After a second reading had to include the missing fifth star. Full reassessment soon.
So I'm not used to this kind of reaction with a book--finishe...moreAfter a second reading had to include the missing fifth star. Full reassessment soon.
So I'm not used to this kind of reaction with a book--finished it this morning, and I might very well start it all over again. Immediately. This never happens to me.
And this despite not knowing what the hell was going on half (most?) of the time, but by the end I became intoxicated by the sheer absurdity that made me laugh stupidly despite being in public, the unexpected submersions into harrowing despair, the (to blatantly steal Ned Rorem's characterization) "gorgeous claustrophobia" the novel evokes. I've never come across anything quite like this before.
Was initially intrigued by Susan Sontag's comment in her journal that her and her friends were essentially characters out of this novel; I wonder now how much of her own romantic sufferings were modeled off of Norah Flood's...
"'How do you stand it, then?' she demanded. 'How do you live at all if this wisdom of yours is not only the truth, but the price?'"
Reread this as it was the main textbook of a Queer Film undergrad class I helped out with last semester, and my initial reaction was more or less conf...moreReread this as it was the main textbook of a Queer Film undergrad class I helped out with last semester, and my initial reaction was more or less confirmed: when analyzing LGBTQ representation in classic Hollywood and other early cinemas Russo is as enlightening as he fun to read, but when he gets to post-Code representation he goes into Righteous Anger mode and it just all starts getting very numbing and increasingly unnuanced. For some reason Russo can locate endless resistance and subversiveness in the Sissies and Bulldykes in old Hollywood musicals and comedies, but something like Suddenly Last Summer or The Boys in the Band are pegged as an irredeemable exercise in negative stereotyping—I just don't buy that line of thinking and so I didn't even bother revisiting the last chapter or two.
I also have mixed feelings because Celluloid Closet is widely hailed as the first study of its kind, while the late, great and now-forgotten Parker Tyler's Screening the Sexes: Homosexuality in the Movies is hardly ever ever remembered, though it was written nearly a decade earlier. Not that it's hard to see why this is the case: where Russo is Serious and Scholarly, Tyler is, characteristically, campy, tongue-in-cheek and can at times be baffling in regards to its allusions and in-jokes—in many ways Richard Dyer's Now You See It and Richard Barrios's Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood from Edison to Stonewall are nice medians, as rigorous as Russo but retaining Tyler's sense of fun.
But it can't be denied that The Celluloid Closet serves as a good primer on queer film—it certainly was mine, and I'll always appreciate it for that. (less)
Much like Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, Orwell's heavily autobiographical journalistic novel makes me vaguely uncomfortable—I just can never quite bri...moreMuch like Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, Orwell's heavily autobiographical journalistic novel makes me vaguely uncomfortable—I just can never quite bring myself to fully embrace depictions of "playing poverty" by young white men from bourgeois (or better) backgrounds. Granted, the comparison is a bit unfair, as Hemingway was clearly indulging in a project of retroactive self-mythification and intentionally fudging details while Orwell was attempting something akin to a social exposé, using his experiences to expose the European middle class readership of the realities of menial labor and begging. It's not that I intrinsically have a problem with these men's social privilege, it's the fact that it's never explicitly accounted for, which quickly leads to an untruthful romanticization of the disempowerment and disenfranchisement that is legitimately experienced by many people (who I'm quite sure don't find it a bit glamorous or romantic).
The narrative (if it can be accurately described as such) is an often awkward blend of colorful picaresque storytelling and stern Marxist-influenced polemics, but Orwell is at his best when relishing in the detailed minutia of the social microcosms he often finds himself enmeshed in, ranging from a posh French hotel to the British vagrant community. Because I have worked in the hospitality industry I was fascinated by the rigid workplace hierarchies of Parisian hotels and restaurants, and I thoroughly enjoyed the depictions of the countless creative ways that the sparking facades presented to paying tourists are undermined behind every kitchen and closet door ("roughly speaking, the more one pays for food, the more sweat and spittle one is obliged to eat with it"). Things might be much more sanitary now, but the behind-the-scene subversions and resentments were on occasion remarkably familiar.
Once Orwell transfers from Paris to London, however, things get progressively more dull—the witty, stylistic flourishes and the vibrant characterizations and anecdotes Orwell employs in his presentation of Paris gives way to a serious, plodding social-realist depiction of British street people, and the diatribes also become more frequent. At which point I had to force myself to finish the last few chapters, which unfortunately means I ended on a more sour note, which isn't very indicative of my experience with the majority of the text. C'est la vie.
[Read for ENG630:02 - Expatriate Writers in Paris: 1930's, 1940's and Beyond]
"Poverty is what I am writing about, and I had my first contact with poverty in this slum. The slum, with its dirt and queer lives, was first an object-lesson in poverty, and then the background for my own experiences. It is for that reason that I try to give some idea of what life was like there."
At first it just seems like simply a gossipy good time, but it also functions as a fascinating mise en abyme (the author speaking about herself throug...moreAt first it just seems like simply a gossipy good time, but it also functions as a fascinating mise en abyme (the author speaking about herself through the voice of her partner, etc).
It's a thoroughly delightful portal through which to slip into 1920's Paris. I'd wager that Hemingway's A Moveable Feast is generally preferred, but I'm definitely Team Stein. (less)
Made me realize I despise cognitive film theory—it was rather amazing how many interesting films are rendered completely dull and lifeless through the...moreMade me realize I despise cognitive film theory—it was rather amazing how many interesting films are rendered completely dull and lifeless through the various readings found here. For me, Greg M. Smith's "Local Emotions, Global Moods, and Film Structure" was the only essay of note. (less)
It is really stunning to encounter such a high-spirited and defiantly independent female character in a novel written over 150 years ago, and, more im...moreIt is really stunning to encounter such a high-spirited and defiantly independent female character in a novel written over 150 years ago, and, more importantly, is allowed to remain so from the first moment we meet her (disguised as a boy on the mean streets of New York City) to when her remarkable story neatly concludes on the last novel's last page. After encountering so many blonde, wan "angels in the house" in contemporaneous literature, adventurous, dark-haired Capitola Black is nothing less than a revelation. And she's funny too, with a relentlessly sharp tongue, can ride her horse in a way that most men envy, and is even willing to fight a duel when her honor is called into question and no male relative is willing to step in on her behalf.
The story itself occasionally gets bogged down when it meanders onto the plight of other characters--most particularly the dull male ones off fighting valiantly in the war-- and it can come off as stilted and antiquated as melodramatic potboilers of that era almost inevitably do, but that can hardly dim Southworth's impressive proto-feminist achievement in the character and story of Capitola Black.(less)