I was assigned this book for a seminar course on the works of Toni Morrison. It was refreshing to read a novel that was so full of ideas and written w...moreI was assigned this book for a seminar course on the works of Toni Morrison. It was refreshing to read a novel that was so full of ideas and written with such a poetic touch. The story is delivered through vignettes of different characters at key points in their lives, and Morrison has a gift for building complex psychological portraits with very little ink. I was most excited to read a book that condemns mass culture and advertising for creating need and damaging our conception of beauty.
I'm afraid to make the complaint (because i am a man, which seems completely unfashionable right now) that there are three child molesting men in a book with four male characters. This is not only infeasible but a little unfair. Morrison is either unsure of how to write a male character or cynical as hell. Whatevz. all this aside, it is an intense study of human trauma, and something I would recommend.(less)
Frederick Seidel's effortless rhymes are inspiring. So much so that for several months I wrote imitative rhyming poems. They were horrible. In "Kill P...moreFrederick Seidel's effortless rhymes are inspiring. So much so that for several months I wrote imitative rhyming poems. They were horrible. In "Kill Poem," which opens the book, Seidel's sophisticated verse infuses a snobbishness into the very language of the poem. The sounds themselves ooze the same sort of stiff-lipped detachment and tasteful disdain that complement the poem's meaning. he's a strange master.
"Huntsman indeed is gone from Savile Row.
And Mr. Hall, the head cutter.
The red hunt coat Hall cut for me was utter
Red melton cloth thick as a carpet, cut just so.
One time I wore it riding my red Ducati racer- what a show!-
Matched exotics like a pair of lovely red egrets.
London once seemed the epitome of no regrets
And the old excellence one used to know
Of the chased-down fox bleeding its stink across the snow."
pretty good. it's a framed narrative told through letters from a sailor, Walton, to his sister. by the way, a story told in the form of letters is cal...morepretty good. it's a framed narrative told through letters from a sailor, Walton, to his sister. by the way, a story told in the form of letters is called epistolary. how about that $10 word, bitches.
anyway, this sailor comes across dr. frankenstein on his travels, who proceeds to tell the guy his entire life story. so we're getting what has already happened to dr. frankenstein, retold to a sailor, who's telling it to us through some letters. nice. i don't really like framed narratives because a) i started getting into the story and then i'd have to get through this kind of bullshit: "aye, the sea is too perilous and the lamplight fades with the ocean's bluster. fare thee well until my next letter Margaret and may Providence kisseth your forehead oh so tenderly but not erotically or i will have to beateth some ass. Adieu & Love, Walton."
and then you get the date of the next letter, some stupid introductory remarks and then you're back into the story. i've never finished a book and thought to myself, "that would have been so much better if it had been a bunch of letters from somebody's nephew."
it also messes up my sense of time when i'm reading the novel. and then i get distracted because i start thinking, "okay, so presumably his sister got these letters...because i'm reading them. so he probably survived? or maybe he didn't survive and the letters washed up on shore. wait wait that never happens, they would be totally soaked. or destroyed." and the suspense of whether this guy Walton is going to make it out of his sailing adventure alive is effectively gone because i'm reading his letters so i know he must have at least made it to land to find a post office. to Shelley's credit, the narrator served an important function later in the book. but i feel like narrators are generally supposed to represent an average, objective person that the reader can identify with. but i am an average, objective person, and i'm more than happy to observe the events of a novel and form my own opinions. narrators generally bug me a little.
another problem. the characters in this story are constantly crying. i noticed it after the third or fourth good cry and then i started to put tally marks next to them and i stopped when i got to 12. it's so sporadic and goofy too, one line really made me laugh. it was basically like: "i handed him the note and he began to read it. tears gushed from his eyes." it was probably an effort on Shelley's part to really ham up the contrast between the humany humanness of all the regular people and the monstery monstrousness of Frankenstein's uncaring creature. but it just seemed silly. and it reminded me of that part at the end of Blade Runner when the white-haired replicant says something about "tears in the rain" and then you're supposed to feel all tingly because i guess crying is what makes us human. i'd like to read a book where it wasn't crying that made us human, but opposable thumbs. like, if an author really focused on thumbs for the majority of the book. actually, vonnegut's probably already done that.
so i guess the 4-star rating is puzzling. but it's a really great novel. it's full of really interesting ideas about being human, the self, society, ethics, obsession, creation, destruction. it was pretty much an all-you-can-eat theme and symbolism buffet. there were a few parts that i really liked where characters were found guilty of crimes that they had not committed. it seems possible that this was one of the first books to suggest that innocence and guilt are internal things, and that our courts systems don't always get it right, or are even incapable of being "right."
also, Frankenstein's monster seemed more human than Frankenstein himself. i kept trying to figure out why this was so. if it had been written fifty years ago, i wouldn't have been very impressed. but keeping in mind its publication date, and shelley's age when she wrote it (omg19), i really enjoyed it.(less)
I read Chopin's novel after finishing Henry James's Daisy Miller, which was published 20 years earlier, and helped to establish some context. i did ha...moreI read Chopin's novel after finishing Henry James's Daisy Miller, which was published 20 years earlier, and helped to establish some context. i did have some problems with the actions and motivations of Mrs. Pontellier, but overall i really enjoyed it, specifically the psychological component and the style.
compared to other Victorian realist novels, this is an incredibly objective handling of such a controversial subject and i was really relieved that there wasn't any heavy-handed moralizing. i was impressed by how Chopin managed to avoid passing judgment on Edna, or advocating her egoistic lifestyle. i feel confident in saying that whatever we may feel about Edna, it's not a reaction contrived by any subtle bias on Chopin's part.
i also enjoyed that Edna rebelled against the pretensions of society, and attempted to return to a more natural state of being. when she moved to a smaller house, she claimed to descend in class, but grow in spirituality. this is not necessarily feminism, but simply good humanism. excess and artifice are unnatural, and can make anyone feel as despondent as Edna. i got the sense that Darwin's writing influenced Chopin; appeals to natural biology or "animalism" colorered some of the more passionate parts of the book.
when the doctor told Edna that "youth was given to illusions... decoys for mothers in order to preserve the race..." it became clear the sort of animal nature that Chopin was giving to her characters
i also liked how the language moved away from the very ornate Victorian, such as the style of Henry James, which relies on vocabulary and intricate sentence structure. this novel was written very sensually, and even had a few peculiar non-sequitur metaphors that aren't impressive by today's standards, but were probably important to the direction of literature
was edna selfish and theatrical- sure. but i enjoyed the novel, it has the vitality of progress (less)