A Single Man is yet another of the books I am currently reading for my Modern Novel class, and I also have the fabulous opportunity of reading it undeA Single Man is yet another of the books I am currently reading for my Modern Novel class, and I also have the fabulous opportunity of reading it under the guidance of one of the most dedicated Isherwood scholars around. From the very first passage, you know you are reading something fantastic. Isherwood doesn't have the impressionistic style of Woolf, and he doesn't feel the need to write EXACTLY how people think, like Joyce. He simply lets a few thoughts run, and sees where they go for however long they stay.
I love the candid nature of George's mind... like when he fantasizes about tormenting all the jerks in the world who piss him off (you know, the jerk who cuts you off on the highway, that smug bastard down the street). These are all urges that people feel, but we push them down because, as George thinks, there's a certain expectation that people and the universe have of you. You will get up. You will put on real pants. You will go to work. At the start of the day, George is aware that the day is going to suck, and by the end of the day both he and the reader realize that it was probably a pretty good day, actually. This is kind of reassuring. And I'm just saying kind of because the ending is very, VERY vague as to whether or not George will be capable of having a decent day tomorrow, too.
One of the most interesting aspects of this book is the intentions of the author, the fact that it's not too far off from Isherwood's own life, and how George's/Isherwood's sexuality comes into play. Isherwood is gay. George is gay and mourning his dead lover, Jim. But Isherwood repeatedly held that A Single Man is not a "Gay" book; it is a book about the downtrodden minorities of every type (race, age, and sexuality primarily, though I'm sure you could argue it represents minorities of any other kind you could think of) represented through the metaphor of George's homosexuality. But then again, that was just how Isherwood said he meant the book, and many authors (including the amazing John Green) have argued that the author's intention is irrelevant, and that the reader's interpretation is king, though there are both good and bad readings.
Ok, Ok, I'll pull back the English Major stuff now. But Isherwood's prose is amazing, his insight into the human psyche is inspired, and the book is a light and fairly easy read on top of that. And it also functions as a more or less working map of L.A. in the 60's, so if you want a bit of a time-warp vacation, this book is for you!
It has taken something like a month, but Ulysses is finally done. I have conquered one of the Literary Behemoths (with Moby Dick and Middlemarch oftenIt has taken something like a month, but Ulysses is finally done. I have conquered one of the Literary Behemoths (with Moby Dick and Middlemarch often considered as the other 2 of the Great Big Scary 3).
Many aspects of this book are very, very challenging, and in my opinion you may want a little exposure to Joyce (like Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) before you attempt this book. The other thing I strongly suggest is the new book Ulysses and Us by Declan Kiberd. Kiberd is essentially THE Joycean and spells out important literary concepts for each chapter of Ulysses.
There are so many things the book brings up, but my personal favorite discussion has been the balance between art and obscenity within the eyes of the law.
I remember touring NYU when I was between junior and senior year of high school. Right there, in the middle of the Art Department main office, was a black and white photograph of a woman sitting on the toilet. I was shocked. She had a faraway look in her eyes, and she was clearly thinking about something else-- the grocery list, all the things she had to do, something overwhelming. I was... confused but mentally intrigued. I had never seen anyone on the toilet before, and it's not something I actively think about other people doing. Ulysses is a lot like that. Almost as soon as Leopold Bloom, the main character, is introduced, we see him on the toilet. It's not particularly gross or graphic, but it's a private moment and there the reader is-- hovering. The book spans the course of one day, June 16th, and we see Leopold do pretty much everything. He eats, farts, has lustful thoughts... sure, some of the lustful thoughts might be creepy out of context, but in the 700 pages of context given, the reader becomes aware that this persistent lust is mostly due to the fact that he and his wife don't get down to the hanky-panky very much since their infant son died ten years ago.
Joyce shows every aspect of life in such away that the reader realizes exactly what it it to be a human, full of conflict, obsessive thoughts and bodily needs (that goes back to the eating and farting). Just be prepared, because you have to find that beauty among a load of experimental styles and prose that can get very heavy at times....more
I can’t remember the last book I disliked as much as I dislike Emma. GoodReads informs me that I have been struggling through this book since the mid I can’t remember the last book I disliked as much as I dislike Emma. GoodReads informs me that I have been struggling through this book since the middle of October, but in actuality this book has been haunting me for at least ten years. I bought it sometime before I went to boarding school. Though I remember starting it several times, I never made it past page 30. As I vociferously complained about this book as I was reading it this time, both M and my mother asked me why I was reading it if I disliked it so much. I didn’t really have a good answer at the time, but now I know. Leaving this book unread for so long was haunting me. I really don’t like leaving things undone, and I wanted to challenge myself as a reader. As an apprentice-writer, you are supposed to read as much as you can. If left solely to my own devices, I would mostly read YA, so Classics and Modern, Adult Lit are good for me. Usually, I like reading about Austen’s heroines. I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice. Northanger Abbey was a fun read. But Emma Woodhouse makes me want to hit people. Okay, mostly I just want to hit her. So what were my issues? In Northanger Abbey, the heroine is also fairly naive and kind of creates the problems in her life. But you know what? She feels badly about it! And she learns! Emma’s excessively high opinion of herself pissed me off beyond belief, and though she feels bad for a minute or two, in another 30 pages she’ll be doing exactly whatever it was that got her into trouble last time. In fact, I don’t think she focuses too much on starting the rumor about Jane Fairfax being in love with a married man. If she even thinks about it, it wasn’t for very long. In fact, she focuses more on making a catty comment to Jane’s aunt (whose ridiculously chatty dialog is *painful* to read), and that’s primarily just because Knightly chastises her for it. Which brings me to my other issue: Knightly. Not a super-hot Austen heroine, in my opinion. Call me a crazy modern woman, but patronizing guys just aren’t attractive to me. Now, I think he’s perfect for Emma, who continues to act exactly like a spoiled child/Mean Girl, but I couldn’t get 100% behind a relationship predominately based on him trying to fix her and get her to grow up. Maybe I’m missing something, and I’d love to see your thoughts or defenses of the book in comments. But really I’m just glad I accomplished that. Hopefully my other 10+ year book that is haunting me, The Phantom of the Opera, won’t be as painful.
Rating: 2 stars— At least I will never have to start this book again. ...more