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)
I have a hard time talking about this book. It is truly one of the worst things I've ever read and it saddens me that this is one of the few books tha...moreI have a hard time talking about this book. It is truly one of the worst things I've ever read and it saddens me that this is one of the few books that is championed among the mainstream as important 'gay' literature. (less)
What I love most about Eugenides is that you can tell that it really costs him to write his beautiful, sprawling novels. Each one of his sentences fee...moreWhat I love most about Eugenides is that you can tell that it really costs him to write his beautiful, sprawling novels. Each one of his sentences feels weighty, and you can tell that it was not easy for him to construct. On one hand, this is just a really comforting validation to have from an author, and on the other, it allows me to forgive him when his grandiose tales spin out of his control.
Basically, Middlesex is a sort of origin myth. And while Calliope/Cal's mutant gene is being traced through his grandparents and his parents, while we are immersed in those origins--the story is fantastic. But then suddenly--as so often is the case in books with dramatic time shifts--we get to the present. Which is never nearly as epic and grand as our idea of the past. So it necessarily lags a bit. But despite the fact that Eugenides insists on referring to a penis as 'a crocus' and desipte the fact that Calliope's transition from female to male is basically dispensed with over the course of a two page haircut (apparently, that's all it really takes, folks), I still consider Eugenides an author whose work truly, truly matters. Because it encompasses so much more than just its plot. His novels (just two--imagine!) are not only masterful works of prose, but are still vulnerable and complex enough for a person who reads incessently (and often rather dispassionately) to get excited about the story itself. (less)
Michael Chabon on his experience writing his first novel: "My loneliness and homesickness were of intense interest to me at the time, as were young wo...moreMichael Chabon on his experience writing his first novel: "My loneliness and homesickness were of intense interest to me at the time, as were young women in short pants, and novels, and my eternal-yet-forever-lost friendships, and when I read a page of Remembrance of Things Past (as it was then known), the book that was my project for the year, I felt all those interests mesh with the teeth of Grammar and Style, and I would imagine myself, spasmodically, a writer. I hope you can infer from the above description that I was not yet twenty-two years old."(less)
So much better than The Catcher in the Rye. The passage at the beginning of the 'Zooey' section where he talks about his 'prose home movie' is one of...moreSo much better than The Catcher in the Rye. The passage at the beginning of the 'Zooey' section where he talks about his 'prose home movie' is one of my all time favorites. It kills me every time.(less)
I read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter my Freshman year of college in what turned out to be a rather disenchanting lit survey course. (In a particularly...moreI read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter my Freshman year of college in what turned out to be a rather disenchanting lit survey course. (In a particularly bad turn, I was accused of plagiarism--wrongly, I might add--because the instructor thought my knowledge of biblical symbolism was somehow 'unlikely.') Even so, this book still managed to strike a really profound chord with me. It's sweet and poetic and vulnerable and observant and tragic and I probably underlined it with embarassingly wild abandon. It truly solidified my love of the gorgeous and romantic genre of the Southern Gothic and had me convinced that if I had not written my Great American Novel by 23--as did Carson McCullers--I would be a complete failure.
Well, turns out, the only thing I had to be by 23 was--in the immortal words of Ethan Hawke--myself, but I still believe that this is one of the best books ever written. Now, granted, I haven't read it since that first time. But I have started a collection of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter paperbacks (they're all so wonderful!), which may actually make it harder for me to re-read it. After all, I'm going to feel pretty silly if I end up with 12 different copies of a book that isn't really that great.
This book was recomended to me as 'life changing' by the owner of a restaurant situated between the train depot and the highway about a mile outside o...moreThis book was recomended to me as 'life changing' by the owner of a restaurant situated between the train depot and the highway about a mile outside of Montauk. He bought me a coke and bummed me a few cigarettes and then somehow got started on the novels that he could always re-read and find something new and important in. He talked it up to the degree that I immediately borrowed it from the library when I got home, but while I do remember enjoying it, I couldn't recall a single passage from it if you paid me. Which almost doesn't matter now. (less)
Not a heavyweight to be sure, but E.B. White is actually a very talented, touching writer. Very soft observations, very much an American writer from b...moreNot a heavyweight to be sure, but E.B. White is actually a very talented, touching writer. Very soft observations, very much an American writer from bygone days. It’s not life changing, but it’s really comforting reading, and he makes some really charming observations that sort of reaffirm one’s optimism.(less)