"First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable." -from "Furor Scribendi," on writing
I still have faith in Octavia Butler and her actual novels, bu"First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable." -from "Furor Scribendi," on writing
I still have faith in Octavia Butler and her actual novels, but this collection is old and what I would call unfinished works. "Near of Kin" and "Crossover" are barely scenes; "The Evening and the Morning and the Night" should be a novel. And what weird indulgence in explaining her stories in individual afterwords; I wonder if the publisher pushed her into doing this.
eh. historically important in ethnic literature and stylistically with what it accomplished as a single cohesive book, but too far from my backgroundeh. historically important in ethnic literature and stylistically with what it accomplished as a single cohesive book, but too far from my background and generation for me to relate to or be compelled by these stories and poems.
interesting use of style though, implementing narrative, poetry, song, and playwriting all into the same page....more
Ring Lardner - Haircut John Steinbeck - The Murder Damon Runyan - Sense of Humor Pearl S. Buck - Ransom Raymond Chandler - Red Wind William Faulkner - An ERing Lardner - Haircut John Steinbeck - The Murder Damon Runyan - Sense of Humor Pearl S. Buck - Ransom Raymond Chandler - Red Wind William Faulkner - An Error in Chemistry Flannery O'Connor - The Comforts of Home Joyce Carol Oates - Do With Me What You Will Stephen King - Quitters, Inc....more
"I believe / In tongues that tell and hands / That hold, curling around like / Ampersands, connecting."
These stories have a gripping integrity to them"I believe / In tongues that tell and hands / That hold, curling around like / Ampersands, connecting."
These stories have a gripping integrity to them; you have to wonder how it's possible the author came up with all of this in her head, because there's no way this was her life and it's all true. But it is. And it's fiction, and it's truth.
The prose is masterful. This writing makes you love the flaws in people. Richardson makes terrific use of synecdoche, using single, focused details to describe an entire character or situation. Her style and characters are informed by indie tastes, providing fervently eclectic images that linger and then sink in.
The only lack is that sometimes motivations and directions in plot are subsumed by great lines. Some endings are rushed and cut off abruptly or characters meet their deaths before they absolutely must: for the sake of design. And in these cases, the presence of the author's hand is missing a judgment or message which might justify explicit choices made.
Conceptually, the stories are organized in a progressive, both in that we are taken around America and the world from page to page, and in that the "boys" and "girls" sections age respectively with each story. The coda, "Primavera," is a post-graduation story which gathers the book's riffs: of being an outsider, of escaping, of the lines between desire and reality. Blythe from "Primavera" brings us to earth on a flight back home, as the world "suddenly settles into actuality . . . too aware of how the plane is a tiny vessel trapped above an endless ocean, how there is nowhere to go but down." Yet the book ends with the comfort of sleep and dream, of hope: that there does exist a passage between the country of what we imagine & the country of what is actually there before us in our hands....more
"Araby," "Counterparts," and "The Dead" are massive, resounding achievements. It seems to me that here is the beginning of a century of literature whi"Araby," "Counterparts," and "The Dead" are massive, resounding achievements. It seems to me that here is the beginning of a century of literature which faces the dread of mortality and vanity, which is more desperate and lost than the Victorian sublime, and leading toward the absurd of postmodernism.
"It is serious and enthusiastic, for these new ideas and its enthusiasm, even when it is misdirected, is, I believe, in the main sincere. But we are living in a sceptical and, if I may use the phrase, a thought-tormented age ..." -Gabriel Conroy...more
"To me it seems that it was only then that I became female. I know that the matter was decided long before I was born and was plain to everybody else"To me it seems that it was only then that I became female. I know that the matter was decided long before I was born and was plain to everybody else since he beginning of my life, but I believe that it was only at the moment when I decided to come back, when I gave up the fight against my mother (which must have been a fight for something like her total surrender) and when I chose survival over victory (death would have been victory), that I took on my female nature."
every story here is high quality and marked by a good writer. but there are unfathomable oddities to the style that would be too easy to cast off as incompetence or merely overlooked. maybe they create new permissions for other writers to improve upon them. they include:
- using the present tense narrative without actually grounding the story in that present moment. the present tense might be in the past or future of the primary narrative. sometimes it's surreal; sometimes it disrupts the chronology of time
- using no transitions between scenes which mark a significant time change. the reader has to deduce this halfway through
- not introducing characters or their relationship; they just appear
- going into exquisite detail for irrelevant scenes which are not central and which do not return for a final payoff
- making a huge chronological time break w/o any sense of conclusion or newness being bridged
the narrative device of "My Mother's Dream" is original, richly imagined, and effective. "Cortes Island" is the winner of this collection; it's the best example of straight storytelling and has that mark of integrity that it MUST have been completely true down to that small random central detail....more
marvelously, smartly written. each story is witty, true, and in the moment. "Bark" and "Knowing French" are astounding.
and yet. if this is representatmarvelously, smartly written. each story is witty, true, and in the moment. "Bark" and "Knowing French" are astounding.
and yet. if this is representative of the style and accepted peak of our contemporary short fiction, there is much lacking. it is all form with just enough content. it is _amusement_, moreover.
woe if our generation has so blurred the lines of poetry and prose that aesthetic poeticisms will excuse the absence of substance in prose writing. the hybrid of forms today fails at both the vision of poetry and the meaning of prose. it just becomes an emptiness of repeating tangibles; and we can't even call it process b/c we can hardly imagine what important thing the author is working his way through.
it seems more and more to me that today's sharp, fast-paced, well-informed literature is much impoverished by a negligence of the larger picture....more
. (Prologue) Waiting Endless Repetition People from the Future Multiple-Dimension Decisions Mechanical & Body TimeMy table of contents, for reference:
. (Prologue) Waiting Endless Repetition People from the Future Multiple-Dimension Decisions Mechanical & Body Time Age & Distance from Earth Absolute Time Cause > Effect, Effect > Cause Nothing Much . (Interlude) Reason for His Studies Moments Before the End Stuck in Time Time Cycles = Universal Order Frozen Time No Time But Snapshots Short-term Memory Seers & Fate Slow Time, Fast Lives . (Interlude) Its Toll Backwards Time One Day Time is a Sense Immortality Qualitative Time No Future A Tangible Dimension Discontinuous Time . (Interlude) Fishing Worship to the Great Clock Local Phenomena Determinism Infinite Sympathy of Copies Mutable Memories Nightingales . (Epilogue) Typist
"If time and the passage of events are the same, then time moves barely at all. If time and events are not the same, then it is only people who barely move. If a person holds no ambitions in this world, he suffers unknowingly. If a person holds ambitions, he suffers knowingly, but very slowly."
Literary: Not sure the interludes or even presence of Einstein beyond the title & dates were necessary. Seems to be a technique of unity to ground the otherwise whimsical nature of each short piece. Especially since this is in a postmodern prose style; the realism approach is thrown out entirely.
General: A brilliant exercise. The melodrama is forgivable. This book is an excellent toolkit for any story using magical realism or characters meditating on their solitude/relativity/infinity.
Stylistically instructive. Substantially unfulfilling, excepting "The Dog of the Marriage" and "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried." Like AdamStylistically instructive. Substantially unfulfilling, excepting "The Dog of the Marriage" and "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried." Like Adam Johnson and other well-researched modern eclectics, there's a lack of moral vision, an encompassing system or direction in the writer's worldview. (I don't believe in post-postmodern values. It doesn't have to be absurd or un-invested to be new. Old values like family can be fresh values.) These are variations on the same superficial emotions with new flashy details, a trendy irresolution and excitement for the unusual, a kind of media-droned grotesque, though yet to be uniformly considered cliche.
I'm not sure this commercially quick and witty form can leave indelible impressions, not unless they can be contained and transfigured in the reader's mind long after, like a poem, like Hemingway's "baby shoes for sale. never used."...more
"Do you know, my dear fellow," continued Derville, after a long pause, "that there are three men in our social system who cannot respect or value the"Do you know, my dear fellow," continued Derville, after a long pause, "that there are three men in our social system who cannot respect or value the world, -- the priest, the physician, and the lawyer. They wear black gowns, perhaps because they mourn for all virtues, all illusions. The most unhappy among them is the lawyer. When a man seeks a priest he is forced to it by repentance, by remorse, by beliefs which make him interesting, which ennoble him and comfort the soul of his mediator, whose duty is not without a certain sort of joy; the priest purifies, heals, reconciles. But we lawyers! we see forever the same evil feelings, never corrected; our offices are sink-holes which nothing can cleanse." -"Colonel Chabert"