I don't really pretend to understand this book, but I think that's justifiable given that it has about a dozen narrators and the majority of them areI don't really pretend to understand this book, but I think that's justifiable given that it has about a dozen narrators and the majority of them are crazed to varying degrees at different points in the narrative, or even sometimes dead, or speaking from times well before or after the core series of events being narrated (the tragi-comic attempts of a family of Southern farmers to bury a woman some forty miles away from her home, in the town where her family live). Additionally, many of the accounts seem to contradict each other on a number of points, and some important plot elements (there is a plot to this book, and it's actually quite important - something I discovered much to my surprise about halfway through)are gently hinted at for dozens of pages only to have one character come right out and state plainly what happened (or may have happened). Given that this is High Modernism, I fear I may simply too stupid to understand this book.
Anyway I liked it a lot. It raised any number of questions about fate, original sin, cosmic justice, regular justice, love, loss, the seeming meaninglessness of words (something I still think is vastly over-accentuated, and usually by authors of all people), revenge, the nature of madness in a post-Freudian world, and all that High and Mighty stuff, in addition to a lot of old-fashioned musing on the trials and tribulations of ordinary god-fearing folk in a world where God either does not exist, is a sophisticated devil, or is bend on punishing one whole family simply because one crazy bitch may or may not have had an extraordinarily complete understanding of the nature of sin and her own sins in particular.
Anyway this is just some pointless rambling I guess. In brief - slow to get going but more than the sum of its parts. Definitely worth reading and maybe even rereading. I shall now maintain that I am not American enough to truly get it....more
A Room of One's Own is pretty much brilliant. Unfortunately, Three Guineas has no real coherency as an argument, although it does raise a lot of interA Room of One's Own is pretty much brilliant. Unfortunately, Three Guineas has no real coherency as an argument, although it does raise a lot of interesting points in regards to economic power and the position of women in a capitalist patriarchy.
I had to say that. I haven't written an essay for university in over six months....more
Well this was a strange, yet strangely compelling book. Lauded by William S. Burroughs - an introduction by T.S. Elliot - the better part of its lengtWell this was a strange, yet strangely compelling book. Lauded by William S. Burroughs - an introduction by T.S. Elliot - the better part of its length is taken-up with bizarre monologues against the insanity and artifice of modern society, delivered by an unlicenced, transvestite medical doctor. It has all the markings of a cult classic and couldn't possibly be as good as it sounds - but then it actually is.
I wonder if we can trace modern literary fiction's obsession with writing purely in epigrams to this book? I doubt it, but Barnes' prose style does inhabit a beguiling region between imagist and decadent realms. She has an incredible knack for startling turns of phrase - take perhaps my favourite, "Her face was like something once beautiful found in a river". It's lovely.
In any case, Barnes' book hits on a lot of interesting topics - lesbianism, transgenderism, and, most importantly of all, the necessity of playing a role. Everyone in this book is play-acting, and most people are deeply unhappy both with the role they were born to and the one that they are attempting to make a play for. Barnes seems to have hit upon love as the central topic of the book, if only because romantic entanglements are some of the most stressful and multifaceted going. Similarly, she uses the plight of the Jew-in-hiding as a metaphor for isolation from a community of which one is an integral part. Then she leads the reader on through a morass of disappointments and human stupidity and we end with the saddening, but perhaps not unexpected, revelation that nothing is going to work-out and that people are never going to be able to truly, you know, connect.
So it might not seem like revelatory conclusion at this point, but it was probably a bit more novel in the 1930s. In any case, this is a very strange and fascinating book that is far too complicated for me to have appreciated it fully on a single reading. I don't reread books often, but Nightwood all but demands it.
Well this was a wonderful book. The thing that strikes me the most about it is the extraordinary sense of balance. In many ways, the book's constructiWell this was a wonderful book. The thing that strikes me the most about it is the extraordinary sense of balance. In many ways, the book's construction is tied to it's prose style - both are slightly off-kilter, and yet perfectly measured and considered, so that I found myself compelled to read on even as something in the text left me feeling slightly queasy and put-out. It's an experience I search for in works of art - the experience of something unbearably ugly being turned into something very pretty, and clearing of the head.
The actual matter of the book isn't the most head-scratchingly philosophical - it ties the racial disharmony in the American South, and its roots in historical circumstance, to the individual psychology of a number of profoundly messed-up characters who are all trying to make their ways, but are hampered by events in their pasts which left them doomed from practically the moment they were born. Add to this a pretty damning critique of the small-minded small-town mentality, a strange mix of loathing and pity towards the human race, and healthy dose of subtle-and-not-so-subtle Biblical allegory, and the result is a marvellously rich and, above all, an enjoyable work.
And I know everyone goes on about it, but Faulkner's prose style really is incredible. I could read three thousand pages of the man describing how to best attach fishing lures for the capture of rainbow trout. In fact, it's the main reason I'm giving the book four stars, since while the prose is delightful, it's also often working hard to cover the fact that the book is problem twice as long as it needs to be. There's nothing I'd cut from this, understand - but, if not for the man's style of narration, everything could have been covered in half the time.
I have Faulkner's complete stories, and now I am going to read them!...more