James Baldwin on visiting his dying father in the hospital:
"The moment I saw him I knew why I had put off this visit so long. I had told my mother th...moreJames Baldwin on visiting his dying father in the hospital:
"The moment I saw him I knew why I had put off this visit so long. I had told my mother that I did not want to see him because I hated him. But this was not true. It was only that I had hated him and that I wanted to hold on to this hatred. I did not want to look on him as a ruin: it was not a ruin I had hated. I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain."
I think one of the reasons that Baldwin is often praised for being able to articulate the black experience (four out of the five quotes on the back cover speak to this ability) is his ability to understand societal and individual realities on the systematic level. His skill in uncovering these structures is no less than incredible, but what's more remarkable is how poetic his writing is, even when taking this highly analytic approach.(less)
Hey look, another fuckass that doesn't know the difference between equity and equality. Love the cherry picking, straw manning (nobody is arguing that...moreHey look, another fuckass that doesn't know the difference between equity and equality. Love the cherry picking, straw manning (nobody is arguing that coal mining bumps up male salary, the issue has always been the difference in the same work) and appeals to genetics/stereotypes (It's just in man's nature to protect women!).(less)
**spoiler alert** If I don't read Shakespeare for a while I start to think maybe he's a little overrated. Maybe this little bald bard shouldn't be emp...more**spoiler alert** If I don't read Shakespeare for a while I start to think maybe he's a little overrated. Maybe this little bald bard shouldn't be emphasized so heavily in high school! Down with the Western canon! Then I read one of his plays and go, "Oh yeah, this guy is probably the greatest writer to ever live."
I'm kind of surprised this book has such a low rating (then again, around the same as Moby Dick). The common criticisms eem to be that the supporting characters are either flatly constructed or partially developed, especially the female characters. While this all true, the simplicity of the secondary characters is easily balanced by the complexity of the protagonist, Coriolanus. I found him to be one of the most memorable, fascinating characters I've read in years: a soldier with a history of fighting tirelessly for a society that he does not seem to understand or care about at all. On the battlefield, he transforms into the platonic ideal of a warrior: extraordinarily skilled, fiercely loyal to his country, honorable, and possessing inhuman amount of stamina. Outside of the battlefield, Coriolanus vacillates between outright loathing of his countrymen and a mix of surliness and apathy that is typically reserved for teenagers that just had their cellphones taken away.
Several characters in the play speak of Coriolanus' poor social skills as a result of his pride, but pride in what? He initially shuns the idea of going into politics because he does not want to change his speech and manners for the public, then reverses his decision after a meeting with his family. He speaks of the public's stupidity and lack of political savvy, then becomes enraged when they do not elect him to a position. He swears to kill those that oppose him then later serves in the opposition's army. He bristles anytime he's called a traitor, but ends up waging war on his own country. Coriolanus' internal state changes so many times that it's hard to find any of his traits that stay consistent outside of his vague belief of being true to one's nature and a penchant for violence. dat existential angst
Is the plot predictable? Could the other roles have had more lines? Sure, but Coriolanus himself almost makes these concerns irrelevant. You don't need anyone else when you have a figure that is everything.(less)
This is definitely the greatest book that I only liked 20% of. There are chapters of immense poetry and beauty in this novel (Moby-Dick, The Whiteness...moreThis is definitely the greatest book that I only liked 20% of. There are chapters of immense poetry and beauty in this novel (Moby-Dick, The Whiteness of the Whale, The Forge, the whole ending pretty much) and in fact, pretty much every fictive element of the story is awesome (most of the characters, the vibrant prose, the experiments in form). You have to applaud Melville for dealing with such grand themes successfully (hard to get much more universal than handling the process/significance of ascribing meaning).
Unfortunately, to get to all that you have to slog through a preposterous amount of whaling minutiae (like 75% of the book). Every now and then Melville tosses in a nice metaphor, but for the most part it's extremely dry. Don't know how much ambergris each species of whale contains? You will. The actual voyage is probably less than 150 pages, but man that is some of the best writing you will ever see.
The parts featuring non-white characters and all of that noble savage shit haven't aged particularly well, but thankfully the book doesn't feature them too often (except to temper harpoons with their blood).
If this is really "the most important utterance" of the Beat generation, then I'm pretty glad I wasn't a part of it. The book is simply a record of tw...moreIf this is really "the most important utterance" of the Beat generation, then I'm pretty glad I wasn't a part of it. The book is simply a record of two Outland-esque man-children who travel due to some bullshit about the "purity" of hitchhiking or hard work. The worst part is that both of them clearly don't buy into this idea, because they constantly complain about everything that isn't alcohol or whores. As soon as they are on a journey they immediately just want to go home, because they're really just two irresponsible white people who try to make their lives difficult just so that it reinforces their feigned idealism. I guess these guys get some credit for establishing the douchebag standard for the next 60 years.
It really seems like the only reason that Kerouac goes on these journeys or is friends with any of these people is simply to write this book and sustain this myth of BEAT.
All of that wouldn't be so bad if the prose wasn't god awful or if the anecdotes recalled were actually interesting.(less)
Sure, this book is going to make you roll your eyes plenty of times (the first 40 pages in particular) and some of the themes have been explored by be...moreSure, this book is going to make you roll your eyes plenty of times (the first 40 pages in particular) and some of the themes have been explored by better writers (Sartre/Camus), but give Le Clezio credit for creating a meticulously detailed world of despair.
The book serves as a warning against consciousness as nearly every object our narrator observes (pinball games, a story written when he was in grade school, a piece of chicken) arrives back to the paradox of how everything can feel so lifeless when surrounded by a world filled of it.
The universality of this feeling is what makes Le Clezio's prose so eclectic and riveting ("human flotsam") but the novel ultimately unrewarding. The book never really deviates much from its initial premise and at times it comes off as hilariously morose (the oppressing smell of bread -> hunger -> thoughts of suffocation/death is one such sequence).(less)
Too many of the essays seem obvious (you're not going to believe this, but racists aren't happy when lots of non-white people move into their neighbor...moreToo many of the essays seem obvious (you're not going to believe this, but racists aren't happy when lots of non-white people move into their neighborhoods) and the one essay on the Southern work ethic is of dubious scholarly merit ("Hey, not ALL slave owners were lazy!").
However, there are definitely some gems, especially the first essay, "Defining the Presidency", which contrasts George Washington's natural aloofness with the demands of building an infrastructure that's supposed to keep a citizenry composed mostly of hyper-individualistic sociopaths together.(less)
It's not as scientific as "Why Students Don't Like School" and has a slightly broader scope, but it essentially draws the same conclusions about what...moreIt's not as scientific as "Why Students Don't Like School" and has a slightly broader scope, but it essentially draws the same conclusions about what makes quality teaching (which is fine by me, more evidence).(less)
The basic idea of the book is wonderful (in a perfect world we would have this format for every important piece of literature), but the execution is l...moreThe basic idea of the book is wonderful (in a perfect world we would have this format for every important piece of literature), but the execution is lacking. As a few other reviewers have noted, there's a pretty large imbalance between the anecdotal and academic essays. This in and of itself isn't a problem, but almost all of the anecdotes are the same (shock, awe, inspiration) and seem dull and vacuous when compared with the more critical works.
Of course, when I look at the title now it seems silly to complain about the emphasis of the poem's social impact. D'oh!(less)