This book was like becoming able to scratch that one spot on your back that was always out of reach - very satisfying despite the relatively inapproprThis book was like becoming able to scratch that one spot on your back that was always out of reach - very satisfying despite the relatively inappropriate method used.
The review had set it up for me incorrectly though. It wasn’t that her tone changed towards the end, in fact it stayed perfectly consistent: brutally T.M.I.-ly honest. The sort of honest where it makes the tell-ing one feel better, and the listener feel possible worse. Because you really didn’t want to know those sorts of things, which range from superfluously excessive food-messiness to body smells and sounds to hysterically crude sexual references (for some, completely over-the-top I’d imagine), to biting class and other social human misbehaviors and eccentricities and religion and all that; all delivered with a clever deadpan wit that somehow brings us to the other side of the deeply plunging colorfully strobe-light-blinking abyss. With Heather as our guide, we do want to know all she tells us, and it feels great at the end -because- we know and because psychological slapstick can be as funny as physical and (likely most of all) because it wasn’t our life.
Heather’s writing style is impactful, constantly lobbing excrutiating moments at you (the reader) that take your breath away with how awful they are. And the way each episode is structured is like a multi-part firecracker. It starts with one single ingrediant. If you’ve caught on by this point, you’ll create images and arcs around what could happen based on that element. Then, she throws in two or three more. Then, she takes your story arc, bends it into some Escher creation, and the outcome is so -amazingly- much worse than you first thought of. It’s really mind-blowing, since it’s all relatively firmly anchored in the kind of mundane day-to-day real life aspects we all experience. Then it ends and the coast is clear until the next outbreak moments later of some other unadulterated catastrophe. Best of all, unlike shock-for-its-own-sake, Heather’s writing has a purpose and leads towards a great (albeit tragic) conclusion.
Excuse me a moment. Heather? Are you there? Listen, if you take reader requests, could you PLEASE write a sequel? Or a hundred sequels? I’m relatively fixated on the various potentials involved in what might happen … Next. Oh, god, I shudder to think, to an extent. But would really love to know. Of course, I’ll read anything you write at this point, starting with your previous book. But thought I’d put in my vote - a sequel would be awesome! Some things I was thinking about - insidious rebellion, maintaining meaningful ties despite certain bonds, and all the other parts of how she does do it (all the rest that lies ahead).. Since they only care about appearances after all, seems it would leave Jennifer with worlds of opportunity.
Ok, I’m back. So, here’s the story (in addition to what’s in the official review): Jennifer Johnson is the least prissy women either side of the Mississippi, and you’d better follow her example if you follow this invitation into her world. She has seen and experienced a lot, and processes it all with the jaundiced eye and crudely accurate and complete conversations with herself and her friends. Her closest friend, Christopher, is the ultimate gay bee, always true to her and their friendship. His partner Jeremy is sweet and well-meaning, but needs to read expiration dates more closely. Her work mate, Ted, has let himself blend in to the environment too much, and doesn’t rise above until really too late. Jennifer’s family is a cacophony of friction and distress but nonetheless, she is true to them when push comes to shove. Brad Keller? Oh, that’s Prince Charming. You know, like in the fairy tale. The fairy tale where the one-dimensional (and, to review, that one dimension is beauty of a thinness variety, certainly) girl finds her Prince Charming and lives happily ever after. This book is about that, only different. Much, much different: it’s a rework you could say, a customization to fit the modern day; or to fit as much as possible anyway.
One lesson I came away from this book with: there are two kinds of people in your life. Those who care and will become uncomfortable for you if it helps solve a problem or ease a pain, and those who are oblivious. And important distinction.
So this book, in reworking Prince Charming, is split into sections: find him, hunt him, nail him down. Your reaction to that? If you don’t think this book is for you, you’re probably right. Oh and by the way, this book has both women and men in it, and I’m sure there are men out there for whom reading this book would not cause any permanent damage. And I’d love to read the reactions of such men afterwards. I really think some would like it as much as I do, since they’re alive as well and everything.
Moments I loved (not in order): The dog eating what it shouldn’t have thing her dating profile-to-English translation phrasebook how much it is true that saying “atleast life can’t get any worse” is always a bad idea the clarity around the wrongness of the word ‘nuptial’ the employee team-building exercise the muffin scene the list of first date do’s and don’ts the wedding Jennifer shouldn’t have tried to go to the heavy-partying pity elf the scene with Jennifer breaking up with Brad, especially the third person also there Jennifer’s doll house catharsis activities the Heart Bears thing the green fluid explosion the skeweringly accurate capture of the flavor of discourse about women ‘losing a little weight’ the firemen scene, which was part of an action that I feel really did move Jennifer forward, no matter how messy it got. It just simply was useful for her, despite all that.
and so many more
Personal gain: the insight into the choices I have in the workplace to try and work up from least useful to most useful emotions, the healing aspects of curiosity, and the power of ‘chunking-it-down.’ Wow!
Ok, I'm officially giving up. Yes, I agree with my daughter that it's cool how the punishments fit the crime - like for theives, their own actual humanOk, I'm officially giving up. Yes, I agree with my daughter that it's cool how the punishments fit the crime - like for theives, their own actual human form keeps getting stolen and they are forced to shape-shift into reptilian form and back. Awesome.
But the payoff is insufficient.
How do I dislike these? Let me enumerate some of the ways:
Zillions of references to local politics of Italy circa 700AD - don't know, not that interested honestly.
Millions of references to mythology - don't know, so don't get it, and don't care very much.
Each bit of content is very short: a meeting, a conversation, a response, on to the next thing. All extremely episodic and lots of work digging in to all the meanings and allusions only to be suddenly finished. Blah.
In between that kind of content, these opaque place-descriptions and movement descriptions - lots of work, don't care that much.
Painting of Jews and Muslims as evil, by the way (unless I'm interpreting it wrong) - not surprising, since it's Christian-oriented. But unpleasant and off-putting.
Plus the whole thing about Virgil having been in Hell briefly due to living just before Christ was born. He was Roman though, right? The Romans didn't become Christian till Constantine (interesting story about that included - the leprosy and all); so he didn't really 'just miss' being born whole and living a life of grace. He just missed taking part of the gleeful persecution of Christ.
Which is fine, but it's like, the little bit that I do know of the situation underlying all this is out of kilter.
But I'm very happy to have been exposed to it. Honestly, I feel like - the people living then thought all these big thoughts? And wrote so ornately? And were that smart? And had that much history? It makes me remember how rich and textured human history is, going that far back.
So, there is that.
May use it for sleep-induction from time to time, or when feeling too content with my day or something. For the most part though, I declare myself finished with it. Bah!...more
Had heard of this, and formed and impression of this, based on other things I read in Women's Studies in the 80's. But for the first time picked up aHad heard of this, and formed and impression of this, based on other things I read in Women's Studies in the 80's. But for the first time picked up a copy at my daughter's school library, waiting for a meeting to start. I really like the tone of it.. Another Chicagoan! Looking forward to reading it all.
Her description of the way the ghetto-izing schools of Chicago intentionally robbed their students of an education, and the effect on her, is shocking. Also her description of her Dad's efforts to gain justice the 'right' way, and, again, the effects on her, hard to even imagine.
The format - part prose, part play - is jangling, but worth it of course.
It's sooo tragic how young she died (at age 34 in 1965)! All sixty-one of the artists who took place in the telling of 'Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words' to commemorate her on the second anniversary of her death, including Anne Bancroft, Lauren Bacall, Ralph Bellamy, Bette Davis, Ruby Dee, Colleen Dewhurst, Rita Moreno, Paul Robeson, Sidney Poitier, Maureen Stapleton, Rod Steiger and so many more - I'm even bigger fans of all of them....more
Proulx loads up meaning into her fewest possible words - like the chocolate chip cookies they load into a cup at the“His loneliness was not innocent.”
Proulx loads up meaning into her fewest possible words - like the chocolate chip cookies they load into a cup at the Sweet Martha’s booth in the Minnesota State Fair, so high you have to put your hand on top or you’ll lose some as you walk away - so once used to that, you get in the habit of quickly knowing all that is suggested.
But, in this book, some suggestions are left even more than that to the reader to fill in, like the one I started this review with. One can know things from that and related content, or not.
In all, it’s fascinating.. and lividly terrible, the story of US in post-WWII, seared with personal stories of all kinds, mainly various flavors of wrenching tragedy. Loyal makes the possible and often the extraordinary effort to do good, which feels good to read about but also makes the pain of it all that much sharper. Readers, beware!
I like this quiet, gentle, sweet book; the two main characters are a bit world-weary, having experienced harshnesses in life such that they don't takeI like this quiet, gentle, sweet book; the two main characters are a bit world-weary, having experienced harshnesses in life such that they don't take good for granted. They don't know each other at the outset of when this book is set; a baby is dropped off and they rebel at first individually, but for both it is a perfect element in their lives. And so far their fears prove unfounded and life is unfolding in its own, sweet way. Reminds me a bit of Margaret Atwood's 'Bean Trees', only that was much, much more difficult to get in to. Lovely..
I also really like how, for the older woman (who owns the estate where the baby was left), time is fluid and the past is present; some times she'll have a conversation with someone in the present moment, interspersed with a self-conversation about the past, or a conversation with someone from the past, or a conversation replay, etc.. Works for me.
Seems like this could make a great film.
Finished it - so sad! But very excellent. Sitting and stewing about the way things ended up going, I guess it is good in many ways; and leaves many good open doors for the favorites to go through in the future. A sequel or semi-sequel etc.. would be delightful, Skip is such a dear character.
Will try and write a proper review for once, by and by. Some themes, such as seeing reality clearly, people's ability to create themselves - regardless of family etc.. - as they choose, and the effects of our choices, I'll mull a bit first....more
I feel like this is a book which, to read it, I would need to be much more prepared than I currently am: more knowledgeable about India and her historI feel like this is a book which, to read it, I would need to be much more prepared than I currently am: more knowledgeable about India and her history, more able to track complex plots, more joyful about magical-type writing styles, and more anchored enough to be able to withstand the immense tugs of such wildness and chaos.
And/or, a few strong, proud volunteers who commit themselves to answering all my questions about it as I read: knowing full well there could be zillions and zillions. Cause sometimes I can just skip over things that confuse me, but that doesn't feel like a workable strategy with this.
Until then, I just need to wait patiently and collect resources and become my best self.....more
My daughter's English class' next book assignment. So, early preparation is key! I approach Shakespeare with trepidation. But this is kind of the mostMy daughter's English class' next book assignment. So, early preparation is key! I approach Shakespeare with trepidation. But this is kind of the most 'fun' one, carrying as it does so much superstition in the theater world, and having ghosts and witches and whatnot. And this edition looks like it makes it as manageable as possible.
After: on multiple levels: yuck. The three portents were familiar, must have read this in high school too. Noted this time the Christian terminology; and the notes mention that this may have been an aspect of the witch hunts which tore through multiple communities in paroxysms of hate. And there's a derogatory reference to Irish soldiers. Apart from all that, violence and evil within comes out and causes much grief and damage and then is answered. Thinking not to read this many more times hopefully.
It's interesting about how Macbeth wrote this in answer to King James I giving him praise and societal position etc.., and so changed details of what was presented accordingly.
Was fun to unlock the language to an extent though!...more
Interesting suggestion from another GR'er - 'the 5th and final volume of Joseph Frank's colossal bio of Dostoyevsky, "The Mantle of the Prophet," whicInteresting suggestion from another GR'er - 'the 5th and final volume of Joseph Frank's colossal bio of Dostoyevsky, "The Mantle of the Prophet," which includes detailed critical reading of Bros K. A most worthy companion to the novel'....more
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 oTruly 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....more
Am currently using this to learn Hindi, slowly but surely. Am actually creating my own dictionary - first was hand written, but now have started usingAm currently using this to learn Hindi, slowly but surely. Am actually creating my own dictionary - first was hand written, but now have started using Baraha to do it on the computer. Very time intensive! But I want to have a dictionary that includes word origins and word usages, just like a high-end english dictionary. And the process of creating it is of course a useful learning process. Just wish I could have more lifetimes to live, one is too restrictive! Anyway, this one is pretty good I guess (don't really know enough to judge), their use of transliteration is inconsistent, which is among the reasons I'm creating my own. ...more
My edition actually is copyright 2003. This book is good, I guess..learning on my own as I am, it moves too fast. I've used other books, and I watch aMy edition actually is copyright 2003. This book is good, I guess..learning on my own as I am, it moves too fast. I've used other books, and I watch a lot of films, and over time it's becoming less intimidating. I like the conversational aspect of it. The information on the Indian Swastika was very useful. The different sections in the back are nice, the handwritten part, etc.. the dictionary section is very pithy of course. And, of course, I wish everyone used the same transliteration scheme. The Baraha software uses a different system from any of the books: it's all a bit exhausting, as I'm more visual than hearing- based. But I'll just keep going.....more
This collection of short stories is massive and fascinating; succeeding in its goal (in my opinion) of presenting life at the edge of multiple cultureThis 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....more