Hagar Shipley is one of the finest characters ever created in all literature, and The Stone Angel one of the best depictions of raging against the dyiHagar Shipley is one of the finest characters ever created in all literature, and The Stone Angel one of the best depictions of raging against the dying of the light. King Lear, Hagar Shipley. That's all one needs....more
Ok, so Mark Twain. This is the only one I've read, once way back when and just now. MT/SLC - he's not really part of the curriculum or general literarOk, so Mark Twain. This is the only one I've read, once way back when and just now. MT/SLC - he's not really part of the curriculum or general literary zeitgeist in Canada. So I don't really know much about him or about that Huckleberry boy and the other one, Tom. I'm likely talking out of my hat when I say, if you liked them you've just got to like this one. Although maybe this is more directly scathing and satirical?
Connecticut Yankee is an eviscerating take-down of the entire British social structure, y'know, the one that the U.S. revolted (or as Twain would say "revoluted") against. On top of that, it's a castigation of the RC Church and its role in the oppressions of, at the time he was writing, the past 1800+ years. And most of all, it's an abolitionist tale. Call 'em serfs, call 'em slaves (as Twain does), same difference. This is a plea for egalitarianism and humanism.
At the same time, "The Boss" - as the prototypical late-19th century entrepreneur and manufacturing baron -- is flawed and gently mocked for his belief that capitalism and technology will win the day. I don't know how much mockery would have been recognized at the time of publication, but from 100+ years later, we can clearly see the hand of a clear-eyed and prescient satirist at work in the immense and disproportional carnage wreaked by the improved technology of warfare, the raping and pillaging of natural resources and resulting destruction of the environment of the Industrial Age, the rabid commercialism that leads to the trading of one type of slavery for another.
Twain does not give two hoots for historical accuracy here, nor for any of the conventions by which literary time travel is supposed to "work." He doesn't care if this makes any logical sense, and to make sure we understand that, he picks, first of all, the already fictional 6th-Century King Arthur and his Knights as the time to travel back to. He then thinks nothing of weaving in references to King Henry VIII and the Tower of London and a bunch of other anachronistic details that defy the historical record and the laws of physics. That is part of the delight of this book - it's a romp.
His brush is so broad he takes the piss of everyone and everything on that little island of Britain from about 500 to 1850 A.D.
This perhaps goes without saying, because no satire is fully effective without it, but his righteous anger is not just expressed through ridiculousness and absurdity -- there are scenes here that are heartbreaking and tragic, and Twain skilfully reins in his pen to paint these with the pathos (albeit romanticized and sentimentalized) they require to keep our eyes focused on the fact that there are real people who suffer at the hands of others and institutions who enslave them.
Powerful reading (and a bit of a brain-twist, coming right after Wolf Hall, which I'm off to review in just a moment. ...more
Re-read. A bit obtuse, almost experimental in places, but the central metaphor of the spire as a symbol of teetering faith (and disintegrating sanity)Re-read. A bit obtuse, almost experimental in places, but the central metaphor of the spire as a symbol of teetering faith (and disintegrating sanity) for an arrogant, delusional priest is still as powerful as I remember it. This time around, I also was able to more clearly see the central conflict between Fr. Jocelin and Master Builder Roger Mason as one of faith versus science, which has even greater resonance today. What Golding achieves here is a comment, nested in high symbolism, that vision and progress - either spiritually or technologically - is often the product of madness; or leads to it. Or both. And it's difficult to tell the difference between genius and insanity.
There is a remarkable scene in which Fr. Jocelin climbs to the top of his not-yet-completed tower and is able to survey the land, looking down upon his parishioners as they go about their lives. The symbolism is multi-layered (throughout, but especially in this scene): Fr. Jocelin sets himself far above his people, looming like a false god (they have by now moved beyond fearing him to dismissing him as crazy and irrelevant). Remote and removed from the real lives of the people who look to him to provide comfort and spiritual guidance, Fr. Jocelin's neglect of his spiritual duty comes to be his downfall.
For Elizabeth and Ceridwen and all the dragon-lovers out there. I have no idea where this is still available - or if - but if you can find it, pick yoFor Elizabeth and Ceridwen and all the dragon-lovers out there. I have no idea where this is still available - or if - but if you can find it, pick yourself up a copy. It's a truly beautiful flight of fancy wrapped around a "scientific" explanation of dragon flight. And the illustrations are just stunning.
ETA: I just re-read this and it is as delightful as I remembered it -- although not 5-star delightful, and there is a truly upsetting effect/affect mis-use that I certainly hadn't noticed 25 years ago when I first read it.
And yes, I actually did RE-read the text, not just peruse the beautiful illustrations, so I'm taking this as another notch on my book-challenge bookcase....more
a) I liked it better than Mrs. Dalloway (purely subjectively/emotionally, which would seem to be the best way to take inAll I know right now is that:
a) I liked it better than Mrs. Dalloway (purely subjectively/emotionally, which would seem to be the best way to take in and then respond to this work), and b) my trick of using Atwood as a lever to catapult me into the depths of Woolf seems to have worked, at least partially, for some strange reason.
In trying to come up with points of comparison (see comments below) between Woolf and Atwood while reading this, I first of all could only find contrast, but secondly came to appreciate BOTH authors more. My esteem for Atwood was already high; mine for Woolf has now risen (like the tide? ouch, I promised not to do that).
I struggle with Woolf -- I still struggle with her. But I'm finding the struggle more enjoyable -- perhaps like the peace that is said to come upon one as one freezes to death (I would have said drowning, but I don't think drowning is a peaceful death, and I've vowed to avoid water metaphors here. How am I doing so far?).
I need to let her be what she is, let the halo of intimidation that still surrounds her work fade to a dull glow and allow myself to be ... immersed ... in her prose.
I will say, she doesn't *last* for me. I don't go to bed, after reading, mulling over what I've read. As deeply immersed (there is no other word) as I am when the book is open, as soon as I close it and look up, I am dry. Powerful as she is when I'm reading, with those startling insights and the pace of those revolving point-of-view scenes (the dinner party in this one is extraordinary!), and as much as I admire her craft, I find -- perhaps because she is only, or primarily, engaging me at an emotional level? -- that I can't hold on to those insights and process them once I close the book and look up, leaving her internal landscape and re-entering my own.
Some of this is because I truly can't identify with her characters -- not that she's much for rich characterization, or plot -- and perhaps that is my number one issue with stream-of-consciousness overall. Mrs. Ramsay seems like a version of Mrs. Dallaway to me, neither one of whom seems much like me. Their thoughts are not my thoughts. More importantly, they're not much like anyone I'd want to spend much time with.
For here it is: if I had to spend much time with someone that navel-gazing, that flighty, that emotionally labile, that ... needy, I would -- I swear to God -- have to slap them silly.
I'm sorry, so sorry. I realize that brands me as a certain kind of person, with a certain lack of sympathy/empathy for a certain kind of female character -- a female character (or characters) and an author who speaks deeply and eloquently and compellingly to many of you. But she doesn't to me. She doesn't 'get' me, and I don't 'get' her. We do not occupy the same emotional landscape, and as a result, there is a wall between us that -- no matter my attempt at empathy -- I can't seem to scale with her.
That is the nub of the Woolf/Atwood parallel for me. I don't get Woolf's characters, and her characters don't get me. The insights, the remarkable -- truly remarkable -- honing in on the deepest, most core, most raw and unvarnished thought or emotion of one character in response to another, that reads like foreign ground to me in Woolf -- whereas in Atwood, it matches *my* emotional terrain so precisely, that the resonance for me is multi-sensual (hence, my Atwood synesthesia, which I've written about here before).
So and but! Although there's still a wall between Woolf, her characters, and me, I'm still interested in exploring it. I'm heading to The Waves, next. ...more
I appreciated this book much more on re-read (it's hard to pick a fave of hers - but at least I now have all three that I've read so far clearly in myI appreciated this book much more on re-read (it's hard to pick a fave of hers - but at least I now have all three that I've read so far clearly in my mind). I am still slightly more impressed with the two that followed, The Flying Troutmans and Irma Voth, but it's only because ... because ... why? It's now the merest gradation of five star-dom that separate them.
There is no doubt that Nomi's 'voice' is a spectacular accomplishment. Distill it, and each drop is pure essence du Toews.
I think that what I struggle with here is the lack of story. The ennui (which is the point, of course) is wearing. I love teen angst and pain as much as anyone, and told this well, this wrenchingly, it's hard to critique. So even typing that, that the lack of story is what differentiates this one from the others, is, I feel, not true.
But it was almost too much, y'know? Paragraph after paragraph of the most stunning, sardonic, almost zeugmatic insights out of this gr 12 Mennonite girl, struggling with a fundamentalist faith that has been imposed on her and an abandonment of monumental proportions. Collapsing under the burden of responsibility and grief, acting out, no relief in sight.
Gahhhh. This writing hurts, physically - it is so beautiful, so painful, so funny. It hits you like a wall, with the most mundane and profound thoughts given equal treatment. This is the brilliance of the writing: that it so perfectly mirrors Nomi's psychological state. Everything is equally important, so nothing is. Complete overload of random, irrelevant and vital detail - so nothing makes sense, nothing has meaning. Standing in the midst of the largest questions about family bonds, love, faith - and all while 'coming of age' to boot.
But here's what I will say about Toews' characters (god, I hope they are not too too autobiographical, but I fear they are): there is a life force in them. A will toward not just survival, but a cathartic, definitive, life-affirming strength that forshadows the emergence from pain as a better, whole and happy person.
Yes. This is what I believe. For each and every one of them.
Beautiful photography and poignant stories that individualize these dogs while also illustrating the too-common cruelties perpetrated on an entire groBeautiful photography and poignant stories that individualize these dogs while also illustrating the too-common cruelties perpetrated on an entire group of dogs who look a certain way, solely because they look a certain way.
The single thing these dogs have in common besides their looks and, among this group, the fact that they are all rescues from pretty horrific circumstances, is that when given safety, security, kindness and love, these dogs *all* have the capacity to overcome their past and become loving family pets.
The text is repetitive in places and could have been organized better (e.g., I would have liked to see dogs in the same home presented together). But as a coffee-table book, a myth-busting conversation starter, and a tool for anti-BSL (breed specific legislation) activists, it can't be beat.
This book sucked me down into an abyss, and I’ve barely just now escaped. It’s certainly set my Goodreads challenge back weeks. I kept going and goingThis book sucked me down into an abyss, and I’ve barely just now escaped. It’s certainly set my Goodreads challenge back weeks. I kept going and going; five pages before bed, sometimes three. A streak of 20 while dividing my attention between it and Grey's Anatomy. Talk about inertia in a plot!! Plot? Where?
After the brilliance of Skippy Dies, I was expecting so much more - or at least, given this was Murray's first novel, some parallels. Some of the complexity; the careful and clever layering of theme. A lot more poignancy and a lot more humour. All of it was lacking here.
Perhaps it’s that I just can’t relate to the rough metaphor Murray was going for: the clash of ‘old’ and ‘new’ Irelands embodied by the characters. I don’t have a dog in that race. Protagonist Charles’s vision of himself as an aristocratic Yeats, rambling about a drafty country manse pining for a time that never was (and his sister), was weird and jarring. The moments of parody were too few and far between to sustain the shtick. And also, maybe this novel’s time has come and gone – Ireland’s economic fortunes have waxed and now waned; the dynamic tension between old and new seems passé.
The stuff that did seem compelling - e.g., the conflicted, incestuous relationship between Charles and his sister Bel - went unexplored (perhaps because of the constraints of first-person narration - a narrator who is delightfully obtuse and clueless about the interpersonal goings on around him, and certainly his own inner motivations).
If I had to put my finger on it, the troublesome narration led to a lot of this novel’s problems – poor characterization, a lack of detail to get us invested in the characters (Bel and her mother? Bel and her father? The neighbour, the Bosnian housekeeper, Mirena, etc. etc.) Their life stories seemed interesting, important – but not to Charles, and therefore, the reader gets short-changed. ETA: That’s it exactly – Charles is the least interesting character in the book, yet he’s the one we’re stuck with.
Such a shame – I think there might have been a great story in here somewhere. Maybe someone else has found it.
By the end of Skippy, I forgave it all its flaws. I’m thankful I read Skippy first, because had I not, by the end of this one, I wouldn’t have bothered. ...more
I can't (and couldn't, while reading) get the movie out of my head to evaluate the book entirely separately from it. If you've not seen it, Judi DenchI can't (and couldn't, while reading) get the movie out of my head to evaluate the book entirely separately from it. If you've not seen it, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are both absolutely astounding in it. The book - more open-ended, more morally ambiguous - is very good, but lacks a little something.
That said, I love what Heller does creating a first-person narrator who should be, for all intents and purposes, entirely unreliable, but who with every chapter reveals another layer of the truth of her own sociopathological personality. She - main character Barbara, an aging, spinster history teacher - is not entirely unsympathetic. Despite all the dysfunction here - and we are talking a galactic amount in a mere 258 pages - we feel Barbara's pain keenly, and Sheba's, too. This is an amazing feat of voice and POV; really deftly done. The greater grey in the characters' motivations and ethics, in the book, make for less drama but a more satisfying psychological complexity and realism.