Mark Twain once made that comment about classics being books that everyone talks about but no one reads, and it might be no truer than with Proust monMark Twain once made that comment about classics being books that everyone talks about but no one reads, and it might be no truer than with Proust monumental Remembrance of Things Past. I spent '07 trying to get through Volume 1 and I'll spend '08 on Volume 2. I love Proust at his best, and there's certainly a great deal here for Lit Majors or Professors to talk about, mull over, write papers on, etc. but the problem is that I'm neither these days, and my enjoyment is limited to passages that make me see life in ways I never had before.
This is what Proust is best at. He takes the most mundane experience and elevates it to the level of poetry. He obssesses over a gesture and glint of sunlight on a cupboard door and he makes us feel it, takes our breath away. Of course, when he gets into French politics and the society of his time, my attention wanes, and he completely loses me to when he writes of women's personalities.
Truth be told, I see the completion of this book as a challenge to myself and I enjoy it in small doses, but I don't imagine there are many out there who could sit down and read the whole work cover to cover in a month or two. It's a bit to wearing and wearying. ...more
The most interesting thing in this book is the humanity of its historical figures. What we have with Mayflower is not a book in which all English wereThe most interesting thing in this book is the humanity of its historical figures. What we have with Mayflower is not a book in which all English were evil, land-hungry zealots bent on the genocide of a native population and all Native Americans are perfect Edenic people living in close harmony with the earth and land before the devilish white man shows up; what we have is a story in which flawed people both acheive great things and committ terrible acts. Mayflower gives us what feels to me to be the most well-balanced story of the conflict and friendship between the pilgrims and the Indians that I've ever encountered.
One of the most common reasons given for the study of history is that the only way to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past is to understand how they happened. I've encountered a number of people who think of Thanksgiving as the simplistic story we're fed in grade school, and of course, anyone with a bit of education beyond that level knows this isn't true. And I've also met people who are so outraged by the treatment of the native population over the past 200 years that they go to the oppoisite end of the spectrum in which they claim that these people were pretty much the perfect example of a utopian society before Europeans arrived. But as Mayflower shows us, neither of these perspectives are true. Some Indians double crossed and sold out one another in the interest of ascending to power (Squanto, in fact, was among these, having been one of the first and only Indians who could speak English upon the pilgrims arrival), and some English stood up for Indian rights and insisted that Eurpoeans should live in harmony with the native population instead of stealing their land and warring with them (although it is rather unfortunately that this was a minority and didn't have the impact of stopping the rampant savagery perpetrated by the government toward the Indians).
That being said, one of the most intersting things that this book demonstrates is the way in which a governmental power can turn a war between two factions (in this case between the Plymouth Colony and the Pokanokets) into a conflict encompassing an entire race of people (between people's of English Descent and several different Indian tribes) through ignorance and fear. Nathanial Philbrick shows us the ways in which peaceful tribes who wished to avoid the conflict were drawn in simply because they looked like the enemy. Sound familiar? It should because it goes on and on even in this day and age. The question, of course, remains that if human beings have been behaving this way for centuries, how can such behavior be changed?...more
Bukowski can be a breath of fresh air, and Post Office reminds me that the best writing results for allowing an individual voice to flow. Often peopleBukowski can be a breath of fresh air, and Post Office reminds me that the best writing results for allowing an individual voice to flow. Often people try to emulate Bukowski in the way they try to emulate someone like Raymond Carver. But it can't necessarily be done.
Post Office tells the story of the 12 years he worked for the goverment delivering mail, and it's told with wit and humor, and a touch of the sadness in life. The language is simple and sparse, but effective. And it's a quick read (I read it in three or four hours in the course of an afternoon). Recommended for anyone looking to cut through literary poetic bullshit and get a good slice of life piece. ...more
As I was finishing Gravity's Rainbow (took me 2 months), I started kicking around an question that hadn't necessarily occured to me when I started: AmAs I was finishing Gravity's Rainbow (took me 2 months), I started kicking around an question that hadn't necessarily occured to me when I started: Am I really intended to understand everything that's going on in this book? And if approached with the answer of "no," Gravity's Rainbow is an enjoyable experience. I started off slowly in the attempt to take in every word and comprehend everything that was going on, but as I read an reread, I realized that some of this stuff was either above my head or completely incomprehensible without a study guide or a graduate course and I should simply try to extract from the experience what I could rather than try to understand it in its entirety.
Unlike other high-brow writers such as Joyce or Nabokov, Pynchon uses a low-brow, toilet humor that lends him an immediacy and accessibility not found in Ulysses or Lolita/Ada (okay, it's arguable, but when Nabokov and Joyce make jokes...um, face it people, they're not really that funny) and the periods of lucidity and of tangible plot within Pynchon's work are intriguing. He writes with a genuine love of language and can weave a spell-binding web with poetic, descriptive lines that draws a reader in, although at times, the text is incredibly difficult (sometimes painful) to wade through.
In particular, I found the story of Pokler (one of hundreds of characters) caught my attention, for the questions it raised. Although it may only occupy 30 pages of the book, I felt an emotional attachment to this German scientist that I wasn't able to form with any of the others in the book. Basically, Pokler is an important figure in the development of the V2 rocket for the Germans, but he's not necessarily the most willing or happy of workers. His wife and daughter are in a concentration camp somewhere and his superiors hold this against him like a carrot at the end of a stick. Each year for a few days, his daughter is sent to visit him, and then taken away unexpected without the benefit of a goodbye. Of course, each year, he's not certain as to whether it is the same girl or even his daughter at all, but he pretends that she is simply because he needs that connection to survive, to keep himself sane. The story is an unsettling examination of familial relationships and the idea of identity, and its worth reading the book if only for this small section.
Of course, the rest of the novel had its moments, but none so poignant for me as that of Pokler's work on the rocket and his relationship with his daughter. There are times when a reader has to wade through examinations of corporate conspiracy ("They" being a main, unidentified force throughout) and descriptions of the science behind rocket feul, and at these times Gravity's Rainbow is completely overwhelming. But then again, perhaps Pynchon's point is to make you feel as lost in the novel as people do in modern life. Certain things don't make much sense; but hey, when you look out at the complexities of the world, is the society we live in any different?...more