This book convinced me to finally start Moby Dick. Well, the author's (1981) introduction did, anyway. I usually skip author intros, but am glad I rea...moreThis book convinced me to finally start Moby Dick. Well, the author's (1981) introduction did, anyway. I usually skip author intros, but am glad I read this one as it set the stage for reading this.
Two things kept me from giving it 5 stars: the post-WWII macho-absurdist writing style is something I really have to be in the mood for and the whole thing with the Womens Question didn't really work for me. Also, the lack of racial markers for white characters threw me off sometimes as I was assuming black as the default (like Brother Jack, which really confused me for a bit)... but, I think there was intentionality there.
There's actually so much subtext, symbolism, layering in this story that I think I'm going to need to read it again in a few years. The ending, that little bit of hope Ellison leaves us with... so many feels.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE FREE OF ILLUSION... And now I answered, "Painful and empty," as I saw a glittering butterfly circle three times around my blood-red parts.... "Why do you laugh?" he said. "Because at a price I now see that which I couldn't see," I said. ... "I'm an invisible man and it placed me in a hole--or showed me the hole I was in, if you will--and I reluctantly accepted the fact. What else could I have done? Once you get used to it, reality is as irresistible as a club, and I was clubbed into the cellar before I caught the hint." ... "Whence all this passion toward conformity anyway?--diversity is the word. Let man keep his many parts and you'll have no tyrant states. ... America is woven of many strands; I would recognize them and let it so remain. It's 'winner take nothing' that is the great truth of our country or of any country. Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing the play in face of certain defeat. Our fate is to become one, and yet many."
Lit fic, especially lit fic featuring a generally unlikable protagonist and no derring-do of any sort, is not my thing. But the writing is amazing. I...moreLit fic, especially lit fic featuring a generally unlikable protagonist and no derring-do of any sort, is not my thing. But the writing is amazing. I was especially struck by how the author was able to show how a douchey protagonist is that way (at least in part*) because of the societal structure he's trapped in. And Giovanni and Hella both broke my heart; I wish they'd had the chance to be friends.
*It took me a long time to figure out that David's constant whining to his father and manipulating people poorer than him for money was probably due to alcoholism. I couldn't figure out why he wouldn't even try for a job. (Or maybe he really was just exceptionally spoiled/self-absorbed?)(less)
Emerson's introduction was brilliant and gave me a good idea of what to expect in this collection. Falen's translation is very readable. My reactions...moreEmerson's introduction was brilliant and gave me a good idea of what to expect in this collection. Falen's translation is very readable. My reactions to each play varied greatly.
Boris Godunov - historically interesting but emotionally flat
A scene from Faust - So jaded it made me feel like Pollyanna in comparison, so short that feeling was more invigorating than overwhelming. I've put off reading Faust for a long time, but may actually attempt it now.
The miserly knight - Grossly antisemitic. Even imagining the Baron as played by Scrooge McDuck couldn't make me enjoy it.
Mozart and Salieri - Bubbly and malicious. Enjoyed it more than I anticipated.
The stone guest - I mostly rolled my eyes. I've never found the legend of Don Juan particularly interesting.
A feast in time of plague - *blank stare*
Rusalka (The water-nymph) - Gave me chills and left me wanting more. (less)
I adored Tatiana, sighed at Lensky, and shook my head at Evgeny/Eugene. I can see why people have taught themselves Russian to be able to read the ori...moreI adored Tatiana, sighed at Lensky, and shook my head at Evgeny/Eugene. I can see why people have taught themselves Russian to be able to read the original.
Johnston translation - serviceable. There were passages where I was thrown off a bit by the oddly starchy voice, where based on context I was expecting something lighter, more swiftly cutting, more fluid.
Still need to try the Falen and Mitchell translations.
Chapter 2, XIV But friendship, as between our heroes, can't really be: for we've outgrown old prejudice; all men are zeroes, the units are ourselves alone. Napoleon's our sole inspiration; the millions of two-legged creation for us are instruments and tools; feeling is quaint, and fit for fools.
Chapter two, XXVII Tatyana had no dolls to dandle, not even in her earliest age; she'd never tell them news or scandal or novelties from fashion's page. Tatyana never knew the attraction of childish pranks: a chilled reaction to horror-stories told at night in winter was her heart's delight.(less)
Some powerful scenes and phrases. Would probably have rated this higher if I enjoyed social realism - my favorite parts were when Janie was dream-thin...moreSome powerful scenes and phrases. Would probably have rated this higher if I enjoyed social realism - my favorite parts were when Janie was dream-thinking, but there was a big chunk in the middle without much of that.(less)
Brilliant in many ways, and I'm absolutely glad to have read it.
I did have a few problems with it though. The casual acceptance of domestic and class...moreBrilliant in many ways, and I'm absolutely glad to have read it.
I did have a few problems with it though. The casual acceptance of domestic and class violence as a part of life bothered me, but it also kind of made sense in the story. What I had a harder time reconciling myself with was the anti-Semitic and anti-Rom rhetoric. For someone who had such compassion in his portrayal of the shadows and the light within the human heart, the author's seemingly mindless prejudice in this regard was disappointing.(less)