Historical nonfiction telling the story of Margaret Garner, the woman who provided the seed story for Toni Morrison's Beloved. Garner was a slave who...moreHistorical nonfiction telling the story of Margaret Garner, the woman who provided the seed story for Toni Morrison's Beloved. Garner was a slave who had escaped to free soil, only to be tracked down by her master, at which time she killed her two-year-old child and attempted to kill her other three children. The book understandably gets bogged down with the details of the Garner fugitive slave trial and the Cincinnati/Covington local politics of the time. For the people at the center of the story, the Garner family, there is simply less in the historical record to go on. Weisenburger does a fair job of analyzing what records there are and even explores the ripples the event had in literature and art of the time. Unfortunately, he's also pretty repetitive in his phrasology. He characterizes Margaret Garner's second master as having a "hair-trigger temper" so many times that it takes on the quality of a Homerian epithet.
I was drawn to the book after hearing poet Shane McCrae read from his new book, In Canaan Land, which explores/inhabits Garner's story.(less)
Not a very smooth read, this one's more of a survey of where absinthe is referenced in art and literature. It jumps around from the late 19th century...moreNot a very smooth read, this one's more of a survey of where absinthe is referenced in art and literature. It jumps around from the late 19th century to the late 20th and briefly touches on references/cultural significance, historical provenance, the resurgence of absinthe in the contemporary U.S. and the U.K., the science of absinthe and its effects, and includes a neat little section reviewing a handful of current brands. There's also an appendix of writings from the late 19th century that feature absinthe prominently. The author also indulges in some extensive descriptions of visual art pieces that feature absinthe, but unfortunately does not include the images themselves.
The Book of Absinthe is potentially a treasure trove for the absinthe enthusiast. I am not an absinthe enthusiast, but I still learned some neat stuff and added a couple of fin de siecle French and British poets that I'd not previously encountered to my reading list. (less)
OK, so this book was a physically painful read. I felt like I actually lived through a bad romance. There are some phenomenally dead true passages tha...moreOK, so this book was a physically painful read. I felt like I actually lived through a bad romance. There are some phenomenally dead true passages that I will post later, when the book is in proximity to me. It's definitely not beach reading. But if you have time to devote to deeply investigating and reveling in the authentic moments Proust creates, I'd highly recommend doing so.(less)
This is a book comprised of pictures, journal entries, and hospital notes/records/test results over the six weeks that the author's girlfriend underwe...moreThis is a book comprised of pictures, journal entries, and hospital notes/records/test results over the six weeks that the author's girlfriend underwent treatment for leukemia in the spring of 1979. I read it in the course of one afternoon. Pretty much the most heart-wrenching book in the world.(less)
I wanted to like this book. I really did. But I didn't. The concept of a book this large written from the point of view of, or at least spending the m...moreI wanted to like this book. I really did. But I didn't. The concept of a book this large written from the point of view of, or at least spending the most time in the story of, a bunch of primordial light that became trapped in human bodies during the creation of the earth and that now want to destroy Earth in order to become light again. As a reader and a human, it's kind of difficult to root for the light beings. Especially as they aren't written to be terribly sympathetic.
So let's see. Sorokhin uses the actual, historical Tungus Event as an origin, wherein a huge block of ice hits Earth in 1908. But it isn't just any ice. It's special, primordial ice that calls the people who have the primordial light in them to itself and "awakens" them to what they really are and what they must do. What must they do? The must find and awaken their 23,000 "brothers and sisters" so they can stand in a circle and become light again. And in the process they will disintegrate the Earth, which is a mistake, a blight on the otherwise balanced and harmonious universe. In order to awaken their brothers and sisters, the protagonists (if you can call them that), have to break of pieces of the ice, fashion hammers of them, and hit each other in the chest really hard. Oh, and all the brothers and sisters of the light have blonde hair and blue eyes. And they only eat nuts and berries. And their "real names" are mostly one-syllable grunty sounds like "Bro" and "Fer" and "Uf."
A lot of time is spent on the process of hammering potential light people. Their hearts awaken. Their hearts "talk" to each other. There's a lot of crying. Over and over and over and over. Some traditionally narrative hijinks ensue, but none of these passages are sustained enough to really gain my buy-in as a reader.
Set against the backdrop of chaotic 20th-century Russia and Germany, I suppose much of the book can be read as a somewhat comedic commentary on sectarian group-think. There are some clever characterizations of human motivates and behavior as seen from the outside.
HERE BE SPOILERS (i.e., if you think you might make questionable choice to read Ice Trilogy, you'd best stop here) * * * * * OK, so the really fascinating thing about the book, and the thing that kept me reading it, was this: How does one resolve a plotline wherein success for the protagonists = the destruction of the Earth? You know, because your readers are living on Earth, and if you tell them Earth has been destroyed, they might not be able to suspend disbelief enough to go there with you. Even if it means that all the blonde, blue-eyed people get to become rays of light and live in the harmonious universe once more, which hasn't really been built up to seem that awesome, anyway. But maybe that's just my human perspective getting in the way.
So I'll spare you the 900 or so pages of torture. The light people miraculously find and awaken all 23,000 of themselves and somehow gather together and form the circle of mass destruction and light. But apparently they made Earth too strong, because all of their light bounces off it and kills their human bodies. We aren't told what happens to all the light. Presumably, because of certain laws, it still exists somewhere and the light people will continue to reincarnate on Earth or something. Then there are these two regular people who were introduced in the last section of the book who witness the whole shebang and are so mind-blown by it that they decide they believe in God now. Because I guess in the face of total chaos and absurdity, where else is there to turn?
Yeah, I'm not buying what Sorokin's selling. The experience of reading Ice Trilogy is somewhat like that of hearing the joke "golf balls," which is one of those long and sprawling jokes about a person on a quest that goes on forever until--suddenly--the questor is killed in some freak accident before he/she can find the thing he/she is looking for. And the comedy (if you want to call it that) is all in how the teller strung the listener along for so long for absolutely no payoff.