I can't properly review Angela Carter - her books just seem to reach into my subconscious, grasp hold of me, and refuse to let go. It's always a...moreGods.
I can't properly review Angela Carter - her books just seem to reach into my subconscious, grasp hold of me, and refuse to let go. It's always a strange experience to read others' reviews of her work, which debate symbolism and characterization and political message. All those things are very clear to me when reading, but I feel so little need to comment on them, because the book itself feels so true. This is how the world is; or, more properly, this is how the world is for me. Every other sentence is a great truth that I have just been waiting for Carter to articulate to me. Yes, it is hyper-intellectual, witty metaphor, but we live in metaphors. Our minds are paved, wallpapered, founded upon the texts we take into ourselves. Conscious heteroglossia.
Heroes and Villains has the hazy contours of a dream but, within those contours, the rich detail of memory. It takes place in a sharply divided post-apocalyptic world, but mostly within the mind of the heroine Marianne, a child of the privileged and sequestered Professor class, who runs away and joins the Barbarians. Carter does not shy away from the grittiness of her premise - more even than the vivid, matter-of-fact violence and appreciated her attention to dirt, to unpleasant smells, to the diseases that result from such conditions. The power of the choice between safety and freedom, between order and chaos is given more weight because the freedom/chaos is unromanticized (though, it other ways, it is a deeply romantic, fantastical image - gothic, in the truest sense of the word. I hope Mario Praz would approve).
Like all of Carter's works, it does not benefit from being summarized (the one exception is The Passion of New Eve, because summarizing that one to a naive audience is absolutely hilarious. Try it some time). It is a deeply erotic, and a deeply devastating book. Grief and mental illness run through it like a vein of sulfur. I expect that most survivors of sexual violence will find it triggering, but it also feels very much as though it was written for us survivors, whispering truths into our ears that the outside world will never understand. Inside the wild, bright colored images there is always this hard, brutal truth, like a heartbeat - This is how it is.
I don't know if this is just me. It very well might be.(less)
Horribly disappointing. There were hints, here, of a fascinating story, but Lowry's focus felt all off - she lingered on the most unengaging, emotiona...moreHorribly disappointing. There were hints, here, of a fascinating story, but Lowry's focus felt all off - she lingered on the most unengaging, emotionally implausible moments, and raced over the things I, as a reader, actually cared about. The final third felt ludicrous, with laughably low stakes. I was so willing to follow Lowry on this journey, but she threw me out of it at every turn. It is difficult to fight the force of an author.(less)
Too clean for me somehow, too clever. I preferred 1984, whose emotion is too overflowing, whose pain is too real for it ever to be clean or simple. Bu...moreToo clean for me somehow, too clever. I preferred 1984, whose emotion is too overflowing, whose pain is too real for it ever to be clean or simple. But, still, it accomplished its purpose well enough, and serves as an excellent, textbook-pure example of allegory and dystopia.(less)
Self-absorbed and useless. Though I am a fan of such self-referenial, metafictional endeavours as Italo Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveller,...moreSelf-absorbed and useless. Though I am a fan of such self-referenial, metafictional endeavours as Italo Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveller, Paul Auster's clean and stylish prose could not hide the fact that, in this book, he really had nothing to say.(less)
This is not a book one enjoys. This is not even a book one gets catharsis from, or the voyeuristic/sadistic pleasure possible from reading about terri...moreThis is not a book one enjoys. This is not even a book one gets catharsis from, or the voyeuristic/sadistic pleasure possible from reading about terrible things happening to fictional characters. But it is an important book, it is a book that has a lot to say, and I do recommend it highly. Just not to anyone who would like to actually enjoy the next book they read.
A great part of the effect of this book is derived from the fact that it is largely written in an imaginary form of slang based primarily on Russian. I appreciated this device, as it distanced the reader in a way that allowed the author to make his points more clearly, but it's something that a reader has to remember not to get caught up in. Don't try to decipher each word, that would be my advice, and go the principle best adopted when reading nonsense poetry - if it feels like it means something, it probably is.
On the plot of the book, I have little to say, for to give anything more than the rather generally known premise would be to spoil it. It truly is a powerful yet curiously emotionless oddity, and required reading for anyone looking at significant dystopias. I recommend getting an edition with the final chapter - it adds a lot.(less)
A dystopia deeply entwined with concepts science fiction concepts, this book seems startlingly modern for something written even before George Orwell'...moreA dystopia deeply entwined with concepts science fiction concepts, this book seems startlingly modern for something written even before George Orwell's 1984, which I suppose is the sign of a well constructed and effective dystopia. Huxley's concept of a sterile, emotionless world where the government resigns citizens to their place in life using sleep conditioning, and seeks to manipulate even their genes, is clear and visionary, and the way that this world drives a new arrival in it to madness is well plotted and moving. But, because of the nature of the dystopia being discussed, the novel cannot reach the emotional intensity of 1984, and is thus far less effective in its arc. This is not Huxley's fault, for his method of storytelling fits his civilization to a t, but it meant that this book could not have the effective on me that others in its genre have.(less)