Well, I keep having to quit the other book I'm trying to read, which I'm going to just take as a sign that instead I should pick up my Daniel Deronda,Well, I keep having to quit the other book I'm trying to read, which I'm going to just take as a sign that instead I should pick up my Daniel Deronda, contemplate its perfection, and see how much of it I can reread before attending a nerdy lecture day about it in a few weeks.
I am cheating and adding a new edition of it because I might want to talk about it all over again, even though I've read it before. ...more
I love this book so much I'm writing a whole fresh review of it on reread. I finally got my own copy, and I spent one whole wonderful day going down iI love this book so much I'm writing a whole fresh review of it on reread. I finally got my own copy, and I spent one whole wonderful day going down into the depths.
The first time, a couple years ago, I had no clue what I was getting into, at all. I had never heard of this book in my entire life. Now, my sister and I love it so much, I feel like we should keep our copies in our nightstands like Gideon Bibles. Or, more truly to its nature, go around placing them in other people's nightstands.
This is a desert-island book, for me, because just for example I could sit and read the opening lines of it over and over for hours. I really could.
"My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead."
If that narrator doesn't make your eyeballs bug right out of your face for a minute… maybe I might not want to talk to you any more? Really?
And then next, immediately after that, it's the library books. They've been on the shelf for five months! Maybe she should have chosen differently, if she'd known they were the last. Then her trips to town, twice a week, and not being too scared to order the coffee, then leaving when someone else comes in, but "without seeming hurried." Which side of the street to walk on. Everyone in the grocery staring. And wait, you said you never opened those library books? This was five months ago?
And then you're on page nine. And it keeps coming. The moon. The song. It's one of the best first chapters of anything.
The whole thing is like this. This goddamned bewitchingly fastidious way of talking and something just is wrong. Reading the book feels like being out in a field in early March after it's rained and it's still real cold, the ground is kind of soggy and it's too dark, probably it's going to rain again, but you're looking at the grass and the rocks and it's nice and there's these couple of white daffodils over here, don't they know it's not quite spring? What time is it, anyway? When I read it, I am so happy but I am worried the whole time for when it's going to break. I feel like there's a draft and I need to put on a sweater.
Since it would be ridiculous to complete an actual line-by-line review of a whole novel, I will just make a list of things I love the second time through, and didn't mention the first time.
* I am on the moon. I am living in a house on the moon. Merricat has so many ways of dissociating her way out of a situation that disturbs her, and they are all so much more disturbing than where she starts. You get it right away, in the grocery, the visualizing: they are crying with pain and dying. I am walking on their bodies. Just to get through shopping, to cope with coffee. It's the first layer upon layer of things that carry us through the book, inside her head.
* Practically the entire narrative thread is simply floating along the stream of Merricat's magical thinking. As the plot unfolds, she keeps herself so busy dealing with it, thinking these thoughts, planning these charms (a book nailed to a tree; so many buried things), watching for signs and making protections against them. Filling the world with symbols: small bits of paper will remind her to be kinder to Uncle Julian; long, thin things will remind her to be kinder to Uncle Julian. Making the rules. Undoubtedly the best part of a reread: watching her make rules. I am not allowed.
* She wears her mother's shoes? Everything is so old. So ordered. But they've slipped from something staid and nice, like preserving their family's objects and habits, into these wacko superstitions and routines. Just the fact that teatime is the great terror. All of Merricat's routines have this very scary edge to them (and also panicked, phobic, that it could all end), and all of Constance's are tender and tearable like tissue paper. Together they've devolved into this over-adapted Grey Gardens type of crazy isolation from real life. But their world is so sweet, inside. Constance, always cooking. Merricat, adoring. Completely, really, the sweetest.
* It isn't enough to throw a question mark into the backstory, but Uncle Julian's weird mistaken persistence about Mary Katherine was so striking. He's old and senile and dying and confused, and so he misremembers the history, and even when she is there in the room, he is sure that Mary Katherine died, during that time in the orphanage that we know so tantalizingly little about. Except, all Uncle Julian does is pore over the history. So why does he wrongly insist on this? The way that it's all arranged, he only ever interacts with Constance… and we know who makes the rules. Right? This part just kind of hooks into me and hangs there on its own and I like it.
* Also: "They quarrelled hatefully that last night," he says. But about what. About who.
This is a story with a small twist of a sort, which is why half my original review is in spoiler tags and it's hard to get into specifics about. More of a perspective-shifter, a confirmation rather than a surprise. But so matter-of-fact it is just spooky, and changes everything.
I love it so much. And like. You could read it in one sitting, if you really wanted to. How is it possible. How does it exist. "I am so happy."...more
Yes, yes. Found this in the $1 racks at The Strand, and it's a sign! I've been thinking about rereading it really often lately, and needing to own a cYes, yes. Found this in the $1 racks at The Strand, and it's a sign! I've been thinking about rereading it really often lately, and needing to own a copy. I'm so glad!
This book made a really, really big impression on me in 12th grade. I was the only person in class who liked it, and I didn't only like it, I loved it. I read it at least twice around that time.
In terms of my reading habits, I'm much better suited to read it again now. I have the trepidation of rereading a youthful favorite, though. If I don't like this any more I'll be genuinely sad.
I don't own a copy any more, either, which is a problem....more
I know at least one of my friends growing up also had this storybook, which is probably technically a picture book, but a hefty hardcover one with 140I know at least one of my friends growing up also had this storybook, which is probably technically a picture book, but a hefty hardcover one with 140 pages. I pored over it as a kid, long past picture-book age.
This was a favorite book for two reasons: first, it provides "original" versions of familiar fairy tales (e.g. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and Rose Red) that are edited for kids/short story form, but retain the far odder, darker story elements they began with, and that Disney of course famously elided into happily-ever-afters.
For example, one of the first full-page images in the book is a beautiful, vivid painting of the Little Mermaid hovering in a bedroom doorway, reluctantly clutching a curving dagger over the sleeping couple in the foreground. This image will be imprinted in my mind forever. And I like it there.
Second, it includes an equal number of stories that I never encountered anywhere else (e.g. The Goose Girl, The Stolen Turnips, Jorinda and Joringel), and I really, really liked them! I still sometimes get a song stuck in my head that I made up to part of one of the stories.
Overall it was a wonderful, rich, captivating book that made palpable the reasons that fairy tales exist (and last). I've basically never forgotten that lesson, and that's probably why I'm spending my free time on Goodreads, right now....more
I've seen this performed several times (both in 2001 and this past year), and it's one of my favorite productions of anything. I've never actually ownI've seen this performed several times (both in 2001 and this past year), and it's one of my favorite productions of anything. I've never actually owned the script! But all the same.
So much of this play is performance, with the water, and the choreography. I don't really remember if it's possible for that to be anywhere near as evocative on the page. Those things, I guess, aren't, but many of the statements inside the stories are beautiful and worthwhile to read as well as perform....more
I remember, once, reading that Auburn said the first act's curtain line was always a first draft, always something to change later, until he didn't chI remember, once, reading that Auburn said the first act's curtain line was always a first draft, always something to change later, until he didn't change it. That it's like a reluctant hit.
I also remember at the theater once, during an intermission for August: Osage County, Meg and I launching a product idea for "Act Break T-Shirts," that would come into the lobby at intermission at plays with amazing curtain lines, to sell you merchandise with the slogans. But the only ones we could actually think of to sell were the one we'd just seen (view spoiler)[("I'M RUNNING THINGS NOW!") (hide spoiler)], and this one (view spoiler)[("I wrote it.") (hide spoiler)].["br"]>["br"]>...more
This was one of my favorite plays that I saw in college. I thought it was wonderful. There are a lot of things about the structure that just really woThis was one of my favorite plays that I saw in college. I thought it was wonderful. There are a lot of things about the structure that just really work -- the naked, moonlit painting scene and the single-appearance art collector are both knockouts. I remember being less impressed when I reread it later, since maybe the plot elements are on the melodramatic side. But not too much, really. It takes a master to avoid it, and you can love something that is flawed, anyway....more
I really liked this, and read it at least twice as a kid. I don't remember it well enough to have an objective feeling about it, though. The issues inI really liked this, and read it at least twice as a kid. I don't remember it well enough to have an objective feeling about it, though. The issues in this story can be quite sensitive, which I'd be more concerned about now as an adult....more
I loved this book the first time I read it a few years ago, and I really love considering it a favorite book of mine. Mostly because: what is it? WhatI loved this book the first time I read it a few years ago, and I really love considering it a favorite book of mine. Mostly because: what is it? What even is this.
I'm not the deepest-read Vonnegut fan there is, just a handful really, but I believe that this book isn't exactly typical. It is his last novel -- written, somewhat incredibly, 10 years before his death. And as a novel, it sort of isn't, not with a start-to-finish plot and detailed world-build and thorough character, other, of course, than Vonnegut himself. And Kilgore Trout.
The fictional idea of the book is that a "timequake" occurs, wrenching the physical universe backward 10 years. But everything alive, remembers. People carry out the last 10 years of their lives in full, knowing what comes next, and not physically able to do one thing differently. They just watch, and wait to catch up to themselves.
I love this idea, profoundly. This idea is what I'm made of. It is sad and breathtaking and really quite freaky. 10 years ago this instant -- would you want to suddenly be back there? Right now?
It is, however, a lot more idea than story. All we know is that this, supposedly, has happened. (Though, it "happens" in 2001, despite Vonnegut writing the book in 1997, thus placing him in the middle of it.) There is a little bit about a scene that occurs in New York City when it finally ends. And then 75% of the rest of the book are Vonnegut's thoughts on what this means. He thinks about what is real, how people handle time and memory. And he mostly does this by just telling stories about his family.
There is a very strange meta thing happening, as well. Vonnegut handles both himself and his longtime alter-ego Kilgore Trout in detail here, essentially giving amazing backstory for each of them as individuals, and by the end, blurring the fictional/nonfictional lines between them for the final and most definitive time. Particularly, a scene plays throughout the book of a clambake held on a beach, which Vonnegut is attending alongside Trout (who is being honored), people from Vonnegut's real life, and characters from the fictional parts of the book. It's nuts. It's nice.
There is a lot of this in-and-out structure. Sometimes we're talking about the timequake. Sometimes we're telling the story about what happened after it, the moment it ended when Trout was outside the American Academy of Arts and Letters building on W. 155th Street, next to the former home of the Museum of the American Indian -- which is, for certain, completely real -- and became a hero at last.
This. This real place. Very, very much of this book is the most utterly nonfiction thing I've read in any book, even the details in the fictional thoughts. He is writing memories on a theme, nonfiction fables of standing in line at the post office, ways of making jokes out of life, ways of making life meaningful, and stupid, stupid things that have happened. It is like Kurt Vonnegut's Livejournal. It is advice. And it is the barest, most open thing I think you could read. He gives his old home address! From his childhood in Indianapolis. Because he tells such unbelievable stories here, I even did some fact-checking to see how fanciful he got. But he really didn't do so. He even actually read the acceptance speech about nuclear annihilation for Andrei Sakharov on Staten Island in 1987 that by god I thought he made up. He didn't. It happened.
This kind of incredible mind-blowing realness of life is basically the exact subject of this book. How intense every odd moment we spend really is. He fills the book with them, about five dozen tiny chapters mostly just recording events like this, can you believe they happened. Sometimes he mocks himself for his theme, for making a big deal of it, but also, it's just the best subject there is; it's the only subject there is.
On Wikipedia, this book is called semi-autobiographical. I love that. It's impossible, but it's perfect....more