Must read this again! After 'To Kill a Mockingbird', and being hemmed in to the one character's point-of-view, I've been very much missing a multi-pov...moreMust read this again! After 'To Kill a Mockingbird', and being hemmed in to the one character's point-of-view, I've been very much missing a multi-pov experience. This book was one of my first experiences of it, and one I really enjoyed. Also, the subject, WWII, is very current for me right now as well, and it's been well over 10 years since I read this last, so it will be perfect. Much as re-reading things when I have so many new things waiting to be read heightens my impatience for the rest, in this case I'm sure it will be worth it.
But now I can't find my copy, urgh! This is supposed to be one of the ones that's always right at hand. Not ok.. Then, M&Q, used books - no copy! Urgh! Soon though.. soon....(less)
A fascinating thing about this which I hadn't been aware of from my previous exposure to it is that is was one of Steinbecks's format/genre experiment...moreA fascinating thing about this which I hadn't been aware of from my previous exposure to it is that is was one of Steinbecks's format/genre experiments. In this work, Steinbeck created a new genre: the play/novelette. '"The work I am doing now," he wrote to his agents in April 1936, "is neither a novel nor a play but it is a kind of playable novel. Written in novel form but so scened and set that it can be played as it stands. It wouldn't be like other plays since it does not follow the formal acts but uses the chapters for curtains. Descriptions can be used for stage directions... Plays are hard to read so this will make both a novel and play as it stands." Anticipating postmodernists, Steinbeck was to declare wtih greater and greater frequency in the late 1930s and '40s that the novel was dead, whereas theater was "waking up," was fresh and challenging.' And in fact, he sent it to his publishers in late summer of 1936; it was published on February 25, 1937 (for $2 per copy); was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection in March; was performed as written by Theater Union of San Francisco with an opening on May 21, 1937; then performed as a modified version at Music Box Theater in New York opening November 23, 1937; and released as a film in 1939. It was very controversial, banned in Australia in 1940; one of the most frequently banned books by school board over the years. '"The first few pages so nauseated me," wrote the reviewer for 'The Catholic World,' "That I couldn't bear to keep it in my room over night."' "Morbid and degenerate" content was why another showing of it was condemned. And the reason for all the hoo-ha? The truth of it. The hopelessness and loneliness of the group of people Steinbeck gives life to - the landless white male agricultural workers of the 1930's. Also, he used actual dialect which was still new back then. Included in the dialect is racist language in use back then, as his characters would not have been honest without it. Probably some bannings were due simply to the use of the 'n' word, although most programs that use it now include context for that which is a response to it that contains the intended respect while also containing discussion that can be so useful to unlearning racism. Another interesting content item about race is a momentary scene in which a white woman brings to the attention of a black man her ability to get him lynched. It's brutal, and then it's over and the action continues and it fades into unimportance - all of which serves as a reminder of our shared history festering with racism; and how far we as a country have come. (i'm adding that scene to quotes for this book). It's a very quick read for all that, and very enjoyable actually just for the intensity of description. This felt to me like one of those quick-action films, only the super-short scenes are ones you create in your own mind, as written by Steinbeck. Somehow he packs in vivid visual content and well-drawn characters in an almost poetically pithy writing style. Highly recommend.(less)
Very harsh point of view, but understandable. I had recommended this to a German relative of mine, then I re-read it, and then retracted my recommenda...moreVery harsh point of view, but understandable. I had recommended this to a German relative of mine, then I re-read it, and then retracted my recommendation to him because I felt like the German-bashing parts were something that - for him - would offset the utility of it. I mean, we all know now, and those parts feel excessive potentially. At the time it was written though, the mainstream US population had not yet known (is one story, anyway.) Is crucial in-and-of itself, and for Vonnegut's trajectory as a great writer (IMHO).(less)
Part way through: I really love the part where her friend tells her to petition God for what she wants, and then list all who would sign the petition,...morePart way through: I really love the part where her friend tells her to petition God for what she wants, and then list all who would sign the petition, and she ends up listing this huge group of people.. delightful idea.
A little farther: Now in Italy, I'm just so weirded out by the tone. Because, we know she's a grown woman, that's been established. But her tone - to me - is more like a 12-15 year old girl. The resolute silliness, the resolute studiousness, the resolute traveler; that overly, consciously, 'I'm going to be this because I've decided to be' - seems a way younger point-of-view that what is supposed to be the case.
So I hold the book - figuratively - way farther away than arm's length, because I have no idea what to expect. If it's not real, then the door is open for just about anything.
Ok, now I like it again, the part about where she writes in her most-personal notebook and a self (of some sort) answers, perhaps " 'locutions' - words from the supernatural that enter the mind subconsciously, offering heavenly consolation," .. "But the very fact that this world is so challenging is exactly why you sometimes must reach out of its jurisdiction for help..". p. 53.
Very tedious going, at the end of Italy, for me. The problem with being excessively self-indulgent is that there's a large risk of being *too* excessively self-indulgent, and for me, she's there. Her paradigm seems to be that the reader will be unquestionably interested in every foible of her and her journey, writ across the landscape of this or that foreign locale. For me, I'm not interested sufficiently and the locale-as-backdrop doesn't delight. Her life - especially around the central issues (for her) of whether to 'have kids' or not and how to best deal with her relatively substantial mental/emotional health challenges - is different enough from mine as to make it irrelevant on the personal level she's writing at. She could have translated it into more universal applicability, which she does from time to time and I get something from it then, but otherwise the repelling forces are great.
Maybe it'll turn another corner for me soon though, I would really like to finish it.
Oh, and one more big difference - she's totally male-focused, as in she has been in one relationship or another since she was a teenager. Me - I'm a solitaire. So another repelling force. And now, in the Ashram, she's latching on to a guy who makes all her struggles there easier. Great.
Ok, then I also really like the part on p. 184-185, the ritual to let things go. Shit like that, you know, always useful to have in mind. Cause seems like the times we need ideas like this is the time when we forget all such ideas, and so having them nearby is good.
Her tone towards various things including aspects of India is how I'd imagined it would be - unselfconsciously flippant. As Americans, I still hope for better of us, one of these eons. Like one part, she's talking to a young girl about what makes a woman harder to marry off, and light skin is a positive. She compares herself to the checklist later, and concludes, 'Well, atleast my skin is light. I have that going for me.' Yeah, unawareness of all the situations and realities around light-skin privilege sure does make things happy and nice...
Once I'm done I'll turn this into some actual review-type thing, but right now snarky works for me.
On the other hand, I really like the part about her process with tehe Gurugita.
I also like her idea about fate vs. free will, and the two horses (just added it as a quote), and that the trick is to tell the two apart. Which is similar to the Serenity prayer, the strength to tell the difference between what we can change and what we must accept.
I got it - this is a gemini book! Two disparate selves, polar in various ways. Atleast for me.
So I'm pretty comfortable with most of the spirituality stuff, and still on a spectrum of dislike with much of the personal content the author shares.
There's content that makes me cringe as an American white woman; kind of a 'more things change, more they stay the same' feeling - the condescending tone, the feel that the world is her playground.
But the optimist in me likes to see it as imperfect, strenuously slow progress. In that: she's written it, thinking it was great and all ok. I and others read it, seeing progress to be made. The next book will be written by an author who things it's great; others will read it and see further progress to be made.
Being aware of the deficiencies may feel like it puts the goal further away, but it's actually a necessary part of goal-attainment: re-calculating the goal in reference to one's position from time to time makes it much more likely that it will be eventually attained than if one starts off and ignores the goal altogether, all happy and self-satisfied. And if the goal keeps getting extended/re-defined; one's journey may surpass earlier goals as it continues, bringing one to new, previously-unimagined heights.
Woo-hoo! Finished it! Yeah for me.. Will finish this review shortly..(less)
After fresh re-read, August 2010: I am very glad to have finally re-read this! It was fascinating for itself, and then also for comparing it now to my...moreAfter fresh re-read, August 2010: I am very glad to have finally re-read this! It was fascinating for itself, and then also for comparing it now to my memories of it and experiences of it when I'd read it before. Many aspects that had really bothered me before - much of the content set in asylums - didn't *bother* me as much this time. Not that I didn't respond to it as negative and all. But with the passage of time, I think we build up a sense of ourselves and our place in the world, and that structure gives comfort which I didn't yet possess back then, an accumulated vantage point. I think about that a lot in the process of being a mother, selecting shared experiences with my daughter based on an assessment of where she's at, etc.. Anyway, I was even more positively affected this time by her utopia - she weaves in so many things that are only just now becoming topics of conversation in the mainstream, many that haven't yet been as well. I was really curious in this reading to discover and identify her suggested answer, suggested path, suggested response to 'all that's going on', and, after finishing, I'm not sure I can exactly identify it. I'm not sure Marge actually provides that on a silver platter. At one point midway through, the utopia folks speak of rejecting the idea of revolution, and instead speaking to change happening slowly through the actions of individuals etc..; but at the end, the action she herself (Connie) takes isn't at all a useful example for me to follow. I had been thinking about connections between her work and Aquarian Conspiracy, I had - in the intervening years - added my own content to this work; in which the Utopia folks request that Connie engage in specific lifestyle-actions or intention-based actions that will (in and of themselves) result in their version of reality becoming stronger. But I really didn't find content like that exactly. In fact, I was a bit disappointed in that they clearly put a high priority on contacting her, they intimate to Connie that she's important, but it's never really clear: important in what way? Or perhaps it is clear, but I was so set on reading what I had imagined was written, I was distracted from the actual printed story. Because, from A.C. and other things, I've developed a personal belief that every action of ours strengthens 'a' future reality, and we constantly get to choose which reality we strengthen. I had hoped to read that clearly here, but couldn't find it. None the less, it was fascinating and delightful and nourishing and pleasurable for me.. Now that I am familiar with Proulx, I do find similarities between the two. The difference for me is that, while Piercy can be just as brutal, she does provide offsetting pleasure - Proulx (in my experience) really doesn't. I like that about Piercy. But I enjoy their searingly honest writing very much as well.
Original initial GR review: Loved it, read it long ago, still comes to mind regularly - as to the choices we make, and potential impacts. For instance. Initially read around Jan 1987 I think.(less)
Has been among those things which formed the basis of my political self all along. The idea that direct action is often too risky and often ineffectiv...moreHas been among those things which formed the basis of my political self all along. The idea that direct action is often too risky and often ineffective; and that more simply 'breathing with' one's kindred spirits can be as/more effective - while being by definition less risky - has enormous appeal to me. Actually only read the first chapter all the way through, and then skimmed the others; but the amazing content is laid out pretty completely in that one chapter. I also use to read her brain journal back then, also very good and absorbing.(less)
This book appealed to me from my parent's bookshelves from a young age - younger than 10 for sure. I tried multiple times to read it, but didn't actua...moreThis book appealed to me from my parent's bookshelves from a young age - younger than 10 for sure. I tried multiple times to read it, but didn't actually make it through it all until I was in the 16-18 age range. Was very pleased then - the text is so dense! But a lot of it is totally fascinating to me: the psyche content of course; and then the whole content about classical vs. romantic ways of thinking and living. Formed a basis for what I now understand to be a post-modern way of living - making choices consciously about how to think, and the various manners of life. And certainly the voice is difficult/annoying a lot of the time, but such is life. The good comes with a struggle... oh, wait: 'nothing good comes easy', that's the phrase. So be it.(less)
I just love these. Actually heard them more then read them - grew up listening to an album my parents gave me of him reading his stories. So imaginati...moreI just love these. Actually heard them more then read them - grew up listening to an album my parents gave me of him reading his stories. So imaginative and rich. Very luscious!(less)
Truly wonderful and amazing. I'd loved this as a child, and although mine never was as much a bookworm as me, she also did.
In college I did a paper o...moreTruly wonderful and amazing. I'd loved this as a child, and although mine never was as much a bookworm as me, she also did.
In college I did a paper on it, in my master's-level class on 'Chaos and Complexity'. The reason was that it turns out that all these different sorts of people think it's written solely for and about them: mathematicians, gamers, politicians, musicians, writers, etc.. It's a complex system in that way, and still endlessly fascinates me.(less)
This is one of the books that I indexed during that phase of my life. I really enjoyed working with it, found the content absolutely fascinating. Each...moreThis is one of the books that I indexed during that phase of my life. I really enjoyed working with it, found the content absolutely fascinating. Each chapter explores a religion, and the psychological make up of its adherents. Also basics about how that religion deals with ideas of sin, sex, place of women, heaven, etc.. Learned some things that have formed a crucial basis of understanding, which I really appreciate in these days of religion-fueled politics. Time read is approximate.(less)
This collection of short stories is massive and fascinating; succeeding in its goal (in my opinion) of presenting life at the edge of multiple culture...moreThis collection of short stories is massive and fascinating; succeeding in its goal (in my opinion) of presenting life at the edge of multiple cultures as lived by folks of South Asian ethnicity. First, about the name. The word 'wallah' in South Asia means some or all of the following: vendor of, craftsman of, expert in. It is a very common term there, and carries connotations of abundant supply of all that is good. In the introduction the editor, Shyam Selvadurai, describes his journey and struggle of self-identification as he went from Sri Lanka to Canada (moved at 19). He uses the term diaspora over immigrant to include weight to each person's (sometimes secret) history, and also to include the struggles of each person in reshaping their identity in relation to both their old and new home. Those areas are some of the main essential contents of this collection. While these themes are very specific, the truth of them reaches the universal. For instance, in Anita Desai's 'Winterscape,' the space between people who are in intimate relationships is explored with ringing clarity. Anita clearly creates four characters: a man who moved to the West, the white woman he married, and the man's two mothers who remained in India. And the moment captured is his wife's defining as 'other' the man's two moms, in their reaction to snow. He feels bewildered and somewhat hurt by her reaction. In that is contained so much of the human experience: and thinking about ok/not ok; good/ bad fascinates me. Another universal (and particular) aspect of life included in this collection is religious extremism, which is cut wide open in Zulfikar Ghose's 'The Marble Dome,' which explores Pakistani society and is another of my favorites. In editing this collection, Shyam includes aspects of his own being. One of those aspects is that he is gay which - in many South Asian cultures - continues to be outside the definition of normal. I realized when I was reading some of the stories that I was reacting as myself, a straight-but-not-narrow US resident who's been aware and supporting of lgbtq culture for over 20 years; and that the cultures involved in these diasporas were very different. In those contexts, the sub-set of these stories with lgbtq content are ground-breaking, brave and probably difficult for many in the intended audience. Two in particular are especially poignant. The first, by Shyam Selvadurai himself, is called 'Pigs Can't Fly,' and tells the story of gender definitions being imposed on a person who had been happily living outside the norm to that point. His mother, answering the question of 'Why?' would say: "Because the sky is so high and pigs can't fly, that's why." Seems as valid a support for normalcy as anything I've ever come across! The second, Sandip Roy’s ‘Auld Lang Syne’ has lingered on my mind. It is about the reunion of two men who had been lovers, on the return of one from San Francisco to India. And mentions a third man, a mutual friend of these two, who has committed suicide. It shows the three choices available to people outside their culture's norms: escape away, suicide, stay and pretend and be internally dead. That later choice is in place for millions of course, in every community almost, required by a variety of conditions. Brings 'Angels in America' and 'Brokeback Mountain' to mind, which show that the pain and damage of that choice is not restricted to the individual, but is shared by their spouse and others. Other themes in this ambitious collection include cultural differences related to historical and cultural variations. He discusses in the introduction some of these primary divisions: the first wave of movement in the 1830's, when South Asians were brought in to many British colonies (in particular) to replace slaves; the second movement beginning in the mid-1950's, in which people moved to major metropolitan centers of the West. One fascinating tidbit about British motives in encouraging businesses to import South Asian populations: 'The aim was to get people in as guest workers who, even after they acquired citizenship, would continue to function as "passive citizens" as opposed to "active citizens" who participated and represented the nation-state of Britain." That is fascinating to me, but not referenced, and the stories (those few set in England) don't really get into that sort of political question at all. I'd love to learn more about that. Anyway, additional variances among the writers he describes include relationship to South Asia - some were born elsewhere and have never visited, most travel back intermittently, regularly or frequently. Some are 1st generation, others are 2nd, 3rd, even 4th generation. While this anthology is in English, the language is a huge variability, as native vernacular is used in quite a few stories (mainly those by writers of that earlier migration): and for me that was a big challenge. In a longer work incorporating native voice, one gets used to it. In this collection, each time it's a transition to master, and each vernacular is significantly different. Fascinating, but I hadn't been ready for that. I personally found it challenging as well to determine the setting of each story, the time period, and details like that. Comes with the short-story territory; and I am disadvantaged with not having the background to catch the significance of the information that is given much of the time. What it all adds up to is that this collection of short stories both demands and rewards active reading. Prior to reading each story, there is information available about the writer and their context that is of use to contextualize their work; the content then is rich and varied on all these multiple axis. And be warned: Shyam is apparently among those who believe that Indian Diaspora in inextricably linked with India’s extreme poverty: the last story in the collection - 'Chokra', by Numair Choudhury - is a short, brutal instance of that shocking misery. This would be a great book to include for any number of classes on culture, history, identity, population, work, many different topics. I personally would encourage the reader to take your time and read according to what you are seeking and/or slowly, one at a time. Rushing through would only dilute the essence and dull the fine points of this breathtaking collection.(less)
He shouldn't be dead. I was carrying a computer monitor from one work station to another when someone came around a turn in the hallway and said it. H...moreHe shouldn't be dead. I was carrying a computer monitor from one work station to another when someone came around a turn in the hallway and said it. Horrible. So, so wrong. Franken needs to win. Dammit. The book would be good to read as well.(less)