the way this man composes sentences, it's as if he were taking you on a tour of the dry bits of california -- arroys, desert, chaparral, avocado treesthe way this man composes sentences, it's as if he were taking you on a tour of the dry bits of california -- arroys, desert, chaparral, avocado trees, dirt roads, hills, coyotes -- while also taking you on a tour into the head of gangsters and cops who bear pain and misfortune and damage with vulnerability, toughness, and dignity. lots of guys, but these are guys i love to read about. maimed guys, hurt guys, gentle guys who are not afraid to blunder and ask. yeah, even the gangsters, who once were kids with ideas and plans for a cool bright future. ...more
at first i thought, shucks, i should have read Saving Francesca, i don't understand a thing. but the fact is that i had read Saving Francesca, well, aat first i thought, shucks, i should have read Saving Francesca, i don't understand a thing. but the fact is that i had read Saving Francesca, well, a third of it at least, and i had had to stop because the puppy love was really boring me to pieces. and then someone in the RA group suggested that i might like this, and i said, no no no, i had to stop reading Saving Francesca because of the puppy love, and they said, yes, that was a problem for me too, but this book is different. and maybe now i should backtrack and say that when i asked for advice in the Readers Advisory group i had just read, or was in the middle of reading, the masterful Code Name Verity, and that the suffering contained in that book, along with the author's conveyance that this suffering had meaning and was in fact redeemed by great love, had much lifted my spirits and filled my heart. and when i said this, someone in RA recommended this book, and that's why i was reading it, even though i kept thinking that, not having finished Saving Francesca, i couldn't possibly understand anything.
but i forged on. and then i realized that what marchetta does is give you the story a little bit at a time, so that you have all of its pieces only at the end. it's really great writing, simple unassuming writing with a genius organization underneath, so that you get to know all these people slowly and confusingly, the way you'd know people in real life if they showed up all at once, ten or so of them, barely remembering who's brother or nephew or uncle of whom, but slowly getting it, because marchetta knows what she's doing and how to bring you to the core of things. and the core of things, which slowly unfolds in all this confusion of kinship and inner pain, is that there is a family that was struck by a tragedy so profound that, two years later, everyone is still reeling -- reeling so badly that they are abandoning each other and betraying each other when they were each other's lifelines. and the worst thing of all is that they are abandoning tom, an unmoored teenager and arguably the book's protagonist (hence the YA designation, which, once again, seems to me entirely perplexing), who, as a consequence of the tragedy and the abandonments, got himself into a heap of trouble and is now hanging doubled up on the ropes of his life, totally out of juice, nothing left to him, a disaster in human shape.
the sydney of marchetta is a nice little city, with communities, local hang outs, and people who know about each other and care about each other beyond text messages and facebook status updates. they have been in each other's lives for generations (well, as many generations as being white in australia allows), have spent countless christmases together, have seen each other's children grow up, and don't understand not spending time together.
the book is a slow rebuilding of the community in the aftermath of trauma, which is also a slow building of the novel, the narrative, the threads that keep the story together. and while at first you wonder what the hell is wrong with these people, with their touchiness and immense capacity for taking things the wrong way, at the end you realize that marchetta has brought you through a journey in which people have hesitantly but tenderly started to heal each other, and in the process have healed you a bit too. ...more
this book seems to cause strong reactions, so let me first say what i think it is not:
* it is not a book that predicts how a generic child will improthis book seems to cause strong reactions, so let me first say what i think it is not:
* it is not a book that predicts how a generic child will improve when treated the way virginia axline treats dibs (how does she treat dibs? she mostly describes dibs’ behavior, not hers).
* it is not a book about diagnostics (dibs is given exactly zero labels).
* it is not a book about technique; it is not a manual even in the broadest sense of the word.
* finally, it is not a book about etiology or the genesis of children's pain, not even this particular child's, even though the author does give some sense of what happened to dibs prior to their encounter.
what i think this book is, is the story of a very unique encounter between two unique individuals who found each other, clicked in a tremendously effective way, and led each other to change and growth. for all of axline's emphasis on the self (the finding of the self, the building up of the self, the solidifying of the self, etc.), DSS is about relationship and love -- the specific relationship axline built with this specific child and the love story they created.
what struck me most about the book, what i keep thinking about, is that healing love, in whatever context you find it, has one defining feature: it makes room for the other. axline's behavior toward dibs may seem at a superficial level pretty empty. she echoes his words and provides affirmation for pretty much all of his wishes, desires, and behaviors. since she doesn't describe herself, we don't know anything about her body language and her own behavior, but after a bit i got the impression that she was warm and smiling, that she didn't move much (except when dibs asked her to), and that she kept her attention riveted on dibs.
as dibs himself observes (he is such an fabulous patient; he notices everything and gives constant feedback and, i am pretty sure, gratification), there is nothing he cannot do in the playroom. this is fantastic for him and seems to be exactly what he needs. the only thing he cannot do is stay past his time, and this is something axline and dibs return to over and over. it's hard for dibs to leave, especially at first, when his situation at home is still extremely tense and hostile. but it's hard for him later, too. this specific therapeutic moment, the time when the session is over, is an extremely important one, crucial really, and i think that in a good therapeutic couple the loss is felt by both therapist and patient.
one thing dibs learns from axline is that losses are not permanent. he also learns that losses are harbingers of new gains and joys, often in pretty short order and in great abundance. it's a bit like waiting until dinner when you want a snack half an hour before the food is ready. by the end of the treatment, dibs adores the thought of thursday.
the way in which axline makes room for dibs is truly wonderful and the most shining lesson of this small book. i have thought about this and i believe the heart of this "making room" is total emptiness and total fullness, combined. the therapist empties herself of expectations, demands, or judgments (except for the very broad judgment that the patient is immensely interesting and lovable). in this process of self-emptying, though, the therapist becomes an extremely strong presence. it is (one of) the greatest miracles of humanness -- the more room we make for others, the more we empty ourselves of our own needs with respect to others, the more we grow in presence and impact. we become as insubstantial and irresistible as pure light.
now, this self-emptying can take place in all sorts of ways and contexts and with all sorts of gradations. the therapeutic setting is one in which this happens very intensely and to a very high degree (this is one of the reasons why therapeutic sessions typically last 50 minutes). there are other settings that are similar -- healing settings in which the "therapist" is not someone with a degree and a job. the idea is the same.
i think that what dibs feels, what blows him away, what makes him giddy with joy, is the loving space, the bright presence, the full emptiness he experiences with his miss A. he has never had that. experiencing it for the first time is dizzying to him. you can see the life being poured into him, and him drinking at it till he's sated. it's wonderful.
so, ultimately, this seems a book about how two people can meet and fall in love, and then, because one of these two people is a sad and hurt little boy, how one of them pours everything she ‘s got into healing him. there is, by the way, as far as i can see, no judgment from axline about the parents. the mother's visit with axline is wonderful. axline treats the mother the same way she treats dibs: she listens, takes her in, gives her space, passes no judgment at all, honors her pain and confusion, gives no advice.
in a really lovely passage little five-year-old dibs goes up to miss A and asks her: what are you? you are not a mom because i have my mom; you are not a teacher because i have my teachers. what are you?
axline echoes dibs' puzzlement rather than providing an answer (what would that answer be anyway?) and dibs happily moves on. i think this book is an answer to this question. what is a therapist? a therapist, a good therapist, is someone who delves into the dark with you, comes with you wherever you take her, sticks with you, and loves you madly. and she does this while being and staying herself, and human, and normal. ...more
this was a daring idea -- american writer tries to inhabit the american dream of a recently-immigrated albanian woman. making the albanian a sassy 26-this was a daring idea -- american writer tries to inhabit the american dream of a recently-immigrated albanian woman. making the albanian a sassy 26-year-old full of albanian stories was even more challenging. what does francine prose know about albania? also: comic novels are hard to pull through. i think this fails. it's readable, but it falls short of everything it goes for: humor (oops!), the american-dream story, the albanian-angle story, suspense, critique of american suburban life, the boredom and borishness of american life. there is some success in the human empathy side -- in fact, more than some. but in order for that angle to have been fully explored this would have had to be another novel. me, i think it would have been a better novel too.
let me just say that francine prose is a master of the craft of writing. aspiring writers: read this and learn how to put together sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, books. ...more
i love this book. if z egloff were a man; if this were for young adults; if the market liked stories of women who fall in love with other women, thisi love this book. if z egloff were a man; if this were for young adults; if the market liked stories of women who fall in love with other women, this would have been a best-seller. but maybe i love that it wasn't a bestseller and that one of the two independent bookstores we have in miami had a stack of them in the shop and i liked the cover enough to buy it. the write-ups by alison bechdel and emma donaghue didn't hurt.
many of us complain about the dearth of well-written, powerful women's/lesbian stories (i hesitate to pigeonhole this book: it's a good book for everyone), but you know, they exist. they are just not published by the misogynistic, homophobic big presses. you have to go and find them.
the protagonist of this third-person novel is a 20-something film student with a bunch of hurt under her skin and a huge longing for wholeness, acceptance and love. the beginning is about a Very Bad Thing she did to her college advisor and mentor, as a consequence of which said college professor blackballs her and kicks her out of his class. claire couldn't agree more. the college advisor, with whom she had a genuine bond of admiration and friendship that suddenly counts for absolutely nothing -- not even a conversation or an explanation -- is entirely right. she is scum.
it goes from there. claire fucks everything up. claire is disaster incarnate. claire brings mayhem wherever she goes. and people, kindly, remind her of this all the time. the book reminds her, and us, of this all the time. but when you stop to think you have to ask yourself what it is exactly that claire is doing that is so bad. and you see that it's nothing. claire is doing nothing bad. she is a recovering alcoholic and very hurt, but she is kind and sweet and she tries. she is also very butch, a boywoman, and doesn't much like to care-take, especially when the objects of such care-taking are children. this last is a key motif, because claire's failure to be a caretaker of children is the one thing the novel does not forgive her. we know this because her path to redemption hinges (very slightly) on turning this around. so maybe we should have a conversation on why women must good with children. we don't expect this much from guys, do we? do we have gay novels in which the redemption of the main character attaches itself to a sudden awareness that there are kids who need taking care of? i don't know. maybe there are. it's important to be kind to children. but it's okay not to have the child bug, too.
all in all, though, you feel that the third person narrator, who is very much stuck inside claire's head, is not entirely in her corner. she, the third person narrator, is very down on claire.
and then claire falls in love with this woman religious, and the woman religious with her, and this is done so well, so tactfully and delicately and deeply, it's hard to think of this writer as a first-time novelist. the suspense is breath-taking, the pace masterful, and the whole thing is told with startling wit, sentence by sentence. the wit never lets up.
all along claire, the bad bad person, berates herself for her seductiveness. she is corrupting the (much older) woman religious, just as she corrupted everyone she ever loved or had sex with.
i imagine claire's alcoholism has a lot to do with this, with being unable to bear love, attraction, the very fact of herself, her existence. but there is also a tremendous amount of internalized homophobia here, and these two women (claire and the woman religious) are fighting demons that are way too big for them.
so at the end this is about how women -- religious, not religious -- can cope with loving each other without beating tragically on themselves for this overwhelming want and need.
this whole story is told with such grace, depth, endless surprise, lovely imagery, funny funny funny humor, and skillful construction, it's a delight to read. ...more
this memoir is larger than life. lidia yuknavitch is larger than life. she is smart, funny, talented in about a thousand ways (she thinks the only thithis memoir is larger than life. lidia yuknavitch is larger than life. she is smart, funny, talented in about a thousand ways (she thinks the only thing she does well is swim but of course that's ridiculous), and a barrelfull of life. she's got so much life in her, she had to use gargantuan amounts of booze, drugs, and sex to put it all to sleep. and still, she didn't manage.
as a writer, she might annoy you. some of the things she says here annoyed me. i got annoyed when she wholesale-dissed 'n ditched academia. i got annoyed when she told me how to heal. i got annoyed when she celebrated the written word, especially her relationship to the written word. she knows she knows how to write, if you see what i mean. and, in fact, she does know how to write. but it's annoying that she tells you, more than once.
but here's something else, something that's so important, it may be the most important thing about this book. people with deep trauma don't have anything. most of all, they don't have a self. they don't have a walking self, a biking self, a reading self, a writing self, a swimming self. for the longest time, all lidia yuknavitch had were 1. a swimming self and 2. a fucking-up self. the swimming may have saved her life. i mean, she puts it right in the title of her book, right? in fact, she puts it all over her book!
so take someone like this woman, so brutalized in infancy and childhood and adolescence that she was left only with these two barely serviceable selves. one of them built -- self-confidence, strength, life -- the other killed. you know which one won. yet, this woman managed at some point, in some way, miraculously, to pull herself out of the dark and the must and the not-life. if you think about that, if you spend even a minute thinking about that, you stop being annoyed at her book, because you know that this book is literally her life. it's like you hold this book, you hold her. this bragging woman, this larger-than-life woman, is also a very fragile woman.
i got my book through interlibrary loan. my university didn't have a copy and my public library didn't have a copy. WHAT! i'll return the book to the library and, on the same day, order it from my local bookstore. then, next semester or the one after that, i'll assign it to my class. i teach two kind of classes: classes about trauma and the construction of mental pain (aka "mental illness"), and queer studies class. this book works in both. if you are reading this, lidia yuknavitch (i hope you are not), 35 people will buy your book. 36 with me. some will buy it used from the big amazonian beast, so count on 20-25. not bad, huh?
but i'm sure i'm not the only one assigning this book in class. here are a few reasons:
* it's beautiful * it's as powerful as anything you've read * it doesn't pigeonhole/define/categorize anything: not sexuality, not child abuse, not incest, not addiction, not redemption, not marriage, not writing, not new lives (this is a major selling point for me, this freedom from pre-established narratives) * it's a fantastic read * it's beautifully, gorgeously queer * it's beautifully, gorgeously vulnerable and hurt and broken * it's beautifully, painfully honest * it's beautifully, achingly real (i wish i hadn't written achingly; so cliché)
this is a delicate, almost fragile book, and it won't stay with you the way other books do. it will disintegrate in your memory and all you'll remembethis is a delicate, almost fragile book, and it won't stay with you the way other books do. it will disintegrate in your memory and all you'll remember is that a bunch of people got stuck in a basement during a california earthquake and, in order to survive, swapped stories. the stories started off sluggish (who wants to tell stories?) but became terribly urgent as the day and night wore on. this is all you'll remember. you won't remember the stories.
the stories are not remarkable. they are not meant to be remembered. these stories are the stuff of precarious survival and mean much more to the speaker than to the listener. the speaker pours her or his heart in the story because the story is what is holding the speaker together -- never-before-spoken grief, loss, disappointment, regret, a moment of victory, a moment of enlightenment. the story in itself is like an frozen cobweb: it's not meant to endure touch. but in the mind of the speaker the story is as strong as the beams and the rods that kept the collapsed building together and are still preventing it from pancaking on this motley crew.
after each story there is almost no commentary. the story is not meant to be held by the memory of another, only by the memory of the speaker and the evanescent soul of the listening group. this is all the group is meant to do: listen. and the group does.
the stories keep the building from giving.
it is an extra bonus that divakaruni puts such racially, ethically, and religiously disparate people in this group. it is the only less-than-fragile aspect of the book. their difference plays a meaningful role, of course, but only up to a point. the essence of the book is the value of survival -- not only following the earthquake, but especially in the time leading to it.
this fantastic author has been telling fragile stories for a while, but the stories in this book of stories are special. a husband and wife each tell their story. the stories may be devastating but neither spouse changes as a consequence of hearing them. there are no meaningful gestures, ruptures, reconciliations. the stories live in silence. the audience's silence allows the existence of the stories.
we don't often tell stories. i wonder if the chilean miners told each other stories. i like to think they did. i suspect it might be hard to survive so long in a hole underground without telling stories.
it's not that we don't have stories to tell; it's that stories thrive in attentive, uninterrupted, unjudgmental silence. stories ask that advice be withheld. stories don't ask for much. stories ask for absence rather than presence, and we are a fast, active, productive culture. we fill holes. absence makes us nervous.
i wish we were more adept at silence. maybe we can learn. ...more
this book is endless. when you figure out who the killer is, you still have like three hundred pages to go, so you tell yourself the person you figurethis book is endless. when you figure out who the killer is, you still have like three hundred pages to go, so you tell yourself the person you figured out cannot possibly be the killer, 'cause how is EG going to keep the book going for another three hundred pages when we all know who the killer is?
well, she can. and she does.
even after the story ends (killer taken care of, case wrapped), she is still going. and going. if there is one thing i fault EG is that her books are too damn long.
now, i have nothing against long books, but they have to prove themselves. no point in stretching a book for miles just so restless souls like me have something to read at night. we are not stupid.
now, as to whether i liked this: i liked this. EG is a first rate writer. she brings up really important stuff. she writes good sentences and paragraphs and sometimes she makes me laugh a lot. but then she decides to dilute all the good stuff with really unimportant stuff, just because (i guess) she doesn't mind writing and writing. but the really important stuff must be dealt with with more depth, and concentration. mysteries are a fantastic genre in which to explore darkness and weakness and pain. EG should not be spending so much time on trifles. she should tighten her books and make them matter. ...more
this book is eye candy. DM fills it with language so rich and poetic that, if you like language, you'll be delighted. and he manages, always, not to bthis book is eye candy. DM fills it with language so rich and poetic that, if you like language, you'll be delighted. and he manages, always, not to be purple or cloying. maybe the language is Thousand Autumns' best asset. it works at multiple levels: the richest is descriptions. i didn't even try to keep up with the adjectival flourishes. nothing much is lost, for me, if language washes over me and the occasional (far from infrequent) pearl simply sucks all the light, leaves the rest of the sentence/paragraph in an under-conscious blur, lodges itself firmly in front of my eyes. DM is not afraid of pearls. he disseminates them with generosity. in a time when realistic and edgy prose is prized, this is brave. at least i find it brave.
another level is dialogue. DM is representing in english what is presumably working class dutch parlance, which he does virtuosistically and with great picturesque turns. but he also gives voice to japanese administrators high and low, haltingly-speaking servants (lots of people here speak in a language not their own), slaves, and the highly educated, and most spectacular, doctor marinus.
but then, like other DM's book, this is also a brutal look into empires, international commerce, the exploitation of human beings, the exploitation of countries by one another, the deceit that characterizes human interactions especially when money and power are at stake, the consistency with which humans screw each other, the rottenness of nationalism, and some pretty brutal times in world's history that are only slightly less brutal than the times in which we live now and, in fact, remind us that there may well be, and in fact are, parts of the world in which things are happening in precisely this way. which makes the book, also, an implicit critique, it seems to me, of the complacency of the reader, who is comfortably enjoying his or her heightened state of civilization (freedom to move, shop, read books) while imperialism, barbarism, oppression, and brutality go on unchecked in all five continents.
and if you want to think of DM as a critic of our times, you can very well see that the imperial lust he exposes in Thousand Autumns is not very dissimilar from the imperial lust of his and our governments, except now we tend to do things in a more polished and much more secretive way.
but then DM is a sweet writer, and doesn't let us walk away from his marvelous novel with bitterness coating the inside of our mouths. he gives us jacob de zoet, who is lovely, sweet, smart, and profoundly decent, and he also gives us other really decent characters (marinus first among them), and those are the ones who ultimately win the day.
* the only reason why i docked that one star is that i don't jive to historical fiction, especially of the boy variety, where exchanges between guys constitute the bulk of the story.
[i posted this review when i finished the book, then the whole thing got deleted, somehow. the helpful folks at GR found it for me cached in google; here is the link. i copied the review: the link is only for all the cool comments.]...more
i have been remiss in not reviewing this immediately and now unfortunately i won't be able to remember the characters' names. there are four stories.i have been remiss in not reviewing this immediately and now unfortunately i won't be able to remember the characters' names. there are four stories. they all center around the disappearance of a teenage girl. in reality, they all center around the body, more precisely the female body. one of the protagonist is a lesbian plastic surgeon with a flawless house which however gives much anxiety, a passion for her job, and an empty and broken heart. another is a transsexual woman who refuses surgery and finds the very idea horrible and offensive. she has, i think, the best chapters. she loves her "female" body. she loves who she is and is at peace with herself and others. she doesn't seem ready for love. there is a void at the center of her, but for some reason this void doesn't hurt her. finally, there is a woman whose body alterations are essential to her; they are maybe a punishment. the surgeon had to deal with the ethical and psychological dilemma of going along with this person's desire to change and re-change her body, or tell her she's beautiful as she is, please stop. this dilemma is not done as much of, i think, as it should have.
i am not sure what this book is getting at, which is good. i wish the women had found each other a bit better than they did find each other. i wish they had broken their shells and found community and solace with each other. i wish they had found love. maybe they did, a little. but there is also a lot of loneliness, and love never breaks the surface.
i recommend this book. i gave it three stars because it's slight and could have been developed a lot more, but there is something very tender and magical and sweet about it, and it's a "queer" book that does not put "the issue" of queerness front and center but deals with it as another of the things, like desire, that plague the human heart.
the book's strong stance against reassignment surgery might offend someone, but this is brave, too. there is no bowing to orthodoxy here, just a desire to get inside people's skins (literally, it turns out) and see what lies beneath. some lovely rendition of southern california, too. made me miss L.A. ...more
i love this book. it's good storytelling, daring storytelling that mashes up race and gender and the politics of childhood in a really brave and interi love this book. it's good storytelling, daring storytelling that mashes up race and gender and the politics of childhood in a really brave and interesting way. think, if you will, octavia butler's Fledgling. just like Fledgling, this book has caused a bit of an ethical/squeamish stir. i understand Fledgling's stir more than i understand Perfect Peace's stir. Fledgling has some serious squirm-inducing moment. Perfect Peace pushes buttons i apparently don't have. i don't care that daniel black decides to have a mother raise her boy as a girl. to me it's interesting. and even more interesting is seeing the outrage this is causing in some readers. as if fiction gave us outrageous stuff only rarely. are you kidding? just about everything in fiction is outrageous. but this deliberate crossing of gender paradigms seems to many a terrible, terrible literary act.
so let's this clear: the mother is fictional. the kid is fictional. no "boy" got really raised as a "girl" in the making of this book.
it is so fascinating to me that the entirety of perfect's gender identity resides in her penis. does she have it? and later, does he have it? there are two really great movies, XXY and Tomboy that also present children with ambiguous gender. in both movies The Question is "does she have it?" "does he have it?"
the penis is the center of gender identification.
which is interesting because perfect/paul says quite at the beginning that her/his penis is a small one, and, speaking as an adult, admits that it never got as big at that of his/her brother misterly (which he saw when he became a little boy and was forced to pee outdoors with the other boys, standing up). is a boy with a small penis less of a boy? is a boy with no penis not a boy? is a girl with a penis not a girl?
daniel black never solves the question of perfect/paul's sexual desire, which i thought is an excellent choice. the easy go-to explanation is that she/he's messed up. i prefer to think in terms of opportunity and fluidity. the kid who's a girl until 8-years-old and a boy thereafter gets to experience some pretty intense desires as an object of other people's desire. and then as a subject of her own desires, too. perfect/paul is allowed to like boys and like girls as a girl would. there is no pressure on her/him not to like boys "that way." her/his desires get to roam a bit -- at least to roam as much as girls' desires do. and once he becomes a boy those roamings don't stop, because why should they? they are mighty nice.
i am a tad shocked by the harshness of the punishment meted on emma jean, perfect/paul's mother. the community hates her. her family hates her. the reader hates her. i don't think daniel black hates her. i don't think he hates any of this book's complex, fascinating characters. they are all pretty amazing.
i think the book is worth reading if only for its exploration of the demands placed on a certain kind (black? jim-crow black? rural? christian?) of masculinity. the whole book can, in fact, be seen as just that, an exploration on the demands placed on men (all men?). but then again, it also spends some serious time on the demands placed on women, and both sets of demands are so terribly harsh, one wonders why on earth we came up with them in the first place.
i'm not really qualified to say much about race. daniel black chooses to set this in jim-crow arkansas (in an all-black community, so there are no scenes of cross-race humiliation but only your, you know, run of the mill poverty [ugh]) and to have the characters speak in dialect. i'm sure there's a lot to be said about this choices but nothing comes to mind right now. if people want to contribute, i'd be grateful. ...more
i wish i knew the conditions of the publishing of this book. it is so obvious that the book could have been much, much better with just some editing (i wish i knew the conditions of the publishing of this book. it is so obvious that the book could have been much, much better with just some editing (even just some basic copy-editing would have made a difference!). the hand of a loving editor could have made it so much stronger, it's a real shame this hand wasn't given much, or any, play.
the first part, which is focused on portia's bingeing, is sloppy. the second part, where she describes the time in her life when she got a grip on the bingeing and began the serious process of being a bone fide anorexic, is fascinating and heart-rending. portia represents very well the interdependence of control, lack of control, self-deception, compulsion, obsession and self-hatred that make this condition so damn difficult to heal. she also hints, maybe unwillingly, to some of the dynamics that took her to her massive lack of self-confidence and her tremendous self-hatred. at some point, in one brief passage, she fingers her father as the obvious culprit, but the book makes abundantly clear that the relation between portia and her mother is not a little problematic.
the second part, therefore, is the best and most readable. i think one could simply skip the first and start there. this is not to say it could not have used editing, too.
at the end of the day, it's just remarkable that this book got written. it must have been tough. in spite of her obvious weaknesses, this woman is a marvel of strength, talent, and resilience. i don't know many people who can go through complete subjugation to a deathly eating disorder while keeping down a high-visibility job, survive and manage to create meaningful relationships, and sit down to write a 300 page book about it all. just wow.
i read this because i was wondering whether to teach it. it's a good representation of what an eating disorder is, but ultimately, in spite of portia's best efforts, it still proclaims the gospel of thinness. i like that portia points out that all of us have a basic weight we'll naturally gravitate around if things are pretty decent for us and we don't eat crazily, but i am sorry she didn't say that, for some people, this weight is not 130 lb. for some people it's 180 lb, and that's okay too. i wish she had said this.
we owe so much to ellen. she kicked down a glass closet that was literally killing women. i am happy that portia and ellen found each other.
maybe i will teach the second half of this book. i'm not sure i'll teach the epilogue, though. i want kids to feel okay about being heavier than 130 lb.
this is a well written, well paced, well developed mystery. elizabeth george sure likes to pack her stories with language (details details details), bthis is a well written, well paced, well developed mystery. elizabeth george sure likes to pack her stories with language (details details details), but since i like my books to go on and on, and her going on and on is well done, i am not complaining, at all.
okay, now that i got that out of the way let me talk about women and mysteries. men and mysteries, too. the latter first. i learned today (here) that the millennium trilogy, of which i read only the first installment, a book that struck me as mediocre, is considered super edgy in (some, i suppose) queer quarters because the girl protagonist is bisexual.
to this i say: give me a break.
back to women and mysteries. i am not a mystery expert, but my suspicion is getting stronger and stronger that a lot of female mystery writers use the genre to exorcise some specific, scary aspect of being female, including self-hatred. to wit: what's with all the violence on little girls? these books are littered with little girls' mangled bodies. and: what's with all the male sadistic psychopaths? seriously, how many murderous male psychopaths are out there? i image most homicides are conducted by angry, scuzzy, scared, or negligent people, but i doubt many of them are serial murderers with psychopathic mental processes and kinky modi operandi.
this book in particular focuses on another major staple of female self-hatred, the selfish, unloving mother. there are, not one, but two very horrible mothers.
on the other hand, i really liked to subplot of the queer boy. really nice touch, handled well.
now, women mystery writers, chill out will ya?...more