This slim novel feels comfortable to read - the only reason it's not labeled a novella is probably because it exceeds 100 pages in length. It's peculiThis slim novel feels comfortable to read - the only reason it's not labeled a novella is probably because it exceeds 100 pages in length. It's peculiar reading a book so short it's almost like a pamphlet, a stuffed one.
It's convinced me to read more of Muriel Spark. Her mythology she's created in the character of Miss Jean Brodie gives the novel a fable-like quality. It never approaches the absurd, but her writing doesn't feel a whit constrained. It almost has all the capabilities of a short story, in the way that it shows this one shade of the lives of several Scottish schoolgirls, one force out of assuredly many, whose chance for the prima donna role is this book. Miss Brodie had a prime for certain, and it lies solidly in the past, bookended like an era of sorts, like that of the Roman Empire, for instance.
At the very least, I'm left considering the responsibility and reach of a teacher, an icon....more
It's been a whole lot of years since my dad finished this book and declared that he liked very much the writing he found there.
I think people like havIt's been a whole lot of years since my dad finished this book and declared that he liked very much the writing he found there.
I think people like having adolescent or pre-adolescent boys as literary narrators because it either never fails to a) bring back incredibly similar memories nor fails to b) introduce the possibility of something close to comprehension for the species of human (specifically the adolescent boy) that so often only irks or mystifies outsiders.
It's also the idea I guess, that children are wiser in their ignorance and objective curiosity - the intrepid hand reaching for the flame, pre- burn. And adolescence, the brink of it, has some of that still. But can see already, how heavy the adult world is, how much it weighs down. Like law. Gravitational.
Much appreciated: David Mitchell's habit of not explaining himself too much, especially when his narrative veers close to the absurd. I'm a little obsessed with the absurd at the moment.
I don't know if my 13th year was as eventful and formative as Jason ("Jace") Taylor's is. I'm also not sure if I would've wanted it to be so.
This was my second or third try at finishing this book, and this time I stuck it out, two hands held up in front of me as I plowed, so that I might weThis was my second or third try at finishing this book, and this time I stuck it out, two hands held up in front of me as I plowed, so that I might weather the pretentious moments with more understanding and less toxic judgment.
I think I was able to finish this novel because I was aware, keenly so, that it was a translation from the French. I would love to be able to read it in the original, but alas, I'll come circling back to the French language another decade of my life, after I have some others figured out.
I don't think the themes touched on in this book (aesthetics, the life-affirming quality of recognizing the eternal in the mundane, the saving grace of finding a kindred spirit, etc.) are particularly original, but the book serves well as a chocolate bar of therapy. Hence the anecdote about the psychologist prescribing this book to her patients. The book reads quickly, each chapter at most four or five pages. And yet it has these qualities verging on absurdity or a fable-like glaze. It reminds me a little of Murakami, not just because of the prevalence of Japan as a theme in the book, but also because cats.
It's perhaps due to Barbery's talent that at the closing of the novel, I've developed an affection for both Renée and Paloma. The almost-old woman and the little girl. I think we tend to make more allowances for the old and the young. To the young adults and middle-aged, we can be comfortably relentless in our criticism.
The book naturally made me think of ELEGANCE and PRETENSION, and the ways we can unpack them (as my freshman year poetry professor would say -- I always liked when he said that, because it gave the impression that these poetic themes had been on some journey, away in any case, and we were just now welcoming them at our door stoop). I've talked about it with one of my friends often; elegance and in an analogous way, beauty, are constantly underrated and vulgarized. I think people tend to think of them as a privilege of some sort. Hence the wry smile when I tell people I'm majoring in English. As in, oh, that's so nice that you have the time to go dally with those pretty topics, while here I am, dirtying my hands in the hard sciences, or engineering, or even better, the SOCIAL sciences. But what if we saw beauty for what it can be: a necessity and therefore our duty to seek it out and help bring it gently (or in all the clamor of an appropriate rage) into the world? And thus pretension: isn't all culture just inviting pretension? If you heed all the talk about nature and nurture and what have you. Pretension excludes. It's about getting something right, and becoming repellant or ignored if you fail to do so, or do not care enough, in the right directions. It's a charade that is exhausting to anybody who clings to it long enough. And I think Renée realizes this by the end. When she's talking to Kakuro Ozu, and feels she has not been this relaxed, has not let herself go with this much abandon, ever, since in solitude you can only abandon yourself so much. You need someone with you to unload yourself. Dropping pretension is not too much different from unclothing yourself. It's a way of letting others nearer to yourself, sans decor.
I think it helped immensely that this book happens to be highly recommended to me by two people whose opinions I respect. It is like that with music too -- you feel obliged to give the art a healthy chance to be liked....more
I thought the bits about translation and the quiet portraits of each of the hostages were stellar.
Ann Patchett also has a way of writing about music tI thought the bits about translation and the quiet portraits of each of the hostages were stellar.
Ann Patchett also has a way of writing about music that doesn't sound tired and instead sounds a lot like what you've been trying to tell the people around you for the past couple years but couldn't do it well enough to make them feel the way you did when a piece of music really got to you.
The whole time I wanted it to not be tragic. And it wasn't really, until the very end. Because the characters, like Patchett writes at one point, are in the serious business of forgetting. It is their purpose driven: forgetting about the tragedy that awaits. So you have this fantasy world with its own rules and mechanics. You can do anything, declare your love to someone, and have it escape the usual social awkwardness, because of its already impossibility to begin with. Such awkwardness turns beautiful, even noble, on the page.
I was a little skeptical of how universal she made opera out to be, how operatic music can affect most anybody. I'm not sure that's the case, though I'd like to believe it is. I'll have to scour over her recommendations included in the back of the book.
Note: Of course the polyglot would be an attractive guy who gets the juiciest love story in the book. How could such a person, with command over at least ten different languages, not be terribly attractive?...more
I found this book to be excellent as bedtime reading. To finish a Steinbeck chapter and then unprop the pillow, sinking into the covers and sleep, wasI found this book to be excellent as bedtime reading. To finish a Steinbeck chapter and then unprop the pillow, sinking into the covers and sleep, was a nightly delicacy.
Steinbeck is a master of character development. Sure, his female characters were flatter and sparser than his male ones, but perhaps he trusted his skill with handling male characters more. The women in East of Eden were not in any case, weaklings incarcerated in their positions. Their one dimensionality in terms of either wickedness or goodness was suspect, but was integral to the story he wanted to tell.
Steinbeck also has a fetish for the dichotomy of good and evil. He does not believe in indifference - to him there is a valley in California (oh, the Salinas Valley), chock full of meaning in whether its wildflowers decide to appear on time, and the idiosyncrasies of each brother in a family of more than ten, and the stylistic elements of each whorehouse in town. Nothing ever just stands, empty of personality. His characters exude, his landscapes do the same, and you'll probably be tempted to view your own life and its peopled landscapes, as a saga in much the same manner as the one you've just read in his book.
The reason I call him an amazing storyteller is that he tied mostly every end with such neat folding, and yet nothing was expected or boring or irrational. Perhaps there is so much going on, that the reader does not want to predict, and besides it all, there are the distractions of international events, such as World War I, which seep in toward the end, but they are not unwanted distractions -- they play out in the background and touch the characters' lives when they do -- they don't live in a time when the concept of "current events" hounds every citizen around the clock.
There is a love of land in his writing, and a love of what I'm just going to call America, the concept of a productive wilderness and a courage to take the self by the shoulders, sit her, or him, or it, down, and talk with compassion but in a style that does not waste words.
I can see why my friend calls this book her bible....more
**spoiler alert** For someone who doesn't think particularly highly of marriage in the first place, this book was quite the trip.
It reminded me a lot**spoiler alert** For someone who doesn't think particularly highly of marriage in the first place, this book was quite the trip.
It reminded me a lot of a play I saw in Berlin once: "Verrücktes Blut" (Crazy Blood), where a German schoolteacher uses a gun to make her students submit to her and finally do what they should have been doing in the classroom all along: learn, obey, and discover. In Gone Girl, it is again violence, psychopathy really, that tears and rips and reassembles. Violence (and extremism) gives birth...
... to the madwoman. I was not a huge fan of this turn of events. But in retrospect, it makes sense that to succeed in something so challenging (euphemistic, much?) and man-made as marriage, that one would need to be a little psychopathic in order to have it pan out well. Not just well, but perfectly.
I get the sense that this book could only have been written by a woman. Maybe that's a destructive way to think, trying to nudge out gender from a written voice. But it's a bit of a game now, trying to figure that out -- how much of ourselves do we give away -- I think Virginia Woolf said an artist is at their best when the whole gender thing just dissolves away. When we're writing instead, from some other type of place, not the angry, hurt, righteous one that gender necessitates.
Something more: a person who does not fear the sight of one's own blood, or the pain of a stab wound. also a person who would mutilate one's self in order to prepare the textbook rape victim wounds. Makes for more than just a little queasiness.
And: "fake it 'til you make it." Or rather, "'til you become it." Love is this gooey, warm bath, and the reason it's necessary is to keep the cold-blooded among us preoccupied. Love is law, the sort with its own police and legislation. And we submit to it, perhaps, because well, it feels so good. Warm baths tend to.
Aomame and Tengo. A match made in 1Q84, under two moons, in a world of fiction. You climb down, grip the ladder of the fire escape, so cold. Heels sliAomame and Tengo. A match made in 1Q84, under two moons, in a world of fiction. You climb down, grip the ladder of the fire escape, so cold. Heels slip against the rung. Your skirt flutters in the wind tunnel of the city. There is no reason, plenty of folly, but perfect sense anyway. Butterflies, Queen, miso soup. White sheets in a white cube of a room. Ice, hands, thunder.
Told in at least two voices, it was a pleasant relief how Aomame and Tengo's narrations were equally interesting - a must for a 900+ page book.
It is magical, nightmarish - it once made me shudder with a violent tremor of a description, once pulled out a smile from under my mouth before I knew it happened.