It took me two months to finish this book and not until the last three weeks and 150 pages of that endeavor did I realize that it is actually quite te...moreIt took me two months to finish this book and not until the last three weeks and 150 pages of that endeavor did I realize that it is actually quite terrible. It's been quite awhile since I've felt so cheated, nay--betrayed--by a novel. Because when you begin this book it is primarily concerned with the slow unfolding of character. You are tied to the titular Miss Smilla and her cynical absolutist world view. It doesn't take long to figure out that she has no interest in providing you with a fair, unbiased (or just complete) view of herself and the situation you find her in. But she is compelling and her environment and past is compelling, even if you're only getting bits and pieces of it pasted together out of order. It's the voice that keeps us interested--the 'mystery' of how Smilla's young neighbor fell off a roof is a secondary concern.
But Hoeg can't seem to let go of his who-done-it instinct and begins dragging us through a web of circumstantial, convoluted plot points, bound and detirmined to make one tragic event resonate all the more so for the gigantic Space Conspiracy that he has attached to it for no good reason.
I will be writing Peter Hoeg a long, bitterly-worded letter as soon as I have the Danish to do so. It's a goal.
Ever since I heard--or rather, speculated on--the premise of this book, I wanted to support it. Wanted to get behind the woman who was willing to lay...moreEver since I heard--or rather, speculated on--the premise of this book, I wanted to support it. Wanted to get behind the woman who was willing to lay bare all the ways in which females so often 'ruined it for the rest of us.' And yet, Levy takes this theme very close to my heart and makes it almost impossible to take her seriously as anything short of a prudish, porn-hating, sexually reticent sapphist.
It's not that her discussion shoulnd't include interviews with women who proudly sport Playboy bunnies, who flash 'Girls Gone Wild!' cameras after the promise of a trucker hat, who have moved to the top of the corporate world by producing programs on the "ultimate fantasy" of being a porn star. Because it should. And Levy does make some insightful points about the common equation of exhibitionist sexuality with power, as well as the manner in which women who want to set themselves above the tradtional lot and reception of their gender mask themselves in a sort of faux masculinity, deeming their traits--their favored traits--as somehow 'male.' The problem is that she consistently (and unncessisarily) stacks the deck--interviews only people who are going to reinforce her vision of naieve girls commodifying themselves or foolishly contrary women who advertise their 'empowerment' whilst selling their 'sisters' down the river. She interviews porn stars who were raped, beaten, and abused prior to choosing their profession. She interviews Adam Corolla. And with the expected sound bytes from such individuals, who can argue with her point: women are still living in a degraded patriarchal society and they are bringing it on themselves.
What makes this assertion truly problematic is that Levy has no solution for this problem, no interviews with--or even speculations on--what a strong, healthily-sexual woman looks like. Presumably she thinks that she herself as above and outside, a paragon of liberated and feministic sexuality (although she occasionally admits to falling prey to the temptation of buying into masculine privlege), but she never actaully explains what qualities she has that others lack, or how she's managed to escape the vortex of 'raunch.' Instead, there she stands, on the sidelines, turning up her nose at the poor self-degraders, the prissed out, self-righteous lesbian that no doubt many people expected her to be.
It is, then, the final irony that Ariel Levy lets not a single sequined, tube-topped interview go by without first decribing--in great detail--the young women's hair color, innocent lips, curvaceous figure, glowing skin. Perhaps such characterizations are intended to draw our attention to the sad irony: the inherent beauty and innocence of girls and women who think of themselves as nothing more than flesh and display. But closer observation reveals nothing more or less than ogling--the visual consumptions of a woman who likes to watch, likes to critique, but doesn't have a single answer. (less)
With this book, Hemingway became the first Dead White Male to really speak to me. After reading the first half, all the food scenes had me really crav...moreWith this book, Hemingway became the first Dead White Male to really speak to me. After reading the first half, all the food scenes had me really craving wine and tapas. So I finished the last 100 or so pages in one sitting, while drinking the entirety of a bottle of fruity white Spanish wine and cooking tomato omelettes. I burned the omelettes.(less)