Well, Harper Lee couldn't write an actually *bad* book if she tried. So this did not waste my time, it was well written and had many lovely moments. BWell, Harper Lee couldn't write an actually *bad* book if she tried. So this did not waste my time, it was well written and had many lovely moments. But I feel guilty for reading it at all, because I know that she did not intend to publish this book, and I know why - it's not nearly as good as To Kill A Mockingbird. It's just not as good a book, full stop. And so I do feel a little bad being part of the forces that took advantage of a frail old woman and published a book she never wanted to publish. ...more
This book has everything I look for in science fiction: a fascinating premise; multiple juicy political and social messages; well developed charactersThis book has everything I look for in science fiction: a fascinating premise; multiple juicy political and social messages; well developed characters as well as an awesome, thought-provoking plot. It's all here! And best of all, it's extremely well-written. The prose is always lean and spare, which is just amazing when you consider the issues she addresses - race, sexuality, violence, love, human nature, life, the universe, and everything.
I mean, dang.
It's a long book, but I was eager to keep turning the pages through all 750 pages. I am looking forward to reading more Octavia Butler. Highly recommended....more
Warning: This book may make you cry in public places and make a fool of yourself.
At first, I was a little skeptical - Gilead doesn't need a companionWarning: This book may make you cry in public places and make a fool of yourself.
At first, I was a little skeptical - Gilead doesn't need a companion or a sequel! But of course (and as I myself suspected), I was wrong. This is an entirely different book than Gilead, while sharing its heartbreaking loveliness....more
Not an easy read, but worth it for Baldwin's sharp insights and rage. Baldwin cuts to the quick here, and then he pulls out the hydrogen perHarrowing.
Not an easy read, but worth it for Baldwin's sharp insights and rage. Baldwin cuts to the quick here, and then he pulls out the hydrogen peroxide and starts jabbing that in too. It's much needed medicine, even if it does sting like nobody's business.
I have a feeling that Baldwin would think that the absolute worst thing to say, having read this book, would be "Oh, but things are much better now" much in the way white readers dismissed Uncle Tom's Cabin in his day. Anyway, Baldwin's thoughts are still scarily applicable to today's ghettos.
I second other reviewers who comment that the first three essays aren't as good as the later ones. The third one can be skipped entirely, as it is a review of a movie that I've never heard of, and which obviously did not stand the test of time.
I do love Baldwin's punchy, brillant, pithy prose. Wow. Looking forward to reading his fiction....more
Yes, I have now read this THREE times. That should really speak for itself. ___________________________
12/1/07 I've been thinking and thinking about thYes, I have now read this THREE times. That should really speak for itself. ___________________________
12/1/07 I've been thinking and thinking about this book, so I find myself coming back to this review.
The basic plot (such as it is - this is a character driven book in the most basic sense): An old preacher finds out that he is dying, and writes a journal/memoir to his seven year old son.
There are a couple of breathtaking scenes in the book, that have stuck with me. The narrator remembers a time in his childhood, in the late 19th century, when the local church burned down. The community came out in force to clean up the wreckage and salvage what could be salvaged. The women sang hymns while they worked. It began to rain, and the girl's skirts were dirty and wet, and their hair hung down their backs. His father offered him bread from his hands, covered in ash and soot. To the narrator, this was the most important "communion" of his life. The image comes up over and over again, and the theme is repeated when the narrator gives his son communion in his own church many years later (although he is too young to formally take communion). I thought it was so beautiful, the essence of what communion should be about.
Which brings me to another thing I loved about the book: The strong sense of generations, the passing of love and knowledge and problems from father to son through the generations. As my friend Elizabeth says, the book lingers long on issues of masculinity. I related so strongly to the characters that I didn't even really notice that until it was pointed out to me! But it's true, this is a book about how to be a righteous man (in the best, least judgmental meaning of "righteous"), and how to grow your sons into righteous men.
I also loved the very last scene. I don't want to spoil it, but it is so beautiful. This is one of those rare novels where the end does not disappoint.
And, of course, there's the rhythm of the narration, and the language. So slow, lilting, sad, and lovely, like one of the slower Sacred Harp hymns I love to sing. It's almost Homeric, in the sense that it feels like oral history, with the rhythm of very old-fashioned storytelling.
Reading around on Goodreads, this is apparently something many readers found difficult and criticize on their reviews. I can see that it's an acquired taste.
I loved it, but I read older novels all the time, constantly seeking out that softer, slower, more detailed rhythm of writing that seemed more common pre-TV. If your obsessions tend more towards the cyber-punk post-modern, this book might seem too heavy and slow - in fact, it has almost no plot at all, which might throw some people off.
But of course, the adoption of an older style is, in itself, a bit interesting and pastiche-y. But now I'm out of my comfort zone - I'll let someone else deconstruct it.
Meanwhile, I highly recommend this book to all of my serious, thoughtful, passionate friends who like serious, thoughtful, passionate books....more