As a writer, I am amazed by Woolf's stunning use of the omniscient POV. This novel is in itself a kind of "argument" for the roving POV, particularlyAs a writer, I am amazed by Woolf's stunning use of the omniscient POV. This novel is in itself a kind of "argument" for the roving POV, particularly because of the ensemble-cast dynamic. The last section at Clarissa's party is brilliant. We see every character from the inside-out, deep and wide, from all angles.
Some favorite quotes:
"...she [Clarissa:] wanted support. Not that she was weak. But she wanted support."
"The differences between one man and another amounted to nothing much anyway..." (Lady Bruton)
"...the privacy of the soul..." (Elizabeth Dalloway)
"And why shouldn't she call him Wickham?" (Sally Seton--this line alone characterizes both Sally and Richard so beautifully!)
In the end, Sally Seton and Peter Walsh, in addition to Clarissa, are the most compelling characters. I had a harder time connecting with the sections about the Warren Smiths--altho Dr. Bradshaw's appearance at Clarissa's party at the end locks it all together with a pop. When I finished I had such a sense of gratitude--for Virginia Woolf's life and the gifts she shared with us, her readers.
I really really struggled to get through this. I couldn't at this point tell you why. Courtroom psychology, monologue-heavy melodrama -- I just couldnI really really struggled to get through this. I couldn't at this point tell you why. Courtroom psychology, monologue-heavy melodrama -- I just couldn't engage....more
This is one of the best books you've never heard of. It came to my attention via my editor, who is also Carrie Tiffany's editor. The book won accoladeThis is one of the best books you've never heard of. It came to my attention via my editor, who is also Carrie Tiffany's editor. The book won accolades and awards throughout the Commonwealth, but never quite found an audience in the US.
The story takes place in rural Australia in the 1930s. I picked up the book during a time when I was having trouble finishing books, my mind just wasn't getting traction anywhere. This one drew me in immediately, and I read it in a few days. When a novel which is set in a place and time that has absolutely nothing to do with you can draw you in like that, the writer immediately has my admiration.
I'd put this in a loose category I have in my mind called "Novels featuring female protagonists who are emotionally remote." If this is a genre you enjoy, or even try to write, I'd highly recommend this one. If you liked Marilynne Robinson's "Housekeeping," I think you'd like this one. It is strange, lovely, and sad; you'll never forget it....more
Reflecting on what was most engaging about this reading experience, i.e. what stayed with me, makes me think about this major transitional moment we'rReflecting on what was most engaging about this reading experience, i.e. what stayed with me, makes me think about this major transitional moment we're in right now--historically, culturally, morally. The character Eugenie de Rastignac is a young upstart--smart, naive, charming, but poor. He begins his journey characterized by one central driving trait: ambition. It's a brilliant novelistic starting point, because there is so much force behind that trait, and because it can head off in any direction.
Describing President Obama the other night, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin used the word "ambitious" and said, "As long as your ambition is attached to good and noble goals, ambition can be a great thing." What kept my emotional attention reading "Pere Goriot" was--as we say in The Writing Class--the Major Dramatic Question of whether de Rastignac's ambition would drive him to evolve or devolve in character. Would he "fall" into self-indulgence, malice, petty-ness; or would he grow and deepen in compassion, wisdom, truth. At every turn, really right up to the end, we are not quite sure how he'll respond to each dramatic event; we feel, all throughout the story, the precariousness and impressionability of his potential.
Who knows, maybe the page-turning novel of moral character will soon be back in style. ...more
I am someone who actually had a "conversion moment," a moment when I knew, I decided, I had to be a writer. This is the book that did it for me (DillaI am someone who actually had a "conversion moment," a moment when I knew, I decided, I had to be a writer. This is the book that did it for me (Dillard's essay "Holy the Firm" played a part as well). This idea of roaming the earth like a giant eyeball, seeing and meditating on existence in a way that is simultaneously cerebral, physical, emotional, theological, and spiritual--so deeply ALL of these things--overwhelmed me in a way that left me, literally, breathless. Dillard is a kind of genius--a very particular kind of genius, a wholly original mind. She does things with language one could never "teach" or "learn." Seeing the world through her mind and her senses is so disorienting and illuminating at the same time. How can a writer be so lucid and so opaque at once? She knocks you off your "stable" view, she makes you wonder if you are really alive and impresses upon you the urgency of finding out....more
During the '07-08 Presidential campaign, I became obsessed with Presidential history. I saw the bio-documentary on Carter--Jonathan Demme's MAN FROM PDuring the '07-08 Presidential campaign, I became obsessed with Presidential history. I saw the bio-documentary on Carter--Jonathan Demme's MAN FROM PLAINS--and then began reading books by and about Carter. This one is lovely--a spare, quiet account of his childhood in Plains, GA. You learn so much about him--the man he is, the way he approached governing, why he may have failed as a politician and returned to Plains exactly the same person he was when he left. You get a deep sense of life on an entrepreneurial farm in post-depression America, and of life in the rural South--what's changed and what hasn't. If you're interested in rural or small-farm life, and not at all interested in politics or Jimmy Carter, you'll still enjoy this a lot, maybe even more. ...more
I'd say this is the best book on the art of fiction to date--and I've got Gardner, Lamott, Burroway, Lodge, Gotham Writers, and O'Connor under my beltI'd say this is the best book on the art of fiction to date--and I've got Gardner, Lamott, Burroway, Lodge, Gotham Writers, and O'Connor under my belt. Wood approaches craft elements with such simplicity and yet such nuanced complexity--this dual effect is brilliant. He of course cites examples all throughout, and they are razor sharp, much more so than what I've often encountered in other writing craft books, where you strain to grasp concretely the point that's being made, and strain even further to imagine how you will get this point across to your students. The writing itself is lucid to the point of lovely.
I read this initially to see if it's appropriate for an undergraduate fiction class text; I've decided it isn't, it's much more useful for the practicing writer who's been writing and reading for some time, would be excellent for graduate students. With section titles like "Characterological Relativity," you can see why. But it's incredibly useful for the fiction teacher--I plan to use many of his examples and extract a number of quotations.
Specifically, it's also a good read for fiction writers who've "graduated" from all the rules about adverbs, show don't tell, flat and round characters, and are ready to look at the anatomy of sophisticated writing, the writing that defies all these rules. An example from the section on character: "I would be quite ready to abolish the idea of 'roundness' in characterization, because it tyrannizes us--readers, novelists, critics--with an impossible ideal...Spacial metaphors, of depth, shallowness, roundness, flatness, are inadequate. A better division--though not perfect either--is between transparencies (relatively simple characters) and opacities (relative degrees of mysteriousness)." The section on point-of-view also busts open the strict categories of "limited" and "omniscient" in a brilliant way--reminding us that consistency is indeed the hobgoblin of small minds....more
I trudged through this slowly for the first third or so. The peripheral first person--narrator as character, telling the story of the protagonist--felI trudged through this slowly for the first third or so. The peripheral first person--narrator as character, telling the story of the protagonist--felt stiffly artificial. But I think this is another way of saying that "Snow" is a European novel of big ideas, which took some adjustment for this American reader who'd been reading contemporary American fiction for a while. There is something very "masculine" about this novel--Pahmuk's meticulous intellectualizing and analysis of every emotion--love, beauty, spiritual experience. Even the snowflake motif--brilliant, and compelling, I do think--is so very left-brained. And yet strangely moving. Perhaps this, ultimately, is what I admired so much about "Snow" and Pahmuk's mind--which reminds me very much of Milan Kundera's, his "musical" approach to fiction: mathematical, employing the symmetrical structure of variations on a theme, and yet still mysterious and moving.
I also admired Pahmuk's skill in creating page-turning suspense in a story where the fate of the protagonist is revealed fairly early on in the novel (before the halfway mark I believe). We know what happens to Ka, and yet we still want to find out for ourselves. This tells me that Pahmuk succeeds in crafting Ka as a compelling character; complex and yet familiar enough that we care about the "how" of his journey, which is also the journey of his nation.
On the intellectual level, Pahmuk kept me engaged with interesting dialogue about the ways in which Eastern and Western history and cultures clash and dance....more
"Something wild and beautiful and full of woe," says Irishman and plumber Christy Slane. That about sums up this lovely novel, the story of Lev, a Rus"Something wild and beautiful and full of woe," says Irishman and plumber Christy Slane. That about sums up this lovely novel, the story of Lev, a Russian immigrant to London whose hopeless hometown in rural Russia becomes the victim of "public works." A brisk and satisfying read on many levels. Tremain has a gift for rendering the many layers and colors of loneliness; Lev's loneliness--wild and beautiful and full of woe--is something I'll carry with me for a while....more
I am actually putting off reading the final story in this collection because I don't want it to end, and I don't see that any other Bolano story colleI am actually putting off reading the final story in this collection because I don't want it to end, and I don't see that any other Bolano story collections have been published in English. That's how affecting and absorbing and strange and (as a writer) inspiring these stories are.