Perhaps, I should begin by stating that I am not the biggest fan of multi-generational sagas. My reaction, therefore, to "Shark Dialogues" by Kiana DaPerhaps, I should begin by stating that I am not the biggest fan of multi-generational sagas. My reaction, therefore, to "Shark Dialogues" by Kiana Davenport may be skewed.
The author is definitely talented. I really enjoyed the first 60 pages or so, in which we experience Hawai'i and the intertwined fortunes of Kelonikoa, a Tahitian princess banned from her home island when she refused to marry a hideous cousin. Ms. Davenport does a nice job of including Hawai'i's history and the US's colonization. Then, we quickly pass Emma's history and on to her daughter, Lili (quickly again), and then her daughter, Pono, who eventually becomes the grandmother of the four cousins we meet at the beginning of the book. And I found I just didn't care. It feels as though we could have spent a little more time with the two generations before Pomo.
I tried so hard to read this book and even incurred overdue fines in the process (criminal!).
With all that said, the author has a lovely writing style that shown clearly in the first quarter of the book. I am interested in reading more of her work to see if this book was a bit too ambitious. ...more
Carrie Brownstein is a really fantastic writer. When I first watched Portlandia and learned that one of the members of Sleater-Kinney was partnering wCarrie Brownstein is a really fantastic writer. When I first watched Portlandia and learned that one of the members of Sleater-Kinney was partnering with Fred Armisen to do a sketch comedy show based on Portland's unique ways and people, I was intrigued. Then, after watching the first few seasons, I was impressed with Ms. Brownstein's agility in moving from music to comedy. Then, I heard Ms. Brownstein's interview on Fresh Air and felt required to pick up her book; the interview is a nude companion to the book.
The author's talents don't stop at music and comedy. Behind her lyrical, poetic writing is honesty that cannot be easy for a somewhat shy person to express to the public. As someone who is exactly one month younger than Carrie Brownstein, I also enjoyed both the similarities and differences in our childhoods, teen years, and adulthood.
To be frank, while I had huge respect for the Riot Grrl movement and bands in nearby constellations, I never really dug Sleater-Kinney. That's not to say that I didn't appreciate them, but their sound was just too harsh for my delicate ears. However, as someone who loves music, learning about the creative process and influences behind music is fascinating, so I plan to take another listen to Sleater-Kinney's catalogue.
What you won't hear about is Portlandia, but that's not the point of the book; it's about who Carrie was, is, and may become. If you're a fan of Portlandia, you'll certainly see some of the creative influences appear in this book. ...more
My Mom raved about this book after listening to an audiobook version, so, of course, I had to see what all the hubbub was about. Okay, and the book shMy Mom raved about this book after listening to an audiobook version, so, of course, I had to see what all the hubbub was about. Okay, and the book showed up on a number of best-of-2014 book lists.
I often don't enjoy fictional stories based on historical characters ("Loving Frank," for example, was a real drag), so I approached the book with some trepidation. Perhaps, Sue Monk Kidd's extensive research (don't miss the author's note at the end) helped to bring out the character's voices more than in other historical fiction I've read. To be honest, I did not know much about the Grimke sisters and would like to learn more given their ground-breaking abolition and women's rights activities.
In this novel, unlike another book I just read, switching narrators was an effective tool for seeing the story from a house slave in a well-to-do antebellum Charleston and a young woman who owns this same slave. I found the characters of Charlotte and Handful to be particularly well-drawn; these sections were in technicolor without being overdone. Also, Sarah Grimke's struggles between social propriety, expectations and hope for a loving husband and children, and social justice were also well-done.
While "The Invention of Wings" wasn't one of my favorite books of the year, it was enjoyable and I'm glad I listened to Mom....more
The fact that it took me almost two full months whilst semi-employed says a lot about my feelings on this book. I have not read anything else by bellThe fact that it took me almost two full months whilst semi-employed says a lot about my feelings on this book. I have not read anything else by bell hooks at this point and I'll try earlier works based on comments made by other reviewers. However, were her reputation based on this book, I would be surprised.
The book consists of well-intended essays about how love (or the lack of love) affects various areas of our lives. I say well-intended because her style feels like an academic paper that doesn't really connect with her topic; at least 80% is esoteric. Mind you, some gems can be found if you have the patience to spelling for them.
I am certain bell hooks feels very passionate about the subject and provides some personal vignettes to make her pint, yet I just felt at arms length, as opposed to drawn in. ...more
Some reviewers have removed stars on "Alice Adams" because of racist remarks and depiction of African Americans. While I agree that those portions werSome reviewers have removed stars on "Alice Adams" because of racist remarks and depiction of African Americans. While I agree that those portions were difficult to read and were, frankly, cringe-inducing, they were a pretty accurate portrait of how many white Americans viewed some of their neighbors in the 1920s.
For me, the book didn't seem Pulitzer- or 5-star-worthy because the moral was driven home too forcefully. It's hard to believe that anyone acted as hysterical as Mrs. Adams, as false as Alice, or as odd as brother Adams; had these elements of character been refined, the morality play wouldn't have felt quite so ham-fisted. I also think Arthur Russell's character was like a cardboard cutout, but that may have been intentional as I reflect further. With that said, Booth Tarkington is an author that is somewhat overlooked today despite the genius of "The Magnificent Ambersons" and flashes throughout "Alice Adams" and is worth reading. There were portions of the book that were practically tactile due to his nuanced descriptions.
Another reviewer drew an interesting comparison between "Pride and Prejudice" and "Alice Adams." If I can find it again, I'll link it in to properly credit then. However, I believe there are more differences than similarities. Elizabeth Bennett may have been embarrassed by her loony family at times, but she loved them and didn't pretend to be something she was not. In fact, what makes her live and breathe just over 200 years later is that she is always Lizzie, whether making flawed judgements or not. Alice, too, shares many similarities with real people I've known who wish to move in higher circles, but who wish to get there off of others' efforts. From that perspective, she's quite real. And what woman hasn't flirted audaciously at least once in her life, which it seems Alice could not help. Lizzie actually comes from an upper echelon family, whereas Alice is firmly lower middle class. But, both women were constrained by the limited opportunities for women to advance on their own, although Alice did have the possibility of business college for a likely future as a secretary open to her. Also, the romance between Alice and Arthur is tenuous versus true love between Lizzie and Mr. Darcy.
Perhaps Alice, despite being very Midwestern, is more like Scarlett O'Hara; she wants what she cannot have and is ultimately punished for it. Although the very ending of "Alice Adams" had a religious feel, one gets the sense that Alice may find happiness. However, it almost seems like Alice has to join a cloister given her severe dress, so we aren't sure that she'll ever find the right man for her.
I kept having déjà vu while reading the book and finally looked for a movie version. Indeed, there is a 1935 adaptation starring Katherine Hepburn and a young Fred MacMurray that I must have seen and will rewatch as soon as it shows up....more
I was sad to get through this book so quickly! Many chapters are a few paragraphs or pages long, so it zooms by. Unlike Dan Brown's tiny chapters of sI was sad to get through this book so quickly! Many chapters are a few paragraphs or pages long, so it zooms by. Unlike Dan Brown's tiny chapters of schlock and attempts at labrynthine nonsense, Brian Morton establishes rich characters and complex situations in those short spaces. Is Florence Gordon loveable? In some ways, yes, and in others, you want to bat her over the head. What she and the other characters are is real. I have already recommended this book to others and plan to read his other works!...more
The language Hurston uses in this book is incredible. The "double-voiced discourse" between the narrator and the vivacious Janie is jarring at first,The language Hurston uses in this book is incredible. The "double-voiced discourse" between the narrator and the vivacious Janie is jarring at first, but, because it is so masterfully wrought, becomes the novel's heart beat.
At the beginning, Janie is simply "the woman," a clearly separate entity from the narrator. Later, the two voices almost seem to meld. These undulations and trills created an interesting discussion about the narrator's identity in my book club. Some thought 3rd person omniscient, some Janie's inner self, some Phoeby, and others the author or an anthropologist. I finished on the side of an anthropologist; Hurston was a well-educated anthropologist, who collected folklore throughout the South, including stories about survivors of the Lake Okechobee hurricane in the 1920s.
There are certainly biographical elements to the novel, but they are embedded in the story and characters more so than the narrator's voice in my opinion. For example, Hurston wrote the novel in Haiti (while there to collect folklore) after ending a passionate relationship with a much younger man. She also knew what it was to be shunned by your community for being different; note the reaction of Harlem Renaissance authors to her work, especially Richard Wright's searing criticism that this book was simply a minstrel show for the white folks and had no plot, theme, or substance. Listening to the first few pages of the novel read by Ruby Dee brings out the poetic lyricism of Hurston's writing (to hear a 7-minute excerpt, go to the author's official website at http://zoranealehurston.com/books/#th...). Would my Chicago accent sound like a joke if transcribed faithfully and would you think it came from an educated woman? Probably yes to the first and no to the second.
Some critics classify this story as a Bildungsroman. There are elements of the coming-of-age tale here, but there are many mythical or almost biblical elements, as well. Truly, there is a strong, independent woman depicted in this novel; while the economics and cultural mores of the 30s placed much greater constraints on Janie than they would today, she nonetheless understands that she has great value and she must find people who accept her as she is. It's "their eyes" watching God, not Janie's. Janie is a woman who searches for and is finally able to ensnare the promise of the horizon. And that's a story worth reading. ...more
While many of the ideas in Mary Wollstonecraft's early feminist treatise have merit, the repetition of these ideas encased in swathes of commas makesWhile many of the ideas in Mary Wollstonecraft's early feminist treatise have merit, the repetition of these ideas encased in swathes of commas makes it difficult to read. Perhaps, this book would really shine if an editor's handiwork were evident.
What is most appealing about this book is her proposal that women exercise, learn, and not spend all of their time on fashion, frippery, and flirtation in order to be good mothers and wives. These same ideas certainly apply today!
Another interesting section towards the end lays out a progressive education system, much of which is embedded in today's elementary schools.
It would have been interesting if Ms. Wollstonecraft revisited her opinions after her love affairs, which, unfortunately, blasted her reputation and the positive ideas she promoted. After her relationship with Captain Imlay, did she still think that physical love should stop after the early days of a marriage and that a neglected wife is the best mother?
I just reread this book for our Great Books book club (note that we don't read just Great Books, but like to include Pulitzer/National Book Award/etc.I just reread this book for our Great Books book club (note that we don't read just Great Books, but like to include Pulitzer/National Book Award/etc. selections so that we can include a greater diversity of voices) and this is still one of my favorite books. I first read "Gone With the Wind" in Middle School, if I remember correctly. While there are new insights or, perhaps, different takes to be gleaned now that I'm almost 30 years older than when I first read the book, it still crackles with life. Margaret Mitchell had a real knack for capturing dialog and painting vivid scenes and characters.
One good friend reread "GWTW" recently and said that the racist attitudes made the entire work nearly unlikeable (to paraphrase), which is quite different from her earlier opinion of the book as a whole. It's true that depictions of both enslaved and free blacks in the novel smack of minstrelsy and are unquestionably racist. However, I think that the attitude depicted was a true representation of many white folks' attitudes during/after the Civil War and in the 1920s and 30s when the novel was written. That does not make it any easier to read those sections, but I do not think it lessens the work as a whole. With a few exceptions where we dip into Melanie's or Beau's (or a few others') heads for a few moments, the story is told from Scarlett's point of view, although in third person.
Instead of continuing my lengthy opinions on the work, I'll include the discussion questions that I cobbled together using various sources, including a visit to the Margaret Mitchell museum in Atlanta (small, but interesting).
1. In her youth, Margaret Mitchell played with gender roles; for much of her early life, she dressed in boys clothing and went by the name “Jimmy.” She also rebelled against her mother, who was an active suffragette and leading citizen of Atlanta, committing various outrageous acts as a flapper. How do these biographical elements manifest in the book?
2. Although “GWTW” is set between just before the Civil War through Reconstruction, how much do the novel and its characters actually represent the Jazz Age (following WW1 and the 1918 flu pandemic that killed her mother) during which the novel was written?
3. In Gone with the Wind, Mitchell depicts several Southern female stereotypes—especially that of the helpless, passive, and sometimes silly woman, such as Scarlett’s sisters, Aunt Pittypat, and Ashley’s sister, India Wilkes—and then undermines them by delimiting their roles. Some critics argue that Scarlett is a traditional heroine who escapes the limits of her role and is forced to expand her horizons. Do you agree with this viewpoint? Who is/are the heroines in “GWTW?” Do you find it interesting that men generally aren’t depicted as heroes in this book?
4. Gloria Steinem proposed that Scarlett O’Hara was a victim, not a feminist. Given historical context, each character’s innate traits, and their relationship with their husband(s), do you consider not only Scarlett O’Hara, but also Ellen O’Hara and Melanie Wilkes feminists?
5. Some critics believe that Scarlett represents the South, both “Old” and “New;” Scarlett changes throughout the novel, which parallel the changes that take place in the South. Do you agree with this proposition?
6. As a child, Margaret Mitchell “sat on the bony knees of veterans and the fat slippery laps of great aunts and heard them talk” about the Civil War. What do you think of how Mitchell, a Southerner from a family that fought and survived the Civil War, depicted the war?
7. Many readers and critics argue that “GWTW” depicts a racist and patriarchal attitude towards slaves. Margaret Mitchell’s attitude was actually different in real life. Why might she have decided to depict slavery in this manner?
8. Mammy, for example, looks down upon field slaves early in the novel and later upon “trashy free issue” blacks. What do you think of the class demarcations and how they change throughout the course of the novel?
9. As Scarlett is approaching Ashley for advice on how to raise money for the additional taxes on Tara, she describes him as follows: “God intended him to sit in a great house, talking with pleasant people, playing the piano and writing things which sounded beautiful and made no sense whatsoever.” However, it isn’t until the end of the novel that she sees her love for Ashley as a fantasy.
So was her love for him ever real? Does she transfer her love to Rhett, or did she actually love Rhett all along? Alternately, is Scarlett what Rhett describes as a typical Southerner: “But it’s in one’s blood. Southerners can never resist a losing cause.” Has Rhett taken on Ashley’s place as a typical Southern male?
10. Were you surprised at how closely the movie adaptation mirrors the book (some dialogue is word-for-word and costumes match Mitchell’s descriptions) and how the movie departed from the book in other cases? ...more