Someone down the line wrote "good, but not great," and I think a few others agreed with it. Inclined to lean that way, myself. On the one hand it surpSomeone down the line wrote "good, but not great," and I think a few others agreed with it. Inclined to lean that way, myself. On the one hand it surpasses a lot of the random novels I come across (even if it's somewhat less than random, since I had a class under the author), on the other it's surpassed by several other writers (albeit these are the same writers who surpass almost everyone in the past two hundred years).
I like the idea of rustic story that deals with Southeast Louisiana, mostly because such a setting necessitates the use of a language familiar to me and because it's not all that often that anyone manages to do it right. (For instance, he doesn't make the mistake of calling folks down that way Cajuns, Cajuns are something different.) I like the idea of oyster farmers, of the individual people who have to struggle against salt water incursions, increased traffic, and other problems that arise from what the way the oil companies have been carving up the land down there.
For me the heart of this, reason for sticking with it and enjoying it, was Therese Petitjean. She reminds me a lot of Raskalnikov, the kind of character governed by two principles, one a playful tomboy and hick and the other a calculating monster. I think he may have fallen a tad short of where he was aiming. In the case of Raskalnikov the twins bleed into each other to such an extreme that the question of who's the real Rodion Romanovich is a thought provoking one. I don't think you can apply the same end to Therese, she's the tomboy in one scene and the monster in another, her name's the most solid point linking the two. At root I think the past reviewers who said it's good but not great are right, it's like the novel needs a certain what's-it, a certain kick that would drive to the two Thereses into one and push the whole thing into a really great novel....more
We'll begin with the junior. I like Cable. I really like the way he writes and what he's writing about. I must, of course, tender this statement withWe'll begin with the junior. I like Cable. I really like the way he writes and what he's writing about. I must, of course, tender this statement with a caveat lector, as a man from New Orleans hearing of my home in the old days is something that will always give me particular pleasure. While my enthusiasm for Cable may in part be tied to this, I think he does go a measure beyond.
Cable was about ten years younger than Mark Twain. His innovation in dealing with black characters, (id est, getting past the myth of the happy go lucky slave), was not nearly so inventive as Nigger Jim. On the other hand he was also working in the last generation or two before William Faulkner, and so his use of realism would be overshadowed by that later genius. But, within the spectrum of late 19th century literature, Cable did some fantastic work. Really it's the first time I've found an American writer of that period to produce a page turner. I read The Grandissimes in half a week and that's with my habitual procrastination.
I would almost say Cable was intending a collection of stories here that have been tied together into a single narration. Each chapter could function as a separate unit without only marginal reference to the rest of the novel. While I don't know the man's history I know newspaper serializations were a lot more popular in the 19th century so there's a good chance the medium affected his writing. There is a definite beginning and something resembling an end with the space between serving as a middle, but it's not really a solid ending, lot of the climatic resolutions occur off stage. Honore f. m. c. does taking revenge for Palmyre on stage, but his death, Joseph's proposal, and so on all take place off. Narratively there are some 19th century quirks going on with the voice, but it's not nearly so bad as might be found in Jane Austen and a very far cry from the nonsense of Walter Scott.
This has been a rather uneven review and I expect all the first runs are going to look something like this, just me talking about the book and things that occurred to me. Later on I may do a more detailed review. For now let this suffice. The book is good. I would recommend it to anyone interested in Southern literature, especially if they're curious about the lit before Faulkner. As Cable was one of the few of the era who manages to divorce himself from Scott the resulting work becomes a real pleasure. Beyond that limited scope my recommendation becomes far less frequent. Much as I enjoyed it, it is very much a work of the 19th century and for that reason the pleasure I find is dependent upon my peculiar interests, against the modern scope I really don't see Cable earning that great an audience and if rather than in the 1880s this book were released today it would very likely ensure that his other works would not have made it to the press....more
I will be the first admit that I'm more than a little biased toward Shelby Foote. Like his friend, Walker Percy, there's just something in his hand thI will be the first admit that I'm more than a little biased toward Shelby Foote. Like his friend, Walker Percy, there's just something in his hand that speaks deeply to me, that draws me in close and says try this, you'll love it, and it's true. With a previous reviewer I do agree that there is some difficulty in fighting through each of the battles, or at least the major ones (minor ones tend to be brushed over with the simple reference to their being fought or as was the case with Lee's campaign in present West Virginia, a note that it didn't quite happen the way he wanted and why). Some portions were a struggle for me to get through, but these are more the space between battles: the endless maneuvers and debates. Once men move in to fight I'm all up and ready to fight. Strategy and tactics playing out, the intellectual process necessary to foresee what masses of men will do under such situations, these are just the sort of things I enjoy, much as I enjoy playing chess or writing a story. The political sections things step back and rest and that becomes more problematic for me insofar as maintaining attention when there are other more interesting things to be read.
I recommend this to anyone, or at the least any American. The Civil War is our Iliad and while Foote falls short of a Homer the Narrative definitely puts him in the ballpark to being our Gibbon. While the battles may be repetitious and the politics and maneuvers somewhat dry I do not feel that excising them or worse addressing them with broader brush strokes is entirely fitting. The subject is one with which we should be familiar because it is the foundation of who we are. It's the war that opened the doors for modernity and whipped the lot of us into it and completely redefined the culture in which we live. Given that importance I can find no justification for chopping the Civil War down to Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Appomattox, nor in chopping it to the life of U. S. Grant and R. E. Lee or whoever. Literally the only way I can see of fairly summing up the war is with a "general history" of the sort Polybius describes, which happens to be what the Narrative gives us....more