I am not good at writing reviews on this site. Here I'm just going to think aloud a bit.
Want to review the characters and their positions. It's clearI am not good at writing reviews on this site. Here I'm just going to think aloud a bit.
Want to review the characters and their positions. It's clear that the view of these characters is the one from the prof's mind. I think for the most part we are meant to take his views as accurate assessments though.
Rosamond: I think she is one of the most straightforward evolutions in the book. It seems pretty clear we are meant to be unhappy with her changes. She is becoming more and more concerned with having nice things and getting more unpleasant and judgmental in her personality. There seems to be a sense that this is somehow in tandem with the mother, although they are not shown interacting much. She seems to be tight with her money, she doesn't want her sister to have her furniture, won't help out with Augusta's financial trouble, and seems a bit high handed with the Crane's. The episode of the Chicago shopping trip with her dad also seems to cement the notion of her being self-centered.
The mother: She seems to be another fairly straight forward case, though less so than Rosamond. She likes both her son in laws it seems, but also she is getting seduced by Louis and his whirlwind lifestyle. There's some indication that the mother has some emotional disappointments of her own, (the conversation at the opera) but throughout we get the sense that she is coping with her lack of satisfaction by digging into things like a new house and the life Louis is offering, whereas the husband would seem to prefer her to cling more to values.
Louis: Is an interesting case. It seems that we are supposed to see him both as good and bad. It's argued several times, that he put a lot of work, and sales know-how, as well as a huge financial risk into developing the overland patent. One thing that bothered me here though is that this characterization seems to be employing a very common anti-semitic stereotype that argues that jews are good at exploiting the creativity of others for profit, while not really having creativity or ability of their own. Louis is always presented as being generous, not just with family but with others. The prof thinks he can be appealed to in the cases of Augusta and the Cranes. However, there is always an implication that this generosity is compromising for those that accept it, and there is something subtle about his manners that seem to smack of something slightly self-serving, such as when it is suggested that he will help the Cranes at least in part because he sees himself as drawing the displeasure of the community for his sudden success and that this will be a move calculated in relation to that point. I think all in all, the idea with Louis is that you can use money for good, such as getting nice things for people, and developing important products, but that the money is still corrupting. It seems telling that Rosamond and the mother both seem to be taking turns for the worse under the influence of Louis. However, there's also the the time of the drive to the country club where Louis makes a very forgiving speech and really seems to completely win over the prof.
Kathleen: she seems to be a mixed bag. She seems to have a more sympathetic connection with the father, she can paint him and no one else, she stayed behind with him one summer, she seems to express herself to him sometimes. On the other hand we are made to feel that her marriage to Scott was somehow false, this is reinforced by the scene in the car when it seems she is trying to convince herself and him of the trueness of her love for him. It's curious to wonder what her secret may have been. I took it to be something relating to Overland but am not quite sure what. She also seems to be an ugly case of jealousy. This jealousy is interesting because it seems to be partly her fault and partly the fault of her sister and brother-in-law.
Scott: another case of compromised by money. Again, he seems to want the money for no bad reason, he just wants to get married. But it seems that it's kind of a chain, because he wants money he does a job that he feels is beneath him, which makes him resentful (he hates to hear people discussing serious novels) and this warps his character so he would do something like blackballing Louis. Again, he's not all bad, he seems genuine in his concern for his parents in law, but he seems a bit used up by jealousy.
The Cranes: again their desire for money is not a case of simple greed or jealousy. It seems that if they weren't in such straitened circumstances crane would let principles and his feelings guide him. Obviously he genuinely deserves some compensation in a way, but it seems clear that we are meant to feel that it is none the less wrong for him to try to claim it. That because it was overlands project he should not try to profit from it, in much the same way that it was wrong for blake to sell the artifacts.
Overland: hard to judge him. He is too perfect in many ways. Everything about him is pure and right. (All the discussion of the purity of the water and air and the scenery, and the civilization of the cliff dwellers is undoubtably meant to characterize him as well due to his ability to appreciate it and take it in the proper spirit as opposed to blake who always had the idea of profit.) i think we are meant to feel that he was too strict with blake, but that somehow he was still in the right.
The prof.: obviously the most complicated. The idea i think is that because overland died young before his projects bore fruit he was able to retain his purity. I think in some ways we are meant to think that life is inherently compromising. So everyone has their compromises. The prof has been lucky that he has been able to retain his principles, which he himself seems to attribute to fortune. The time has come though where he is lost. He does not particularly love his family or his job anymore, but it is not really a question of going anywhere. His only real option to maintain his purity is to die, and so he does in a symbolic sense. He accepts that from here on out he is not really living honestly by staying in the situation and accepting the choices that are in some sense being made for him. More to be said here, but enough for now. ...more
As usual with Eco the history and the details are there. It is however very tiresome to read in many ways just because of the repetition of the libelsAs usual with Eco the history and the details are there. It is however very tiresome to read in many ways just because of the repetition of the libels. It's hard stuff to listen to over and over again. But there is a real fascination with the history presented particularly because Eco seems trustworthy in that way. The action is also in some parts sketchy and perfunctory, though at other times particularly the Italian adventures comes closer to a real novel....more
A weird book and in some ways very different from his other books but still recognizably miller. Like many who read this i appreciate his criticisms oA weird book and in some ways very different from his other books but still recognizably miller. Like many who read this i appreciate his criticisms of america although i think they don't tell the whole story. It starts off extremely negative but but changes tone at maybe the quarter point and focuses more on the things he found to appreciate. I really liked the part about Weeks Hall. There's a lot about his ideas of art and artists as the counterbalance or antithesis of what he hates, and interesting discussions of several specific artists operating in America that he considers on the right path.
I thought the tone he took while talking about his car and repair efforts was funny and strangely humble compared to his usual attitudes. I think the Hollywood party was probably the worst section in the sense of just being entirely to easy and not interesting. There's a few weak spots but on the whole plenty to be glad about. I had my doubts but I'm glad I read it....more
I liked this a lot. Of course the characters all have issues and problems. Some people claim they are unlikeable but for me it was quite easy to likeI liked this a lot. Of course the characters all have issues and problems. Some people claim they are unlikeable but for me it was quite easy to like them. That's one of the nice things about the novel is that they are a bit complicated as people. I liked the story too. I read it quickly though there were one or two tough spots if i remember. (Emotionally rough not intellectually.) plenty of interesting things to think about. I liked the way the narrative bounced around but still seemed easy to follow. I liked that small things would come up and connect back through the novel simetimes just in small ways sometimes in bigger ways.
What didn't I like. This was a bit tough for me to put my finger on. I guess what I would say is that there is a bit of cartoonishness about the characters. To a large extent I thought they were realistic complicated characters, and that they did hang together as a family. There is just some quality about them that was a bit silly. I think this was intentional on his part. It kind of relates to Chip's realization while walking to Poland. Farce not tragedy. So i am not saying he should have changed it. I see why it was like that I think. Maybe I just have a preference for the tragic
I felt I noticed some similarities with Foster Wallace's stuff, particularly in some of the topics and themes, but I seem to have a preference for Franzen
I think this book will bear some thinking about. I kind of imagine though if I revise my opinion it will be up rather than down....more
Parts of this reminded me of "Goodfellas". In goodfellas particularly right near the climax of the movie Henry is running around doing increasing amouParts of this reminded me of "Goodfellas". In goodfellas particularly right near the climax of the movie Henry is running around doing increasing amounts of coke and dealing with everything from cooking a nice dinner to getting a lucky hat to having sex with his mistress. Similarly here, with booze instead of coke, this man's world is falling apart and ghosts are appearing but just in the thick of it he will jump back to plotting about how to arrange a threesome with his wife and mistress.
Lot's of things to enjoy here. Another reviewer mentioned how the people around him suspect his visions are the result of dt's but the lucidity of the voice never leaves you in any doubt as to the reality of what he's experiencing even amid the total chaos. I quite enjoyed the humor and the story. The voice of the narrator is also a real pleasure....more
This was a decent book. My kids liked it. The story was entertaining and I appreciated the attempt to introduce some more interesting ideas into a kidThis was a decent book. My kids liked it. The story was entertaining and I appreciated the attempt to introduce some more interesting ideas into a kids book than "Be yourself!".
I felt mixed about this. There were pieces I like a lot and pieces I didn't like at all. I also wonder if part of the reason this book gets rated so hI felt mixed about this. There were pieces I like a lot and pieces I didn't like at all. I also wonder if part of the reason this book gets rated so highly is because of it's subject matter.
I liked the "Sweetheart..." story because it seemed like the kind of story that might get told there by soldiers sitting around. I think this was one side of the book that was interesting. There are different types of stories, that work in different ways but that still function to give a reader like me, who wasn't there, a feel for the experience.
I liked "On the Rainy River". I felt I could connect with what he was going through and the idea of running away to some random roadside hotel to work through it.
I liked some of the images of the soldiers talking, the sketches of their personalities. I thought that stuff rang true.
On the other hand, I felt some of it was preachy, for instance "How to tell a true war story". I also felt that the book was hypocritical in that some of the pieces did seem to be emotionally manipulative rather than "true". For instance, "the man I killed". I really felt uncomfortable about his imagined story for the dead man. The whole notion of telling that kind of story and the sort of pity he seems to take on the dead guy was stomach turning. It's a cliche and it's wasn't well done. I think some times he does want to come out with some kind of moral in his stories.
On the whole I didn't think he was that great a writer. I didn't like the way he put in notes like "Start here:" for instance. I can understand he was trying to mess with notions of art and the story but it didn't feel interesting, it just made it seem messy. There's a lot of "telling" rather than "showing" in this book. I feel like there are a lot of short cuts in places. Places where the fact that he's just not a very good writer shows through in an inability to use language to create an effect or to carry an idea. He just kind of hacks at the problems sometimes.
I also think there are just some cliches that really permeate this book. The whole notion that danger can be exhilirating and make you feel more alive. I don't object to this being part of what you are doing, but he states it like it's something that so uniquely true of his experience that it justifies him just bald face saying it repeatedly. That stuff doesn't help me appreciate the experience any more.
As far as the unpleasant or uncomfortable stuff in there. That stuff I can appreciate. That did make me feel more like I was there. It made me feel uncomfortable. I think that was the intended effect. I liked that he presented this stuff with a feeling of understanding for the people who did those things, without trying to justify them. The purpose of these parts did seem "true" to me. That's just what it was like. He isn't engaged in trying to make those things seem more humane, but he's also not presenting them in the spirit of holding them up for us to feel outraged by. I think these are some of the places he can express more subtle effects. He communicates both the humanness of the soldiers doing these things, as well as horror of the actual actions....more
Not sure what to say about it. It is an interesting book in that it is very different from most of what I read and it was reasonably entertaining. I kNot sure what to say about it. It is an interesting book in that it is very different from most of what I read and it was reasonably entertaining. I know it has some literary historical significance which was one of the reasons I read it. So on the whole it was worth my while I felt. On the other hand it is not something that effected me much....more
I read Siddhartha when I was a teenager and it was pretty formative for me. I also read Demian but don't remember as much about it. I tried reading StI read Siddhartha when I was a teenager and it was pretty formative for me. I also read Demian but don't remember as much about it. I tried reading Steppenwolf several times but it wasn't till I was older that I finished it. I guess I kind of felt I was over Hesse by now, but my wife recommended this one strongly. I'm glad she did. Hesse can be a bit heavy handed with his theories and in some ways the story is very directly an allegory for spiritual paths. Still, it's enjoyably done and thought provoking throughout. I've been thinking about art and spirituality myself lately so this kind of hit the spot....more
I was excited by this at first. It reminded me of China Mieville's "The City and the City" and I thought the alternate history stuff had definite poteI was excited by this at first. It reminded me of China Mieville's "The City and the City" and I thought the alternate history stuff had definite potential. At first the writing seemed exciting as well. Lot's of unexpected comparisons to liven things up. I also was interested in the chess angle. As the book got past about the halfway point though I started to feel dissatisfied. I felt that the idea of plot with the unblemished cow and the location outside of the district wasn't that exciting and felt kind of cartoony. I also was getting kind of tired of the characters. They also kind of felt unreal. Particularly with Landsman I just kind of started feeling that both his degeneracy and his turnaround were ridiculous. Lastly, I felt disappointed with the chess angle. It was always kind of hanging around the story, but there wasn't really that much to it, and the ending with the puzzle seemed anti-climactic both in terms of the explanation of the solution and how it tied into the plot. I do wonder if my experience didn't suffer some from reading this right after a Faulkner novel that I thought a lot of. This is definitely much lighter material and perhaps I judged it unfairly. Still, as I mentioned, at first I thought it would be better than it was....more
I tried reading this a few years ago and didn't get very far. I found the style difficult to follow and I just couldn't "get into it". Recently I readI tried reading this a few years ago and didn't get very far. I found the style difficult to follow and I just couldn't "get into it". Recently I read "The Bear" another shorter piece by Faulkner that I remember my mom talking about with high praise. I had a better experience with that because most of it is more straightforward. I felt that when I got to the difficult section I found I was committed already and so was willing to put the effort in to understand what was going on. I found that when I put that effort in I actually was able to get something out of it and basically follow the flow of ideas, although some of the details got muddled.
I attribute another part of my willingness though to some of my experience here on goodreads. I am a lurker. I like to read other people's conversations but don't often contribute. I found though that with reading "The Bear" some of my experience following Stephen M, and s penkevich and their adventures with some of the more difficult books out there came up. I found that I respected their effort and in some sense wanted to be a part of that. It makes me happy to think of the ways that goodreads has influenced me. It was in large part the success I had with the difficult section of "The Bear" that decided me to give "Absalom, Absalom!" another try.
I liked this book a lot. I found the writing to be very dense but that was something I valued this time instead of rejecting. I have heard the idea many times that some books just have to be written a certain way or that the style was crucial to the what was being told, something along the lines of the inseparability of form and content. This is certainly a case in point. Much of what this book is about is conveyed in the style and the structure rather than in the details of the narrative.
I think many of the things that I have to say on that topic are pretty obvious. He is trying to discuss at least in part something that isn't concrete at all, the atmosphere of southern culture. He is also trying to convey it in much the way that we learn about family and cultural history, that is we hear it in different versions and often with repeated material differently emphasized. I really enjoyed, even reveled in, these aspects of the novel.
What do I have to say about the difficulty of this book? Well, I think the reason that I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 despite the fact that it was a great experience for me as a reader was that the density of the writing did serve as a barrier to some extent for me. I found that I was less emotionally connected with the characters and the events of the narrative due to the style. Because of the energy I had to devote to making sense of the text I had less available to feel something about what was going on. I think this is the primary sense in which the text was difficult for me. Reading it was something that did take some determination.
On the other hand, I think that the difficulty of the book is a bit overstated by some of the other reviewers. I feel that often Faulkner was much more clear than I expected him to be and that particularly when you keep reading, anything that is presented in an oblique manner or is somewhat obscure or mysterious is almost always taken up later and explained quite explicitly. So perhaps you have to be willing to live with that sense of unfolding to some extent, but I feel in the end much of what is being discussed is presented pretty directly though not necessarily on a first pass....more