לא בטוחה איך להסביר את התגבוה שלי לספר הזה מלבד לומר שהוא נורא, נורא, נורא ישראלי. ותאמינו לי – זו לא מחמאה.
יש משהו בסופרים היקרים שלנו שכולם מאוד מנס...moreלא בטוחה איך להסביר את התגבוה שלי לספר הזה מלבד לומר שהוא נורא, נורא, נורא ישראלי. ותאמינו לי – זו לא מחמאה.
יש משהו בסופרים היקרים שלנו שכולם מאוד מנסים לכתוב כמו עמוס עוז – במחשבה שגם הם יכולים להוציא נובל, סביר להניח – כאשר ראש החוטאים, כדברי חברתי, הוא עמוס עוז. סגנון כתיבה כזה של זרם תודעה מפרך שרוב העולם או אף פעם א אימץ, או אימץ וכבר נטש. וכל מה שבא לי לעשות אתו זה לתת לסופר מכה על הראש עם פרי עטו המכובד, ולהגיד לו: "תסיים משפט למען ה'!"
אז אביגור-רותם היא ישראלית טיפוסית במובן הזה. הספר שלה מלא בפסקאות בלתי-נגמרות עם מיליוני שלוש-נקודות, וקטעים קצרים שלא מסתדרים בזמן. כמו בכל ספר ישראלי כל מה שהגיבורה עושה בשני שליש ממנו הוא לשכב על הספה ולשפוך לקורא-פסיכולוג מקטעים שבטח קשה אפילו היה לה להבין. עוד נטייה ספרותית ישראלית טיפוסית שאין לי כוח אליה.
הסיבה שהספר לא קיבל ממני אחר כבוד כוכב אחד, וזהו זה, הוא השליש האחרון, שבו סוף סוף דברים מתחילים לקרות, ופתאום בום! קורים וקורים וקראים (לא, זאת לא שגיאת כתיב). אף על פי שהסופרת מבלה שני עמודים בלצטט לנו מסרט שכולנו בטח ראינו לפחות פעם אחת ("שואה" אם נורא בא לכם לדעת) שזה כמעט בלתי נסלח, פתאום אנחנו מקבלים קטעי יומן וסיפור חיים שלם בשלושים עמודים, וזה מרתק וסוף-סוף המשפטים שלה מסתיימים בנקודה כמו בני אדם ו... בקיצור, ספר שונה. אז השליש הזה מקבל ממני צל"ש, ובשבילו אולי אפילו שווה לדשדש בביצה הסגנונית המקומית.(less)
Disclosure: my review of this book is probably extremely biased, because I am neither a parent, nor American.
It's easy to talk out of one's ass about...moreDisclosure: my review of this book is probably extremely biased, because I am neither a parent, nor American.
It's easy to talk out of one's ass about secondhand experiences, much harder to actually do them when they're thrown in your face. So for all I know I may be a super-fussy, hyper-indulgent parent who would bring up terrifyingly bratty kids - my parents claim their spoiled me rotten, after all, despite the fact that my personal memory says otherwise.
But I certainly take the author's point about how much you're supposed to indulge your children, how resilient children's psyches and bodies are to damage, and how much you need to fret about their well-being (and, if you do, how useful that fretting really is).
If you don't want children, like me, this book isn't going to convince you. On the contrary, it's more likely to send you into a dark corner, whimpering in fear at the horrific descriptions of bratty children, mothers with no lives, and general parenting struggles - American or French. But this book isn't just about parenting.
It's also a sort of anthropological comparison of women's cultures and family dynamics between America and France. And while on the parenting scale France may win, I assure you, in terms of general family and gender role management it's far from coming out on top. It is additionally the journey of one woman to becoming acclimated to life in a foreign country through her child; a common generational effect in immigration. If the parents fail to become reconciled to their new place and its culture, often the children will do so for them.
It's not just for parents, though those of us who are not may view it as a good horror read before bedtime.(less)
Well, this was quite the anti-Semitic rag. Even for the norms of the time, which were notoriously lax about this sort of thing, and a publication date...moreWell, this was quite the anti-Semitic rag. Even for the norms of the time, which were notoriously lax about this sort of thing, and a publication date perilously close to the Dreyfus affair, this book has a... kick in it, shall we say.
My favourite moment of that Antisemitism was when the villain - a Jew to end all Jews, of course, although not religious, unwashed and naturally cowardly - noticing the hero all alone and dejected and "being an Oriental Israelite Hebrew Jew, could not help but spit at him." Wow, tell me more! Could you find another racial noun to add into that not-at-all-redundant chain, perhaps?
Being a Jew, or a non-Jew, or a part-Jew, is a big deal in this book in general. The author's attention to Jewishness is worthy of a strict rabbi right before a wedding. One of his protagonists, in an attempt, perhaps, to forestall claims to prejudice, is described as having a "small part of that blood which, in isolation..." well, you can imagine, "but without which no beauty is possible," or something like that. Thanks, author! Your universal acceptance is fortifying and encouraging. Whereas a Jew alone is like an ugly bulldog, you need someone in your family somewhere to have consented to tolerate one of these in order to provide, suitably diluted, many generations down the line, a good sample of a fighting dog. Yup. No racism there.
Fortunately for my conscience, the book possesses many more virtues, such as, for example, half a section - not a chapter, note, a section - in which the protagonist monologues incessantly to a dog. And, as though to remind us that it is the dog he is monologing to, uses his (the dog's) name every other sentence. The most noted part of the woman in the centre of the story, the eponymous Trilby, is her foot, of all things, being, apparently, the most perfect appendage in the universe and sufficient for the "sensitive, brilliant painter" to fall in love with her for ever. Well, I suppose one cannot expect in a book from 1893 to have a woman's merits considered, rather than her feet.
The book does have a few moments of grace to it, for example, like the author's surprising tolerance for women of the "lower" sort who sit nude for sculptors and painters in portraits of all sorts. I guess he realises that if all women were of "unimpeachable virtue" artists and sculptors of the time would be in severe trouble. There is also occasionally the glimmering of a sense of humour in there, somewhere, as when talking about the French aristocracy and attitudes towards them at the fin-de-ciecle period. But, on the whole, the fact that this was a bestseller is cause for much eyebrow raising and concern.(less)
It's fun to be back, for a little while, to a time in which heroes were heroes, villains were villanious, and passions ran so high they spilled overbo...moreIt's fun to be back, for a little while, to a time in which heroes were heroes, villains were villanious, and passions ran so high they spilled overboard.
Welcome to Melmoth the Wanderer - Gothic horror/Fantasy par excellence, which really doesn't know how to write about a sentiment without cranking it up to 11, and the going just a little more.
Meet Melmoth, the most villanious, diabolical villain ever, whose eyes can send people trembling and whose mere laughter can drive them mad. He's Faust like Goethe took something to lower his inhibitions, and he revels in it. Opposing him are various pathetic, tortured souls who fall prey to his Evil Machinations of Evil, and resist bravely the temptations despite being thrown in the madhouse, giving birth to dying children, and variously expiring with tremendous suffering.
It's wildly refreshing, in a way, to return to a literature that allows its emotions to crank up so high. Of course, it would hardly work in a 20th-21st century book precisely because we have grown out of the habit of speaking of smouldering gimlet eyes in the dark and laughter that causes trembling and fear - we are largely a secular world, and even when we are not, evil tends to cause a horror more internal and self-doubting than the pure, magical outside influence that Melmoth has.
And of course we no longer feel entirely comfortable with the absolute resilience that Melmoth's victims exhibit heroically in the face of all adversity. But that's not a bug, it's a feature. All the descriptions are intended to make you feel terrified and appalled - and the fact that it no longer works isn't the book's fault.
Like any Victoriana there is more digression and story within story here than actual "plot of the book" - it really likes its "tales of This" and "Narratives of That" so one should not expect a fast-paced read. Of course, Melmoth dissolves into dust in the end, so it's not a book without excitement.(less)
Really weird reading experience. On the one hand, it is very well-written. So well-written that you really don't feel the burden of the 770+ pages, an...moreReally weird reading experience. On the one hand, it is very well-written. So well-written that you really don't feel the burden of the 770+ pages, and stylistically, it's charming and fun. But...
And here's the 'but', while each pages individually reads easily and well, somehow the impression from the whole book together is of this lump of stuff that really needed to be cut down. And I honestly don't know how to explain it better.
I also couldn't get to connect to any of the characters. They neither evoked special like nor dislike in me. Theo just seemed like the cliche of a literary teenager - the only way the author can think of showing a person realistically coping with their destroyed life is to have them sink so far into drugs and alcohol that they should have been long since arrested just by looking at them on the street. That still fails in making him interesting. At least Henry from The Secret History was actually clever.
Speaking of drugs, Theo shows up in New York after two years of non-stop addiction, and doesn't show even the smallest of withdrawal symptoms? Really? What the heck happened to shakes, screaming in the night, temper outbursts and all those other fun and pleasant things an addict actually goes though while cleaning-up, not to mention the cognitive repercussions of chomping up on all those pills at the tender age of thirteen?
I guess drug use has no consequences before the age of twenty.
The book has a very bidungsroman sort of feel to it, but it doesn't really provide any insight or revelation of interest. It's quite clever, and extremely crafted, but it lacks a certain spark that would make it better. plus it could lose a hundred pages of drug abuse and not be the worse for it. (less)
Nabokov is the only author I know of so far who, by some trick of genius, managed to make me like an extremely unlikable narrator. I am not sure how h...moreNabokov is the only author I know of so far who, by some trick of genius, managed to make me like an extremely unlikable narrator. I am not sure how he does it, but I manage to both fully understand that the author disapproves of his narrator entirely, and enjoy the narration. In the case of Pale Fire, Kinbote is altogether unlikable and at the same time wholly enjoyable as a narrator, in a way that leaves me jealous and impressed.
Initially Pale Fire may seem unreadable or at least extremely challenging. Just think of the description! "This book consists of a 99 line poem, and the commentary upon said poem." One has to wonder just how one is to keep track of it all, and what sort of story could possibly be told in such a manner. However, Nabokov being Nabokov, he does manage to tell a story, both in the poem alone, and in the aforementioned commentary, which I rapidly rechristened as "The Book on How Not to Write a Commentary, Ever."
It does require keeping in mind at least the general outline of the poem's narrative course, and taking everything said in the commentary with extremely large grains of salt - or, preferably, keeping firm hold of a saltshaker - but, unless you have some form of literary OCD (which, I admittedly cannot guarantee you do not) I would advise against obsessing too much with the precise return to each line and constant jumping back to the point. I feel it's missing the point, but that is just my opinion.(less)
Apparently reviewers of the time called this book "honest but dull." I can't help agreeing. It was, in no more words than that, honest, but exceptiona...moreApparently reviewers of the time called this book "honest but dull." I can't help agreeing. It was, in no more words than that, honest, but exceptionally dull. The first part, especially, was so incredibly tedious, in both its writing and its plot, that I was ready to give the book one star and chuck it.
Luckily for my sanity the next three parts actually picked up - or maybe I got used to the tedium - and became somewhat more bearable to read, putting the book in the realm of 'inoffensive'.
I think that my problem with this book's two protagonists was not a lack of events, but a lack of personality. Sophia's "individuality" was more of an informed ability; it was mentioned an awful lot, and had consequences for the story, but I never saw it with my own two eyes. Constance didn't even have the author reminding me every two minutes how much of a personality she is.
Essentially, in terms of the characters, the book fails in the issue of 'show, don't tell'. It tells quite a bit, but shows relatively little. It probably provides a fairly accurate description of the way women behaved and perhaps thought - though who could say? - at the time the book was written, but it's not really a surprise that nowadays it is relatively obscure. it didn't seem to age well.(less)
A short and surprisingly sweet - for a given sense of sweet - kind of book where nothing much happens, but the nothing much still manages to be engagi...moreA short and surprisingly sweet - for a given sense of sweet - kind of book where nothing much happens, but the nothing much still manages to be engaging just the same.
This is the story of Portia who is given a last name in the book, but ho remembers it? She's about sixteen, naive, used to living in hotels, and completely clueless, even for a sixteen year old. After the death of her parents she is packed off to live with her fraternal brother and his wife in their high-strung, nervous household, because at least it's better than boarding school.
The descriptor on the book says it is the story of innocence betrayed, and perhaps it is, but that is not quite the feel I got from it. It felt more like everybody was busy betraying everybody, in minor and extremely annoying ways. Sort of like living with a lot of internet trolls all in one house.
Unlike many books of the time period, this one is written in a plain, more or less comprehensible way, that doesn't leave the reader searching for more or floundering in elliptical dialogue. A nice and not overbearing look which does leave something to be desired as a bidungsroman because, frankly, while Portia does become disillusionment and comes to understand life and society better, there isn't much growing up done by any of the parties involved.(less)