Leo Gursky's melancholy, lonely presence. The sections of the novel told from his perspective are hauntingly beaut...more1. What I like about Krauss's novel.
Leo Gursky's melancholy, lonely presence. The sections of the novel told from his perspective are hauntingly beautiful.
Alma's precocious teenager voice. Her voice is less compelling for me than that of Leo Gursky, but still good.
The slow development of the connections between Leo, Alma, Zvi Litvinoff, Isaac, and the book The History of Love, in terms not only of plot but of theme.
2. What is mildly irritating about the book.
Leo's habit of saying "And yet."
Alma's lists. Each of her sections of the book is written in list form. It gets old after a while, even though it's an interesting conceit.
The introduction of Bird, Alma's brother, as a new narrator in the last 30 or so pages of the novel. I would've preferred Krauss to find another narrative device or incorporate him more fully into the rest of the book.
3. What I am not sure about yet
The structure of the ending. Bringing Alma and Leo's narrative voices together in alternating pages is a neat trick, but it involves a rather major shift in tone and pacing. What I liked about the first 80-85% of the book had a lot to do with the reflective nature of the story's development. Here, suddenly, we are moving forward in what is essentially real time and are given only short sections of each narrative voice at a time.
The content of the ending. Without giving much away here, I will say that the concluding scene felt as if it wanted to be deep and meaningful, but was rather hollow instead. There is one major revelation, but it is not one that takes on the relationship between Leo and Alma (either Alma). The reader is left hanging regarding Leo and Alma as well as Leo and his book(s).
4. What else to say
Despite my hesitations about the end of the novel, it gets four stars for its compelling characters and its ability to create a mood through the development of those characters.
I began this book at about 11 pm, thinking I would get a jump on it before finishing it tomorrow, but it is now 3:30 am and I have just finished the book. I did not want to stop reading it and couldn't put it down until I reached the ending. Perhaps it is that ability to draw the reader in and make her read well past her bedtime in anticipation that makes the lightweight ending so disappointing.(less)
This book is fabulously useful. I don't teach adolescents (her book is directed to those who teach students in high school or below); I teach college...moreThis book is fabulously useful. I don't teach adolescents (her book is directed to those who teach students in high school or below); I teach college students. But I still encounter the problems she addresses here, including students who fake-read, students who can't gain a basic understanding of texts without relying on the teacher or other students, and students who don't know how to create their own meaning from and truly interact with the text.
I took detailed notes on this book and plan to use some of her ideas in my classes at the beginning of next semester, knowing full well, of course, that not all students will need these techniques but also knowing full well that many will benefit greatly from being taught more explicitly how to read. Plus, it can't hurt the ones who already know how to read to have a little refresher. (less)
Although Prose favors a particular sort of literature (e.g., character-oriented, atmospheric, modernist) at the expense of other varieties (e.g., post...moreAlthough Prose favors a particular sort of literature (e.g., character-oriented, atmospheric, modernist) at the expense of other varieties (e.g., postmodern, narrative- or concept-driven, genre fiction, political fiction), and although her approach sidelines more political approaches to reading/teaching literature, her book is still a useful tool. In it, Prose convincingly and thoroughly presents an important part of the world of reading and writing and teaching and provides a solid foundation of close reading from which to go ahead and practice other ways of reading.(less)
In the interest of full disclosure, I feel obligated to note that I did not read the whole book--I skimmed large parts and read parts more carefully....moreIn the interest of full disclosure, I feel obligated to note that I did not read the whole book--I skimmed large parts and read parts more carefully. It's not bad and could be fairly useful, but it's not all that great. (less)
Well, I didn't read every single poem in this book, but I read quite a few of them and used the book to teach. This is a really well put together anth...moreWell, I didn't read every single poem in this book, but I read quite a few of them and used the book to teach. This is a really well put together anthology, with wonderful poetry, good introductions/biographies, and good paper. That last may sound silly, but compared to the Norton anthologies and others I've used, this paper is sturdy. Those other anthologies use paper that is like tissue paper, which is annoying and hard to write on (though it does, of course, cut down on the weight of those books); this anthology has paper that won't tear when you turn the page and that a mere pencil-stroke won't rip right through.
The only reason this anthology gets less than five stars from me is the absence of June Jordan. I fail to see how an anthology of modern American poetry, especially one that values the tradition of political poetry, can overlook June Jordan.(less)
The Color Purple tells the story of Celie, a black woman who finds herself in one abusive situation after another...moreThis is one of my new favorite books.
The Color Purple tells the story of Celie, a black woman who finds herself in one abusive situation after another. Her stepfather molests her, her husband beats her, and she is worn down by bearing and caring for children. Over the course of the book, however, Celie learns to stand up for herself and, more importantly, learns to love. Celie's personal development is prompted by her relationship with Shug Avery, a singer and her husband's former lover, who comes to live with them for a while during an illness. Their relationship shifts dramatically, from competitors for Celie's husband to friends, then lovers, and finally family. As Shug says, "Us each other's peoples now" (189). Her personal development is helped along even further through her correspondence with her sister Nettie, who is working as a missionary in Africa with Celie's children that she was forced to give away. Through Shug, Celie learns about love, physical pleasure and desire, and the possibilities of creative outlets; through Nettie, Celie learns about the larger world and begins to see that her life is only one of many possibilities. She learns that her life could be different and through that gradual realization, she makes her life different.
Some of this may sound corny, but it really, truly works in this novel. Walker is able to provide a vision of redeeming love that isn't simplistic or even easy for the characters involved. Celie's growth comes with pain, as does the growth of her formerly abusive husband into a real human being who is able to love both Celie and Shug and his children in a way that he could not before.
What is most meaningful or moving for me in this book, though, is the vision of God and faith that Walker provides. At one point in the book, Celie announces that she no longer believes in God. She tells Shug, "the God I been praying and writing to is a man. And act just like all the other mens I know. Trifling, forgitful and lowdown" (199). Shug responds by telling her about her form of God. She says, "God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. . . . God ain't a he or a she, but a It" (202). Furthermore, she describes her experience of God by saying, "one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed. . . . It sort of like you know what, she say, grinning and rubbing high up on my thigh" (203). For Shug, God is love, joy, pleasure, beauty. God wants admiration and wants us to enjoy the things it has created. "I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it" (203). This kind of pantheistic version of God in nature and in our experiences is one that resonates with me and one that provides plenty of opportunities to use religion in positive, life-affirming ways (as opposed to the sometimes frightening ways in which traditional religion--with its white male God and its proscriptions against sex and other forms of pleasure--can be used). This version of God is not distant and judgmental; it is internal and pleasurable, creative. Shug illustrates one way in which this God can be useful: "Whenever you trying to pray, and man plop himself on the other end of it, tell him to git lost, say Shug. Conjure up flowers, wind, water, a big rock. But this hard work, let me tell you. He been there so long, he don't want to budge. He threaten lightening, floods and earthquakes. Us fight. I hardly pray at all. Every time I conjure up a rock, I throw it" (204). In this way, prayer and God become part of a larger struggle for self-determination and the ability for women like Celie to fight back and claim their own lives back from those who would abuse them or take advantage of them.
Some people object to The Color Purple on the grounds of its pantheism or its lesbianism or its frank sexuality or its violence and abuse or its representation of men. Some people see Celie's attitude toward men (she is totally uninterested at best, with the exception of the friendship that finally develops between her and her husband--and that bonding occurs over how much they both love Shug) as a condemnation of men in general. But Walker's real concern here is love--love for oneself, love for others, and love received from others. As Celie's husband says while they sit and talk and sew together, "When it comes to what folks do together with they bodies . . . anybody's guess is as good as mine. But when you talk about love I don't have to guess. I have love and I have been love. And I thank God he let me gain understanding enough to know love can't be halted just cause some peoples moan and groan" (276-7).(less)