i wish i had cool and interesting things to say about this book and about why i liked it so much. when i was listening to it (audio version) i kept thi wish i had cool and interesting things to say about this book and about why i liked it so much. when i was listening to it (audio version) i kept thinking, if i write a review on goodreads what will i say this book is about? and: is this a psychological novel?
the answer to the first question, sometimes, was -- how the choice of one person at some point in time changes the lives of those who love them, in truly dramatic ways.
the answer to the second, sometimes, was -- no.
in fact, i really don't know what this book is about except lahiri's unbelievable capacity for capturing people's confusing, dislocation, displacement and -- in that face of all this -- determination to survive. she did that amazingly, as others have noticed, in Unaccustomed Earth and i think she does it really well here. her characters quite simply refuse to belong. it's heartbreaking. in many ways, it's the post-colonial condition.
so, to answer the second question, the novel seems to me more political than psychological or even existential. there are reasons why these people are so dramatically displaced, why they don't belong. the language of their birth, they have forgotten it. they speak english to each other. when they go back "home," home feels alien. so they position themselves on the big american coasts and eek out a life. the best they can.
it doesn't make for cheery story-telling but, to me, this is story-telling of the first degree, really fantastic and beautiful and beautifully told. if you are one for fast readings, this is probably not for you. lahiri spends quite a lot of time on moments, gestures, encounters, then skips years. this is how she tells her stories, and it's incredibly compelling to me. ...more
the only thing i want to say about this book is that (view spoiler)[yukawa, with his holier-than-thou morality, should have minded his own bloody busithe only thing i want to say about this book is that (view spoiler)[yukawa, with his holier-than-thou morality, should have minded his own bloody business (hide spoiler)].
okay, another thing. i really enjoyed it, especially the lunch boxes. i kept imagining wondrous boxes filled with fat and wonderful dim sum (i know, totally wrong culture, but you can't bridle the imagination can you?) and the pristineness of the white box (lunch boxes are white, right?) and the white food felt delicious to me. if i were living wherever these people live, i would go get myself a dim sum lunch box twice a day, at least. ["br"]>["br"]>...more
there is a noble tradition in memoir writing, a tradition that is basically never violated, and that tradition is that you have to leave the reader withere is a noble tradition in memoir writing, a tradition that is basically never violated, and that tradition is that you have to leave the reader with something that is not abject misery. however much travail and pain you go through, there must be something at the end that is good and solid and a glimmer of hope.
Butterfly Boy does follow the tradition but only just. this book starts off with serious pain and traces a life trajectory of pain. what makes it not a painful book to read is that it's fucking beautiful. i mean, it's gorgeous.
pain marks the narrator's personal story of queerness, and the slow reveal that masochism was built into his queerness from the start. the extraordinary scenes in which the narrator describes his first sexual experiences with older men are both brutal and tender. he needs to be owned, and fucked, and abandoned. he doesn't tell us why (he doesn't tell us many whys) but his life has been hard and poor and fraught with abandonment, and sometimes being owned and fucked is the best love one can get.
there is tremendous longing here, for a mother, for a father, for a lover, for a country, for financial security, for a culture, for belonging. chicano literature at its finest. repeated border crossings with families spread all over the place. crushing poverty. exploitative labor. rough family loving. cerveza. absent fathers who still love but whose love one doesn't know how to digest. silent but present grandmothers. gonzález doesn't sugarcoat one damn thing. he's always running, and you ache at this running because it's not even remotely good.
the mariposa is both the chicano queer and the restless butterfly, doomed to early death. it keeps on being reborn, but each new birth just lands it in the same miserable patch of dusty desert land.
(view spoiler)[the thing i liked most in this slim book were the nature descriptions. really poetic and smooth and expert and lovedude.
(to be cont'd)
(view spoiler)[the thing i liked most in this slim book were the nature descriptions. really poetic and smooth and expert and lovely.
but: glossing over the morality of the killings, like this is written by dudes who unthinkingly snuff dudes? like this is genre fiction and one body here one body there nbd? only a couple of sentences from gwen to restore realism and sanity. other than that, all these city people, these people who don't typically kill people or even think about killing people, so ready to take out A.J. -- i mean, for real? *i* would not have considered that for a second! you kill in cold blood a man who is hurt? no way. if todd tracy and oscar go all feral, this needs to be thematized.
and what is with the glorious killing of A.J. by gwen (glorious bc we are rooting for it to happen)? why all the violence? why the sexual threat? why the brutality? surely nina revoyr can write more subtly than this. i mean, i have read her write more subtly than this. is this movie treatment?
and why why why does the one white boy become the sane and stable leader? no no no no no no. the clash of races the book promises, where is it? it's just white boy suddenly becoming the super expert on everything, the hero, the calm still center. why not tracy? why. not. tracy.
and why why why does tracy, a butch woman of color, eventually turn out to be so out of control, overcome by her own rashness and impetuousness?
i am so thankful for the bisexual ending. if that hadn't been there, and if gwen hadn't (co)saved the day, i'd read this as another tale of awesome white masculinity. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
the first two stories are outstanding. later, there are some weaker stories. i gave up at the multi-part story about... man i can't remember.
what's athe first two stories are outstanding. later, there are some weaker stories. i gave up at the multi-part story about... man i can't remember.
what's absolutely brilliant in the first two stories is the interweaving of a main narrative with a secondary narrative which doesn't get explored much but haunts the story regardless. this gives the story's protagonist such depth. i think mia alvar may be a new alice munro. long stories, multi-layered plots, brilliance. ...more
this book is universally loved by all of humanity and i feel an eel for failing to appreciate it. in fact, i didn't fail to appreciate it. i found itthis book is universally loved by all of humanity and i feel an eel for failing to appreciate it. in fact, i didn't fail to appreciate it. i found it poignant and strong and beautiful. i just didn't feel like returning to it. also, it made me sad.
i don't know whether i missed the part that concerns the narrator's father death, the part about her grief. maybe it's in the last part, and i didn't get to it. maybe i read through it and for some reason it didn't stick with me. there was a lot of falconry, and a lot of it was fascinating. but i guess i'm interested in falconry only so much. i wanted more of the grief of the loss, so that i could relate, but either i didn't get there or i got there and my mind closed itself off to it.
so what made me sad was the sadness of the falcon, and the sadness of t. h. white's miserable life, and the sadness of his falcon, and white's desperate cruelty to him. falconry seems intrinsically sad, because these birds who clearly live quite happily in the wild have to be managed extremely carefully if they are to fly when domesticated. and then of course they can fly and never come back. i felt sad for mabel and i felt sad for helen. lonely creatures bonded by captivity.
i hope that anyone who reads this review is not deterred by it from reading the book. please read the glorious reviews people have written about it and base yourself on them. i am not this book's intended reader, and you probably are!
oh, and the language. the beautiful, powerful, lovely language. what a labor of love. ...more