My ethics professor, Dr. Gabriella Lettini, suggested this book to me -- suggesting i need a better understanding of how desire can harm -- after read...moreMy ethics professor, Dr. Gabriella Lettini, suggested this book to me -- suggesting i need a better understanding of how desire can harm -- after reading my paper on the ethics of queer religious leaders publicly speaking about their sex lives.
this book is certainly about that, about desire and freedom, the limits of utopian freedom, the sort of intellectual space between Charles Fourier and the Marquis de Sade -- about whether indulging in human desires is liberative or destructive, utopian or dystopian. it's a book about the social and intellectual milieu of the early 1960s in England, about women's liberation, about sado-masochism, sexuality, religion, education, language, about struggles with and against passions, about privacy and public revelation, about what is evil or repulsive or emetic or pornographic or fantasy or reality...and i think most importantly, about the lives of everyday people who live in-between, around, within, conforming with, rebelling against, the developing and shifting frameworks of ideas about culture and humanity.
it has me thinking with more complexity about human desires, the existence of evil, and the reality of living as it relates to my own (and others') ideas about living.(less)
i love Dorothy Allison's writing style, and she's a mesmerizing public speaker. i literally couldn't speak when i met her -- i just kept blushing and...morei love Dorothy Allison's writing style, and she's a mesmerizing public speaker. i literally couldn't speak when i met her -- i just kept blushing and mumbling. she smiled like she does and said, "you can tell your friends a lesbian flirted with you."
i had to get that out. okay, this book...i'm not the biggest fan of her more fictional stuff. i like Dorothy Allison writing about life and writing and ideas. she makes connections and makes sense like few i've read. and the story called You, Me, and Him (i think) the one that starts with "frog fucking" is just about the best piece of writing i've ever read.(less)
let's be honest, i got the book because it's a gay author who grew up in Kansas -- and i'm a gay not-exactly-author who grew up in Kansas. that's as m...morelet's be honest, i got the book because it's a gay author who grew up in Kansas -- and i'm a gay not-exactly-author who grew up in Kansas. that's as much as i knew. and apparently it was going to be a movie.
i really liked this book as a depiction coping with sexual trauma. one interprets it as love, and the other as an alien abduction. i see it as a depiction of how we as humans seek to settle trauma into an explicable box in order to make it manageable. i've been told the author meant it as an exploration of a legitimate relationship between a man and a boy, but i don't buy it.(less)
i had a little bit of a hard time getting into this book at first. i'm picky about characterization and overly sensitive to indulgent description. at...morei had a little bit of a hard time getting into this book at first. i'm picky about characterization and overly sensitive to indulgent description. at first, i found the characters too one-dimensional. Baba never seemed to confront a situation that was morally complicated -- he never actually -wrestled- with bears. similarly, none of the other characters had must wrestling -- only broadly-painted blocks of emotional themes. like most people [i think] i was sympathetic to Amir's thoughts and reactions, but eventually i found him annoying -- pushed too far into caricature by the theme of his childhood. it was hard for me to put up with his dramatic descriptions of Soraya. but in the end (where i've read a number of reviews that claim it resorts to fable) i liked it again. it still paints too easy a picture of the good guys and bad ones, but it complicates things. i liked the fable-like quality, as if Hosseini was hitting his groove in storytelling, where the hero gets to wrestle honestly--not just fail or succeed as a matter of trope. i kept wondering how Hosseini felt about Amir. there seemed to be false notes in the early descriptions of his childhood, as if he was trying too hard to set up the lessons Amir would learn later. i also found Assef to be a fascinating character -- clearly stating Hosseini's perspective on the nature of the Taliban. still quite broadly painted, but i think i have to believe on some level that people who are committing atrocities like this are using religion and politics to play out their cruel impulses. i think part of the book's success was explaining Amir's reactions in a way that i suspect most people (most US readers) would understand. i think Amir and Hassan's relationship provides an good description about some of the dynamics of power and privilege. Amir sees Hassan as exotically good, "salt of the earth," and therefore better than him. he reacts with minor cruelty yet expects devotion. he feels guilt but can let it pass. he can (as Farid accuses later) always leave and go back to his walled mansion (literally or figuratively). Hosseini seems to be at his best when (like Jhumpa Lahiri?) he's dealing with the complex yankings of modernism and tradition in national/cultural communities in the US. i'm looking forward to reading A Thousand Splendid Suns because there are (hopefully) real -women- in that one. i found it a little difficult to read all the absences of real women. the theme of the dead mother written in Amir's perspective, i guess, and a symptom of a few of the broad thematic sweeps that don't get complicated.
wow, that's a long review. if you read it, sorry for wasting so much of your time.(less)
i'm a graduate student in theology, so how can i not love this book? this book is one of the most creative descriptions of my own understanding of theo...morei'm a graduate student in theology, so how can i not love this book? this book is one of the most creative descriptions of my own understanding of theology. gods do not exist on some eternal plane, but they rise and fall with the cultures and peoples who support and worship them. these gods have avatars in many different places--they are not a single entity but many that are called by the same name. mythologies can be more true than reality. and it's a good warning about how careful we should be when we try to make our gods into simple human form. this is a theme that fascinates me (coming as i do from the Christian tradition). you'll see a number of books about Christian fascism on my bookshelf, and there's a theme. i just finished The Kite Runner, so i'm also thinking about the Taliban's attempts to bring their understanding of god into concrete human reality. it gets messy, and i'm not convinced it's a good thing. yet in this book, Gaiman also provides us with gods in human form who are good, fun, and mostly ambiguous. i guess for me, American Gods is a good cautionary tale, for me, about how gods lurk in our subconscious, and about our need to dethrone divine violence in favor of other models of sacredness. we need to be careful what and how and who we worship in the ways we choose to live.(less)
I said in a previous review that one of the themes of my reading is about what happens when we try to bring gods into concrete human reality. Another...moreI said in a previous review that one of the themes of my reading is about what happens when we try to bring gods into concrete human reality. Another theme is about conflicts between modern, post-modern, and traditional in national/cultural communities. A couple years ago, i saw a performance (can't remember the name of the group) about global citizens who were at home everywhere but yet had no home anywhere, who resided in between cultures and places. It was simultaneously lonely and infinitely connected. I related on a certain level. Authors like Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Andrew Lam write about these experiences--I'd say with a perfect mix of joy, sadness, and a floating tinge of alienation and maybe-not-quote-belongingness. I don't claim that my experiences are similar, but the struggles they write about resonate with some of my own struggles with connection and disconnection from the rural, anabaptist religious culture I grew up out of. I've heard Andrew Lam speak and write about the Vietnam of his childhood, the Vietnam of Vietnamese expatriate communities in San Jose and elsewhere, and the Vietnam he sees when he returns to visit and write. Lam has an excellent grasp of the complicated emotions and contradictions, the connections and disconnections, the ridiculousness and seriousness of his experiences -- and he writes about it in ways that resonate. This book surprised me. I wanted to learn more about diasporas, about Vietnam, about emigration and immigration, and I did. But deeper than that, I also learned (to the point of tears) about commonality and resonance along with the difference between my life and Andrew Lam's writing. And that's gifted writing.(less)
I wish there were more. I was delighted, disturbed, engrossed, and engaged by this collection. Without putting my academic cap on, I couldn't say that...moreI wish there were more. I was delighted, disturbed, engrossed, and engaged by this collection. Without putting my academic cap on, I couldn't say that there were specific common themes - but I appreciated the way the book highlights the varied backgrounds, experiences, and narrative voices of the Black gay authors who are included here.(less)
This is a great collection of stories that cover a range of themes. My favorites are the ones that are entirely mundane yet deeply rooted. Her piece a...moreThis is a great collection of stories that cover a range of themes. My favorites are the ones that are entirely mundane yet deeply rooted. Her piece about a Black woman author writing about a white woman's rape by a Black man during voter registration drives in the South during the Civil Rights era...it's amazing. She captures the basic reality of life and its total complications. The short story she wrote as an introduction to a book section of Third World Women of Color writing about pornography...another gem that once again captures the complicated knots that lie under apparently simple situations like a wife's perspective on a husband looking at porn. There are a couple more about porn that are also great.(less)
I found this an entertaining book--not particularly deep, not particularly amazing, but a good diversion. I haven't heard of this guy before, and I wa...moreI found this an entertaining book--not particularly deep, not particularly amazing, but a good diversion. I haven't heard of this guy before, and I was wary, given the subject matter he writes about. But I didn't read anything particularly offensive, sexist, or racist. It just seemed like a fine book to read. I wonder what other people think, though.(less)
While not perfect (a friend recently pointed out how little attention he pays to women's sports--though I was introduced to Zirin by his analysis of t...moreWhile not perfect (a friend recently pointed out how little attention he pays to women's sports--though I was introduced to Zirin by his analysis of the Kobe Bryant rape case), I like Zirin's way of looking at sports in their social context. I think his economic analyses are the sharpest, but I'm glad he also brings in issues of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and sexuality.(less)
This is Braestrup's personal story of the death of her husband, her seminary education as a grieving widow with four children, and her ministry as a c...moreThis is Braestrup's personal story of the death of her husband, her seminary education as a grieving widow with four children, and her ministry as a chaplain with the Maine Warden Service. She intertwines these themes in a way that made me laugh and cry almost at the same time. She works with those who, for the most part, are not very religiously connected to churches, but who are spiritually connected to the forest, to the Maine landscape. She touches something very deep inside me, reflecting a theology very close to my own. She provides her answers to what happens when we die, where God is in the tragedy of a child's death and a game warden's attempted rescue, and what the point of spirituality ought to be. It works for me--a quick read, full of weathered, grounded humor, and maybe one of the best books I've ever read. (less)