have suspected right in front of her the whole time? (this would line up with the whole "give me the poison pill but don't tell me that you're going to do it" theme of the book) Or was it that she was thinking in such subtleties that the obvious answer was always out of reach? (hide spoiler)]
This book further solidifies my high opinion of Cixous upon reading her for the first time in Double Oblivion of the Ourang-Outang. But it also opens up the deep sorrow (or one of the many deep sorrows) that drives her forward. Although there were playful parts, the book as a whole was less 'balanced' than Ourang-Outang, it was a serious personal and emotional journey. Ourang-Outang, on the other hand, though also serious, was the best mix of serious and playful, intellectual and personal, a perfect light-but-not-too-light introduction to her I could have hoped for. Now I can't wait to read all the others.
But later, I take the metro under the earth to go to the Cinema. I was going to see a film that I do not want to see but it's a duty I know. Un Specialiste. Repellent name. But impelled by my son the wind and drawn by the word that repels me, pulled this way and that off I go taking the way through the dark. As soon as there is species, special, I grow tense. Going to see the specialist was like delivering my myopia to the Cyclops to size up. More precisely handing my two quivering eyes like two fuzzy-eyed lambs over to be judged. In order to see the film called A Specialist it is necessary to have in your soul a region which is carefully insulated from the rest of your being so that the evil cannot ooze out indefinitely. To say I wanted to see it calls for an explanation: It is precisely the film one especially-does-not-want to see one wants nonetheless to see, just for that reason, because there is refusal repugnance and danger, that's how one day I ended up reading a book I especially-did-not-want to read because the minute I opened it I saw that everything took place in one sanatorium or another, places I force myself not to write satanorium by mistake, because for one reason or another if there is one place in the world I dread more than a prison or camp, because of the evil sorts of metamorphosis that happen to us there, it's the place called by the Latin word sanatorium: And likewise I have a repugnance for the Latin word in French specialiste, and likewise for the same Latin word in German. And in the same way after a losing battle with myself I end up writing a book that I especially-did-not-want to write.
I first found out about Rosalyn Drexler through the BURIED BOOK CLUB where I read about her career as wrestler, artist, experimental writer, and gener...moreI first found out about Rosalyn Drexler through the BURIED BOOK CLUB where I read about her career as wrestler, artist, experimental writer, and general eccentric. I was intrigued. I mean, how could I not be?
Unfortunately, the writing in this book did not excite me nearly as much as the idea of the author's colorful personality. It's an epistolary novel written by a woman who could possibly be Drexler herself (she mentions certain things that line up with the real-life Drexler) to her supposedly dead brother. This MS was in turn presented by some other narrator who only appears in the forward and the afterword, explaining that she met the author of the letters briefly before the author died of food poisoning.
All pretty exciting, on the surface, and with made up blurbs on the back like this one from Joyce Carol Oates "I've never read anything like this ... in fact I haven't read this."
The problem is that the letters themselves read like trivial musings, trite thoughts, and cheap jokes. And the voice is flippant throughout, which I couldn't understand. There is no attempt at developing any of the characters. Nowhere does she give me any reason to care who this person or her brother is. Even that is forgivable if the language was interesting, or the thoughts were enlightening. But no.
There's a running joke about a piece of shit who gets flushed down the toilet and then tries to pursue a life as an entertainer. HAHAHA, umm . . . no. I "get" it, but that is something I might have found funny 20 years ago, or maybe found it chuckle-able if it were only a one-liner. But this was a drawn-out joke over many pages!
Was it experimental? Only if you count the fact that it did not have any traditional plot (or any plot at all). But other than that and the framing device which itself isn't that original, I would not call it experimental.
I can't say this book was atrocious either. The problem is that it's completely mediocre, so mediocre that in the middle of exhuming it, I almost fell into the grave myself due to boredom.
PS - Lest I seem overly damning in my judgement, I wanted to add here that the author was 81 years old when this was published! I would be lucky if I could think in full sentences by that age. So no, no damning of the author, just of this book. I will probably check out her earlier books, eventually.(less)
'Decybernisation? Degenetisation? But no, the correct euphemism now is post-, new and therefore better: post-human for instance, heard the other day. But that will at once be confused with posthumous, as of course it should be, human becoming humus.' - 64
Christine Brooke-Rose is either author or narrator or character or all three of this here book at the end of a line of books at the end of a line of years of her life. And odd it is that I have chosen it to be the beginning of my journey with her, but cest-la-vie, and I happily amble into what-did-I-expect: which is something quite difficult. From reputation.
But it's not. It's meditative and playful, but not really difficult, that is, after my eyes adjusted to her very particularly homegrown vocabulary of not-always-explained looping words: O.P.s, pillars of fire, T.F.s, Polly, etc. But then also it seemed very familiar, the made-up words, the blurring of fiction and autobiography, the looking back at a life, put me very much in mind of Helene Cixous's book which I recently fell in love with.
Then again, any comparison to HC would not be fair, as I am quite smitten with her (interestingly, HC has a blurb for CBR's Omnibus at the end of this book).
The other thing it put me in mind of was Beckett, his characters who sit in a state of vegetative decay, unable to move, with their minds slowly rotting away at obsessive thoughts. Here, though, is a critical difference. The author/narrator/character still has a young brain, it's only the body that's decayed. There is none of Beckett's bleak minimalism either. In a way, her version is more real, and thus maybe more scary.
All these streaking snippets of facts occur only because of long familiarity, long love of language and its bones and flesh, and how it grows from Primitive Human to Old High Human to Middle High Human to Modern Low Inhuman. - 13
In this confined state, she thinks about the impotence of [r]age (and the consequences of annulment), the looping images in the media, the political situation around the world, globalization, her friends, her past apartments, languages, narrative conventions, and of course her physical condition. She also imagines faces on the rocks that sit outside her window, and hallucinates old dwelling-places, as would probably happen if you stay in the same place for too long.
Writing that out, it seems like a hodge-podge of topics, but it all fit in surprisingly well. She has a way of coming back to themes over again and expanding on them, and going deeper into them. I like her voice and I like her intellect, so I will definitely read more of her books in the future.(less)
A charming chapbook and a charming concept. Bernadette Mayer writes a poem for each one of the Helens who live in the town of Troy, NY. The poems rang...moreA charming chapbook and a charming concept. Bernadette Mayer writes a poem for each one of the Helens who live in the town of Troy, NY. The poems range from formal whimsy to experimental. Each poem is accompanied by a photo of said Helen in her natural environment. This book made me smile. I loved the poems where she uses the voice of the Helen she is portraying, you really get a sense of these women and the little town they live in. Playfulness abounds.(less)
Hélène Cixous Region: Western Philosophy. School: French feminism. Main interests: Literary criticism. [...] "She has published over 70 works; her fiction, dramatic writing and poetry, however, are not often read in English" -- Wikipedia
Oh but people! But but but but... people! Wake up! Don't let your lethargic willingness to give in to the maddening inertia of air conditioned rooms filled with post-structuralist slack-jawed graduate students blind you to the fucking truth, man! For we have here one of the greatest (still living!) writers of fiction/fact/creative nonfiction/poetry/poetic essay (whatever this book happens to be, I don't even know). Maybe her academic theoretical work is great also. I have no idea. I've only read this one book. But whatever your thoughts on that are, don't pigeonhole her as an academic or theoretician, because this book is so much more, it's a writer's book, and everything I look for in the best of my reading experience: warmth, humor, sensuality, language, poetry, philosophy, inventiveness, playfulness, emotion, messiness, unruliness, surprise, craziness.
"The word mum still fascinates us, it's a gem, as if we had kept a milk tooth. This can only be said in all modesty. I myself say mum to my son or daughter and we murmur Rimbaud in amongst the broom flowers between fables and seas."
What is this book about? Well, I don't really know. It's about so many things. But on some very concrete level it's about Hélène Cixous opening up a box that she finds in her cupboard. Which I guess goes to show that a great writer can write about anything and make it great. This was not an easy read, but it was so pleasurable that I didn't mind re-reading many passages over again to understand them. Also, I'm sure my understanding is only partial: she alludes to so many other works, as well as personal things that I feel like I'm not even supposed to know.
There is none more cast out by happiness than he who discovers its doorway. On the one hand the subject surpasses the teller. On the other the teller snuffs out the subject upon which he breathes. And yet how can one not want to be surpassed?
I am not saying this book is poetic. Because even though it is, it is also not. Not in that typical lyrical way. It is very down to earth and personal, I just mean that she has a very particular way of saying things that makes me have to constantly catch my breath.
"For me, theory does not come before, to inspire, it does not precede, does not dictate, but rather it is a consequence of my text, which is at its origin philosophico-poetical, and it is a consequence in the form of compromise or urgent necessity. [...] Never has a theory inspired my poetic texts. It is my poetic text that sits down from time to time on a bench or else at a café table - that's what I am in the process of doing at this moment by the way - to make itself heard in univocal, more immediately audible terms. In other words, it is always a last resort for me." -- an interview
I was not surprised when I read that quote. I get the sense even from this non-theory book that she writes in order to think instead of the other way around. For this reason, even though there are many ideas in this book, I would not lump it in with other idea books. Even novels of ideas (like that excellent Mosley book I just finished) seem more like an explication of an already fully formed vision. Whereas for Cixous, the vision is always formed in the writing. The struggle to say what she means is also the meaning of what she says.
This creates a deeply maddening, sometimes repetitive, highly entertaining and insightful struggle as you're reading it. It doesn't hurt that her style, on the sentence to sentence level, is also messy, full of clauses, sometimes ungrammatical, with made up words or words jammed together in playful ways. It's like one big brainstorm of words. It's wonderful, and it's confusing, but it actually makes sense, it's actually crystal clear and enlightening when you follow her thought.
The Serpent Oblivion devours my lions one after the other. Sated. What's left is the Serpent full of lions. When will the Serpent's Serpent come? At the end of death when the dead are dead, says Poe to Baudelaire, the teeth are left. As soon as you are foolhardy enough to think of them, they rise up and bite.
One last note. Please read/re-read these Poe stories before you read this book, as they are referenced at times in minute detail:
I think she's really good at writing about intimacy. Other things she's not as good at. But there were some truly magical moments in the first 100 pag...moreI think she's really good at writing about intimacy. Other things she's not as good at. But there were some truly magical moments in the first 100 pages or so. That said, there is something of this personal myth-making that makes me uneasy... it is both sincere and totally constructed at the same time. Something about how she retro-actively makes everything seem so fated, with all the right coincidences and people coming in at the right times (makes for a great story though).
So many things are romanticized here, not just the love story, which would be obvious, but also the art scene, New York City at that time, the Chelsea Hotel, and the many artists that came and went. This isn't really a complaint, since that is the reason most of us are reading this book to begin with, me included, i.e. we want our romantic notions reaffirmed.
It also satisfied my voyeuristic side to read about what books she was reading/music she was listening to/films she was watching at different stages of her life. Probably if a book were published of interesting people and what media they've consumed at different stages of life, that would be endlessly interesting to me.(less)
I finished Orlando a couple of days ago. It was not really my thing. I understand that it started as a joke, but (even though I sorta know what she wa...moreI finished Orlando a couple of days ago. It was not really my thing. I understand that it started as a joke, but (even though I sorta know what she was making fun of) it just wasn't funny to me. I'm sure Virginia Woolf had a hoot writing it, though, so I'm happy for her.
Towards the middle, the "biographer's" voice started sounding very much like the "lecturer's" voice in A Room of One's Own. In fact, I was surprised at the similarity in tonality between the two works. It had that same quality of breaking the fourth wall, of creating a make-believe scenario that was obviously not true (i.e. written to illustrate a point), and also of that slightly didactic "here's what I want to say on the topic of the sexes" which I didn't mind as much in AROOO since it was an essay afterall.
Anyway, if you (like me) loved Mrs. Dalloway and her other Dalloway-like works, then don't read this expecting more of the same. You may love it or you may hate it. If you hated Mrs. Dalloway and her other Dalloway-like works, then definitely give this a chance. This may be your thing.(less)
Interesting thoughts on women and fiction, written as a hybrid between story and essay. One wonders if Woolf stumbled on this fictive-voice through a...moreInteresting thoughts on women and fiction, written as a hybrid between story and essay. One wonders if Woolf stumbled on this fictive-voice through a need to re-invent the essay form to fit a more feminine, less authoritative perspective? If so,
it would mirror many of the themes she discusses in the book itself. And also seems to be a precursor to the kind of rambling consciousness of a Thomas Bernhard, which I could not help but be reminded of when reading humorous passages such as this:
Anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation, I thought, opening the door. But what bearing has all this upon the subject of my paper, Women and Fiction? I asked, going indoors.
She makes a lot of well reasoned points here, not only about women but about men, society, writing, and art in general. I will not try to summarize her points since it is such a short book, so just read it yourself. I did want to share this one quote though:
It is much more important to be oneself than anything else. Do not dream of influencing other people ... Think of things in themselves. p115
One of the impressions I had of Virginia Woolf and her narrator Clarissa Dalloway when I finished Mrs. Dalloway a few weeks ago was that they were both fiercely themselves, and just as they would not want to be converted ("conversion" was a big word in Dalloway) by the Sally Setons and Peter Walshes of the world, they would not want to see the Peters and Sallys changed or converted either. That is what made Mrs. Dalloway, the book, so unique to me:
it celebrated each and every voice for what it was, presenting varied points of view without setting up a hierarchy. Yet
when Woolf looks back at the history of women and fiction, she sees that women have been defined and confined by men. Not been allowed to be themselves, not given a voice. I also share this deep sentiment with Woolf. As master gardener Ruth Stout once said:
"It would never never occur to me to tell any other grown human being how to put some flowers in a vase!"
I wanted to like this more than I actually did. It's French, it's experimental, and it was recommended to me by smart folks. But I just didn't feel it...moreI wanted to like this more than I actually did. It's French, it's experimental, and it was recommended to me by smart folks. But I just didn't feel it. I thought her prose was enjoyable enough, but a bit tedious. The format of her similes are always the same, i.e. something simple compared to something long drawn out. And I wanted some variation in her technique. The whole "mystery" aspect was interesting for a little bit until I thought I figured it out, which was about 10 pages in. I am still not sure if I am right or not, since no answers are ever revealed (which I don't mind, I actually prefer it this way), but the nagging sense that I was right, and that the book was really about (view spoiler)[the writing of a book, i.e. about a man (the narrator) who has actually imagined the lives of these other people, who couldn't help himself but imagine them, and who depended on these people of his creation (whether or not they really existed, or whether they existed as separate forms) screamed 'metafiction' to me in a way that didn't increase my pleasure. (hide spoiler)]. I know I spent the whole review complaining about this book, but I actually found it generally enjoyable to read. I just didn't like it as much as I wanted to like it, or thought I would like it.(less)
Oh what bullshit I could write here. But I won't. No, not in so many words. This book is a reinvention of form, but that's not important because it's...moreOh what bullshit I could write here. But I won't. No, not in so many words. This book is a reinvention of form, but that's not important because it's not driven by the need to show off. So the reinvention (though necessary) is not the point! It's a means to an end, that end being the need to reconnect, to feel again like we once did about so many things but have been so pathetically unable to. So instead of bullshit I'll just say this, that Mrs. Dalloway killed me a little, and that's a good thing. Fucking shit.(less)
"Not for a second do I see the need to be brave. Perhaps being brave is my form of cowardice."
I just realized that I have not reviewed this book yet.
Part of the reason for my lapse is that there is never anything to say about war. About the Holocaust. About torture. About death.
Or rather, there is too much to say that I never know where to begin.
Besides Marguerite said it all already in this book.
Which is in itself impressive. She says it all in here without falling into the typical trappings of saying it all about such a subject.
Without sentimentality. In fact with the opposite of sentimentality.
"There's no point in killing him. And there's no longer any point in letting him live. ... And just because there's no point in killing him, we can go ahead and do it."
She goes to the very edge of emotional experience and is somehow able to write about it almost as it was going on, and it doesn't turn out like an overly emotional teenager's drivel (I just realized after I wrote this that it may be read as a subtle criticism of Anne Frank, but it's not intended that way, I haven't read her since high school, so can't speak on that front).
Part of the reason this is impressive is that to go to the very edge of emotional experience is an entirely different beast than to write out that experience on paper. To affect a reader in that way requires going to a different place inside of oneself after much silence, quite separate from the edge of experience that is experienced while in the midst of experiencing the edge of experience.
Duras was able to do that seemingly in the moment. At the edge and not at the edge at the same time. How?
Maybe the war divides us, divides our experience, so that we can talk about the missing cheese in the same sentence as we talk about the death of a traitor (as they do in one of the later chapters here).
Death and cheese, Duras understood, normally existed on different planes of human experience. But in wartime there is only one plane of human experience. Human experience becomes one dimensional. There are no hierarchies of objects. Everything is simultaneous.
"I feel a slight regret at having failed to die while still living."
This isn't really a review (so don't "like" it, folks), just wanted to write a few notes before I forget... although these are short unfinished novels...moreThis isn't really a review (so don't "like" it, folks), just wanted to write a few notes before I forget... although these are short unfinished novels, they felt almost finished to me, in that the entire arc is included. There are some missing pieces in the middle, but you can pretty much guess it, especially if you read these two along with Malina, which forms a trilogy both in content and in theme. I feel like these two are not as deeply complicated as Malina, while still retaining the amazing writing I found in that one. The idea of erasure, of death by other means, is really quite interesting, and I wish Bachmann had written more novels.
I read this book while not really feeling in the mood for reading... I've been a little burnt out on reading lately. So I read The Book of Franza pretty quickly, but then took almost a month to read Requiem for Fanny Goldmann. It would probably have been more enjoyable if I had read it quicker.(less)
It is 10 years since 9/11 and poetry doesn't matter. But this here is to revive my heart to the common palpitations of dance music, to the crowd who s...moreIt is 10 years since 9/11 and poetry doesn't matter. But this here is to revive my heart to the common palpitations of dance music, to the crowd who sweats my sweat. This is the only poetry book that makes me feel like OK here's a something that actually reflects what it feels like to be half alive in this inexpressibly sad as fuck powerless paralysis of a 2012 where we pretend things matter but they don't they're just fucking status updates! Wow oh god OK this book makes me sad, or rather it just puts me back in touch with why I've been sad without knowing it for ten years, and I can't even say why I just now read it over my lunch break (it's short, read it now, it's free too, download it here) and you know how sometimes, very rarely, you read something that expresses basically everything that is the zeitgeist of what's going on in the moment in the world but nobody talks about it because it is so all-encompassing that nobody can see it enough to express it? Read this fucking book now!(less)
Yes yes yes! If books were perfumes, this one would be the perfect mix of storytelling prowess, enchantment of language, whiff of philosophy, and scen...moreYes yes yes! If books were perfumes, this one would be the perfect mix of storytelling prowess, enchantment of language, whiff of philosophy, and scent of great characters. Oh, and a dash of humor to taste. A highly potent potion, to be sure, yet none of the above elements suffers because of the others. It’s like each word in this short book is doing double or triple duty to those ends.
The gesture, like the gesture a magician makes with his wand, multiplying doves at will, seeded the city with women--voluptuous women smelling of henna and smoke, of the metal knife the moment it halves the apple, of brocade, of nostalgia, of transgression. I felt the press of women's bodies coming at us from all directions.
The imaginination and pure awe infused herein was thrilling, and reminded me slightly of the wonder of certain children’s books, except that even though everything here is soaked in a kind of fantastic openness bordering on magic, you soon realize that nothing is really magical or illogical. Behind the enchantment is a tough reality that guides everything, allowing no short cuts for the characters or the reader. The flaws of the narrator, her father, her mother, and even Ramses Ragab all become apparent. They are all tragically flawed, yet entirely loveable.
Then she [Mother] was back in the cab, her white hand sparkling behind the filthy glass, and then she was gone. p. 80
I remember that Ramses Ragab took up Father’s feet to tuck them beneath the covers. That the beauty of my father’s feet astonished me. p. 85
Reading the other reviews on here, you’d think this was an overly poetic book at the cost of the plot, but it’s not. The things that happen in the book may not seem significant in the normal sense of ‘plot’, but each little thing adds up to huge internal changes in each of the characters. This is what makes it so exciting, and such a fast-paced book (for me), while being such a slow book (apparently) for others.
As father and I retreated into the blazing sun, the rising dust and clamor of the street, the city of Cairo gave way to a forest of the mind. A forest where female animals offered themselves to love and in broad daylight were mounted before the eyes of the world.
I’m amazed at the number of themes Ducornet is able to fit in here, the idea of bottling things up, preserving memories (and thus the body), of sexuality/sensuality, men/women, of betrayal, of rationality vs. everything else, of moral weakness, of games and play vs. life, and thus of reality vs. escape. The book has a lot to say, most of which I can’t even express as binaries, or it would be unfair to. But if there was one thing I was disappointed with, it would probably be the ending, which seemed to reduce (though not completely) the complex network of themes woven previously into one of sexual realization. To me, it seems to be about so much more.
This amulet is often joined by another representing the knife used to cut the umbilical cord. Whenever I find it, I make a quick (superstitious!) gesture across my own belly. In this way I have, over and over, severed ties with Mother. p. 52
This was my first experience with Ducornet, and I am definitely going to check out more of her books.(less)
is no there there, Gertrude Stein famously wrote in 1937, a sentence that loops back on itself in order to question its own grammar. Maybe what s...moreTHERE
is no there there, Gertrude Stein famously wrote in 1937, a sentence that loops back on itself in order to question its own grammar. Maybe what she meant was that the first there has no antecedent. But the sentence also pushes out, questions the world, questions the idea of a place in time, a time in place, that exists only because it is not here, relatively speaking.
This novel has a similar trajectory. Broken down into four sections titled There, But, For, and The, it tells an abstract story that questions the meaning of those words. Which may seem slight at first (Duh!), except it's not. Like the puns that the child Brooke is obsessed with, the book convinces us that semantics matter, words matter. And what seems an unlikely story about a man who's locked himself into a room is really a story about how we label our world. Which is really a story about how we think about the world. Which is really about if we can even think about the world (or know it).
Because a pun is basically a mislabelling that creates pleasure. A misnomer. And this book has many. Brooke becomes broke. Miles becomes Milo. Gen becomes Jan. Anna Hardie becomes Anna K. And like a good pun, this book is playful and gives pleasure. It is funny,
not in a ha-ha way. More in an aha way. There is always a but, isn't there? Actually there are many buts. Time and place, memory, history, a rhyme that jogs the memory into thinking of a time and place (where a man jogs in place, or does he ride in place, on an exercise bike?), the ostensible seemingness of things versus The Fact Is of things, these were all seamlessly (seemlessly?) weaved into the prose with great skill. But
then there were things that made me roll my eyes: cell phones, CCTVs, surveillance cameras, microdrones, celebrity culture, internet porn were all conspicuously annoying in the story. Yes, these are important things to think about, but do we really need to be reminded of the obvious (Duh!)? Come to think of it, have any of these things ever made it into a novel that wasn't trying to show me the shallowness of modern life? I felt like Don DeLillo was breathing down my back. And
though I loved the first two sections, the last two felt weaker, in the voice of the elderly Mrs. Young and the young girl(y) Brooke ("broke") Bayoude. Brooke was tolerable, adorable even, when she would only be precociously naive about something during a tense dinner conversation. But being entirely in her head by the last section was too much for me. I got annoyed. But
I do like the idea of them. Maybe Smith is suggesting that when our collective language breaks down, when we can't name things as they are anymore but only as they seem, when language is "broken", that somehow it is most alive, and most alive to those who themselves are "broken", or superfluous to society, the very old and the very young. Because language, in the normal world, is
something: a purpose. Communication or business or banter. And when it is functioning it is functional and boring. Like a machine. You're either for us or against us. Zeroes and/or ones.
Old Mrs. Young couldn't talk at first. But when she was finally able to, the words that came out of her resembled involuntary movements she couldn't control. Like her bladder. Animal utterances. Muscle memory. Phrases she knew but didn't mean to say. Like a bird who repeats things that she doesn't understand. But her age is an asset. "The leaving of life, when it came, might well be accompanied by a different seeing" (p. 142). And Brooke, the child, on the other hand, who is yet to find language functional
is also accompanied by a different seeing. She sees words strangely, as a tiger cub does when batting around its first prey rather than eating it. She's curious about language, about the way it works and still fresh to its odd pun-like qualities. Here is where language belongs. Something about history and the long stretched canvas of language that is best kept by the young and the old, the ones who don't matter as much in society, the overlooked ones, the the.
Thus language is made new again through puns and cleverness. You get a sense that if Brooke never completely grows up, but grows older, she could become Ali Smith and write an incredibly clever book like this. The way the storylines connect, the way the wordplay resonates between the sections and the themes, pretty much everything about this novel was clever. But in its examination of words, the novel also examines itself, and the topic of cleverness: what is cleverness for? No doubt a pre-emptive strike against those would-be critics on Goodreads:
Then she asked Mr. Garth did he really think there wasn't anything wrong with being cleverest. Top of Mount Cleverest, Mr. Garth said. Brooke laughed. Then Mr. Garth said slowly: the fact is, that at the top of any mountain you'll feel a bit dizzy because of the air up there. Cleverness is great. It's a really good thing, when you have it. And when you know how to use your cleverness, it's not that you're the cleverest any more, or are doing it to be cleverer than anyone else like it's a competition. No. Instead of being the cleverest, the thing to do is become a cleverist.
i.e. the becomes a, from a specificity to a generality, we lose ourselves in the collective. Cleverness matters only in this regard: to connect. Empathy with the disenfranchised. There but for the grace of God go I.
What kind of ending is that? The lack of an ending. The lack of anything, but a reference to a reference. The part left out of headlines, because it's implied. Area Man Reads Book Writes Review. The part left out is the only part that remains, for Stevens. When you eat an apple, you throw away the core. Man On Dump. No headline has the word the in it, i.e. There is no the there.
Similarly There But For The has a part missing. There But For The WHAT? I want to ask. But the answer would be Exactly! What's missing is the subject of the book, the whole point of it. We're not there at all because we're missing what we're missing, so we're here. The book wouldn't exist if not for the missing ____ at the end of the The.
So the book is about this missing piece, the story without a core, the center will not hold. And by the end of it we've whipped up a lot of cream without anything to put it on. All the pieces connect, but the reader still feels empty, there is no comforting explanation for the mysteries that haunt us (and that's the point). Does it matter? Does it make it less enjoyable? (My answer is no, but your Milo may vary.) We keep waiting for the revelation. The moment of understanding, of purpose. Of of course. Obviously. Of The Duh.(less)
I hear the couplet of fat as it grows in the night like a dune. from "Midnight"
This Chilean poet has been on my radar for a while now, and I actually boug...more
I hear the couplet of fat as it grows in the night like a dune. from "Midnight"
This Chilean poet has been on my radar for a while now, and I actually bought a different book of prose-poem translations a while ago, but was never able to really get into it. The other more-available translation is this Selected Poems by Ursula K. Le Guin (which I do not own yet, but will be seeking out). I've been hearing so many good things about Gabriela Mistral but there's always that risk with translated poetry of being completely underwhelmed, and not knowing if it's the translation or the poems themselves. When I started reading this volume, translated by Langston Hughes, I realized immediately that it was not the poet's fault that I never connected with her before.
From the eyes of wild beasts gentle tears will flow, and the mountains You forged of stone will understand and weep through their white eyelids of snow: the whole earth will learn of forgiveness at Your hand. from "Prayer"
Gabriela Mistral writes from an intense simplicity of expression, image, and emotion and I think Langston Hughes really understood that. Her poems really shine through in these translations. He pays much attention to the music and energy of her line.
In the thicket they look like fire; when they rise, like silver darting. And they go by even before they go, cutting through your wonder. from "Larks"
She moves from physical to metaphysical in a few syllables. She inverts cliches gracefully, without breaking a sweat or calling attention to it. Often her poems seem modest, small, and sweet, while hinting at something deeper.
and she became as water that from a wounded deer turns bloody. from "The Flower of the Air"
One quirk about this volume, though: the title "Selected Poems" suggests these are her best poems covering a broad range of topics. They may be her best poems, but they're not very broad ranging--over half of them deal with pregnancy, motherhood, and children. Many are lullabies. So it seems more like a selection of poems curated on one topic. I think (from browsing the Google Books preview) that the Ursula K. Le Guin translation may have a more broad range of poems on various topics.
This son of mine is more beautiful than the world on which he steals a look. from "Charm"
Now I am nothing but a veil; all my body is a veil beneath which a child sleeps. from "To My Husband"
I feel my breasts growing, rising like water in a wide pool, noiselessly. And their great sponginess casts a shadow like a promise across my belly. Who in all the valley could be poorer than I if my breasts never grew moist? Like those jars that women put out to catch the dew of night, I place my breasts before God.
That's not a complaint though, because before this I had only read a handful of poems about motherhood (mostly by my friend Sarah Vap). It was really nice to see this seldom explored topic given its due all the way back in the 1920's (which was when Mistral published her first poems).
A breath that vanishes in a breath and a face that trembles because of it in a meadow where nothing trembles. from "Paradise"
I went to a CAConrad reading because I had heard many good things about him but had never read much except a poem here and there online, and it was at...moreI went to a CAConrad reading because I had heard many good things about him but had never read much except a poem here and there online, and it was at this reading that another reader also impressed me and her name was Magdalena Zurawski. She brought her dog with her, a little white thing who she placed on a chair while she read, and afterwards I bought her book and she signed it. When I came home and added her book on Goodreads, I realized that it was already on my to-read shelf, along with several hundred others that I routinely forget about, and that I had become interested in her book a while back when I read one of her blog entries that made me curious about her voice.
Immediately, I was captivated by the voice of M-- who doubts herself at every turn, but not in the way that Bernhard's characters do, with all that dizzying semantic motion, and all that excess that produces involuntary guffaws in me, though there is an obvious stylistic reference there, but more perhaps like Lydia Davis in its neuroticism, yet ultimately less distancing than either of them, so that its style did not become a barrier, but a way of entry, so that it reminded me a bit of Sheila Heti's book which I read in an equal amount of zeal, but like that book, it has the ability to surprisingly disarm the reader, with pure emotion and honesty, though reassuring the reader all the while with its knowingness, that this will not be some vacant gesture or icky flick.
Thus the first half of the book grabbed me with its realness though realness is a weird word for it because the narrator was struggling precisely with her realness. She was struggling with the role of her imagination, and the fittingness of her own skin to this detached occupier of the bruise, which is constantly watching herself watch herself. But I loved the angel she invents that takes a physical form in the evidence of the bruise. And how murkily that was written, so that the imagined had, if anything, more force than the real. But a messy force.
But I felt that about halfway in, the book loses a certain something. It gets tedious, and I no longer buy that it is trying to do this thing, but rather that it has started to do this thing and so it must continue. The searching becomes an empty form of the search, just there to satisfy the reader's thirst for the story of the search, and not a genuine one because the genuine search I felt was in the beginning, with the angel and the bruise and G-- and the school cafeteria and her first thoughts of L--. Maybe what made that part seem real to me was how chaotic it was, and how not at all like a search, but more just the narrator being confused about everything, and that rang true with me. (less)
A book by Bernadette Mayer that I admire on a morning in late Fall upon a day in midwinter that goes mid-way from poetry's prose to prose poetry and through a century of differently graded pencils, a way from roses are violet to roses are roses, or as violence does a day good, a day's end is in a sort of dream's hay spun to a rhythm and a play conforming to its circular path upon the footpath that leads away to only leaves left undisplayed though large as my papa's hands are palms stretched all that ways back to the age of 4 a counter rewinding, re- wound in my child's mind's black bank shuttered like seconds are in frames we each are each what we remember of that day-- a day's so easy lost in the shuffle of day-today a momentary lapse, obscured in that comment, a look that quickly gains in significance, that look, a comment becomes itself the day the week the month the winter and a winter's gone to its grave-- I did hold it so long but holding on's not fixed my place in this going on, forth and back what is it that in 'Vertigo' takes the stairs down and up at the same time is what puts me here reading Midwinter Day in August not December as I should I read and I walk look up from page to page to where I'm going, in form--the walk made of pedestrians, cyclists on the Beltline path newly laid across the mid-metro belly my foot has a way of knowing the words I read are moving ambiguous, not forward, not back like a ship on a ship's deck or that 'Vertigo' thing again that sense when I'm pulling out of my parking space and the other's pooling in in that space-- a place in time without referring I float, memoryless--or all memory--only what matters isn't the land as land is sea too broken imperceptible over a breaking sense of senses shifted during flight, what is there to return to but the day? the day is a procession minute hours go by second by second a procession without meaning, a 'process', only what I see, I hear the surface area of that experience-- breakfast, lunch, dinner (the sound of the fork is silver!) a six-course meal (depends how you break the line) is consumed hand to mouth, bite to bite (and a car is covered in a tarp) it is what makes meaning possible-- these meaninglessnesses that build on seeming (let be be finale, etc.) that builds a day so long so precise--twenty four-- as agreed upon by whom or what we don't remember any more than what year it was made such an impression on Miss Mayer that twenty-second of late December when she was alive (she's still alive) we know all there is to know but when the evidence is laid out like a patient etherized upon a table (oh but what patient, what table, what day was he or she admitted under what circ- umstances?) that white of the white table medical, sanitary, saintly the white snow of December brighter than the sun it gets its brightness from that bright ether it seems something's missing the day has escaped the day--it is no longer an accumulation, but, undetected I see the scene quite well through a closed opening without my eyes open without finding my feet it is in there in the air the procession consists of pauses that make an event an event by separating the event from the event that follows the event it is this I worm into into the day (though the day is nothing nothing separated from nothing by nothing-- the ether of the day dissipates) the ever- divisible units of matter divide (atom's a lie, Adam too in that garden filled with frogs) full up nightly mating (sounds as though the sun's gone down) this as good as any undifferentiated day is from green to red but a shade-- orange and yellow a shade of the season that is Fall in which I look forward to--and backwards too to--that midwinter day
My Review, as prose: (view spoiler)[ A few years ago, some friends and I formed a group called ZooPo. We were a 'literary movement' consisting mostly of University of Arizona poetry MFA students, but also some outliers (like me). We didn't exactly have a 'philosophy' or a manifesto or anything, but we did have a sort of general attitude, which I'm not sure we ever spelled out. Guiding principles if you will. First, we were light-hearted, didn't take ourselves too seriously (but in a good way, not a self demeaning way). Secondly, we liked to write about animals (thus the name). Third, we tried to push ourselves with various constraints, challenges, etc.
One of our constraints was we wanted to write a book of poems in one day. This idea came to us from the book Midwinter Day by Bernadette Mayer, which apparently she wrote entirely on December 22, 1978. We did this relay style, for a week. The first poet would write for a day (and we had several things each poet had to do in the course of the day, to add to the challenge, like visiting the zoo, or visiting one of the other ZooPo poets), and we had a baton that the poet would pass on to the next poet at the designated hour, whereupon the next poet will try to write a book of poems in the next 24 hours.
At the time Midwinter Day was just a concept to me, and I imagined a book that was more accomplished as ours, but still an experiment, so having many of the flaws that our books did. Well, yesterday I read this book and it is no longer a concept to me. Instead it is a brilliant long poem, probably one of the best ones I've read.
Reading it now, it seems to me the written-in-one-day thing is much less of a big deal than the actual poem. In fact, I doubt it was written in one day (it took me all day just to read it, it is 120 pages long). But I feel like that's really not the point. The point is that it is about one day, from waking up from dreams to going to the post office, to lunch, dinner, putting the kids to sleep, and back to sleep and dreams. It continues the tradition of books like Ulysses (the poem has the same first word "Stately") and Mrs. Dalloway, but blends it with the personal and the poetic. Like Ulysses, each of its six parts is written in a slightly different style. And like others who try to contain everything in a day, it seems Whitmanian in its need to catalog everything at times, but that categorization is musical. Some may find these sections boring, but I feel they are extremely important, and enjoyable if read aloud. What day does not have its trivial prosaic moments?
But most of this is soaring with great lines. This is from the first section (which is mostly about waking up from dreams):
Now that our days Are full of normal parts It seems we have all lived forever so far Eyes open, eyes closed, half-open, one eye open One closed to the coming day, past's insistence, Dream's vivid presence, no one knows why Though you can see all I say with half an eye I always have an eye to fascination, you catch my eye This meditation Not on sleep but on awakening With dreams with everything quickening, you and I Survive this work and rest, not so much lost, We only seem to dream as quickly as we live One for the other to make up time And it's as if Today I had someone else's dreams Everything's the reverse of what it seems
Typing this out I noticed how the poem works so much better as a whole, pulling out sections or lines does not do it justice as it reflects upon itself and doubles back on its own themes time and time again to create this wonderful effect. This poem is also often funny and playful. At least to me. In little ways that make me smile. In ways that don't come through in excerpts. Oh well. Here's part of the second section, which as you see is written in a different style (and also affected by the children's waking up and their speed/rhythm/logic/language):
Look at this, see, you do, which one are you. The book is said to be a duck. The color wheel reflecting you hiding, the bus, empty green swing for people, smiling tiger nothingness puzzle, empty-eyed monkey mask right there, battered stolen musical egg, look, bright old playgroup radio playing raindrops and so on, there's something about a thermometer you wouldn't understand yet, silly identical grounded queen bees, you put things into things now, you empty cups and trucks on your own articulating oh and no the same, grabbing for the fifteenth-century Dutch woman who looks chiding, that's why I put her up, that polar bear won't go into that nesting cup.
So many more great sections. I can't share them all, or do them justice in little pieces, but here's part of the end of section 5:
I know you speak And are as suddenly forgiven, It's the consequence of love's having no cause Then we wonder what we can say I can say I turn formally to love to spend the day, To you to form the night as what I know, An image of love allows what I can't say, Sun's lost in the window and love is below Love is the same and does not keep that name I keep that name and I am not the same A shadow of ice exchanges the color of light, Love's figure to begin the absent night.
A sweet book about clear-seeing, i.e. seeing what is really in front of you whether beautiful or ugly, rather than what you want to see. It's also abo...moreA sweet book about clear-seeing, i.e. seeing what is really in front of you whether beautiful or ugly, rather than what you want to see. It's also about a bunch of other things: class relations, art, philosophy, snobbery, meaning vs. meaninglessness, what true intelligence is, (and what is it good for?), and how people sometimes prevent themselves from finding true happiness.
All this sounds like a warm-fuzzy wrapped in a personal affirmation scented with camellias and delivered with sprinkly cupcakes to your frontdoor with a copy of Eat Pray Love, right? But the book cleverly counterbalances this with a healthy dose of skepticism and misanthropy.
The conclusions are still too easy/obvious sometimes, but I would rather a book risk the dangers of sentimentalism than sit comfortably on its sanitized throne of intelligent and secure discourse.
There is very little plot, but instead we get a series of monologues, philosophical asides and observations from two of the main characters. One is an elderly concierge, and the other is a precocious 12 year old girl. Both belong to that class of human beings that most other human beings ignore: they are invisible in the grand scheme of things. Yet under the surface, they live rich and imaginative lives.
I would say that there is a little bit too much black and white in this novel, though. I felt like the characters you were supposed to root for were a little too blameless and noble in their intentions, and the ones who were shallow ignoramuses were just that.
Especially true of this is the character of Kakuro Ozu, who is like some kind of angel of Eastern wisdom and exoticism meets Western intelligence and sophistication, without a blemish in sight. Don't get me wrong, I really liked the guy, but he didn't seem very real to me.
OK, now is the part of the review where I implore you to PLEASE READ THIS BOOK. Except, when I say THIS BOOK, I don't mean The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It was good, but while I was reading it I was thinking: "Anybody who loves this book MUST read The Summer Book by Tove Jansson!"
In fact, any of Tove Jansson's books for adults would equally fit the bill. Jansson's and Barbery's styles are very different, but the idea of these young and old characters who can relate on another common level of intuitive intelligence is common to both. And Jansson leaves much more unsaid, which frankly, is much more affecting and Ozu-like.
And speaking of Ozu, one last recommendation, because I'm feeling extra pushy today: I must agree with Renee Michel (the concierge), that if you haven't already seen all of Yasujiro Ozu's movies, you should run out and see them now. (less)
Heather is playing 'house' in this book. I don't mean to imply the domesticity, but the pretend, the imagination, the whimsiness, and the playing of r...moreHeather is playing 'house' in this book. I don't mean to imply the domesticity, but the pretend, the imagination, the whimsiness, and the playing of roles. Often, like an only child, Heather has to play all the roles herself.
Half-Hedgehog Half-Man talk to me I said okay said the tree and it twinkled not like that I said I already know that talk to me about something new you monster it said that was a little better could we try this I said from a different perspective so we swapped places I was still the monster this would be easier if you could see the video in the video there are all these owls like bang bang bang all over the tree which I was now only that might be clearer in writing because I was also still myself half-hedgehog half-man and that could be hard to communicate visually and also my man-jaw was glass
My Enemy I have a new enemy he is so good-looking here is a photograph of him in the snow he is in the snow and so is the photo I put it there because I hate him and because it is always snowing in the photograph my enemy is acting like there are no neighbors but there are always neighbors they just might be far away he is 100% evil and good-looking he looks good in his parka in the snow if you asked he would call it a helmet all he ever does is lie he does not breathe or move or glow he is not that kind of man it is not that kind of snow
Some of these poems work better than others. And it could just be me, but some of the humor is too clever here (on the page), though she makes it work so well when she reads it. (less)