The Belly of Paris is an unusual literary feat, a seeming polemic with a virtually hidden message. In prose that describes the food markets of the citThe Belly of Paris is an unusual literary feat, a seeming polemic with a virtually hidden message. In prose that describes the food markets of the city in glorious (and sometimes squalid) detail, Zola introduces us to this specialized world that feeds the rich and poor of the capital city. These descriptions are beautifully written and even the squalid details are often metaphorically lovely.
Beneath that surface, however, is the battle of the "Fats" and "Thins" (also an alternate title of the book). These are not simply to be taken as haves and have-nots. It's more complicated than that. The fat are somehow more acceptable, more successful, even if not financially so. To be thin is to be suspect.
To this milieu returns Florent Quenu, a Parisian wrongly imprisoned and exiled to Devil's Island. He has escaped and now is back, but for what purpose? The people of Les Halles, the produce market, live on gossip, spreading stories whether true or false. The government sits in the background, watching all, making plans.
There were times when I became impatient with Zola's concentration on seemingly endless description over character and/or plot. But, admittedly, these descriptions were beautifully wrought. And, in the end, I found that they served a purpose toward the overall end. There was a message about the fruits of excess and the role of the state, not the message I might like but amazingly modern. And perhaps his technique mirrored that excess.
Not enough "there" there...that's my immediate response on finishing The Sun Also Rises. Perhaps it's unfair, for I am a Faulkner devotee and there reNot enough "there" there...that's my immediate response on finishing The Sun Also Rises. Perhaps it's unfair, for I am a Faulkner devotee and there really can't be two more dissimilar writers in modern English. I waited for drama, but whatever dramatic moments arose were as understated as E.H.'s descriptions of the Spanish countryside.
The bus climbed steadily up the road. The country was barren and rocks stuck up through the clay. There was no grass beside the road. Looking back we could see the country spread out below. Far back the fields were squares of green and brown on the hillsides. Making the horizon were the brown mountains. They were strangely shaped. As we climbed higher the horizon kept changing. As the bus ground slowly up the road we could see other mountains coming up in the south. (p 113-114)
What I find is that this form of writing does not increase my curiosity about what is to come. I'm not intrigued about this land Jake and his friend are entering. For me, it's almost boring as described.
And sadly much of the novel struck me the same way. It reminded me of much I've read of Hemingway and many other writers and artists who lived in Paris between the wars, where parties and alcohol seemed to be fairly constant. The relationships don't conform to any reality I can relate to but then this is also very much a man's book, I think, as Hemingway was a man's man. So perhaps that adds to some of the foreign feeling for me.
All in all I'm glad I read this as I felt a gap in my literature experience but I doubt I will hurry back to Hemingway in the future.
Probably closer to a 2.5 but there were some parts I did like....more
A revelation and a delight---those were my reactions on reading, then on finishing, Great Expectations, first read, and not enjoyed while in high schoA revelation and a delight---those were my reactions on reading, then on finishing, Great Expectations, first read, and not enjoyed while in high school, only slightly remembered from that time(vague recall about who his actual patron might be).
This second experience, oh so many years later, has reawakened the joy of reading the Victorian serial novel. I looked forward to picking this book up each time I did so. I chuckled and laughed with some of Dickens words, names and descriptions, enjoyed the characters he developed, and the variety of emotions he could elicit. What a master.
Among my favorites---Pip's progress toward self knowledge itself, Wemmick and the Aged One, Herbert and so many in that little village, who are all drawn so well. And Dickens' descriptive skills--of the marshes, the boats on the Thames, Newgate, the death masks. So many details that complement and forward the action.
Now I want and plan to read more of Dickens as soon as I'm able. As always it's the scheduling that is the hardest part....more
In my second book of ISOLT, I find myself with both more patience and more impatience while reading. The glories of the writing are simply wonderful.In my second book of ISOLT, I find myself with both more patience and more impatience while reading. The glories of the writing are simply wonderful. The moments of insight sweep me away and I read them over again, once or twice to get their meaning completely. But there are some passages in between that test me, not yet to the point where I feel any threat of desertion but I do occasionally wish I could shake our narrator a bit, tell him to open his eyes perhaps a bit wider, take in more than one nose or eye at this time. (I know I'm being a bit silly here but haven't each of you had such moments?)
But there are such glories too---the description of the train trip to Balbec and the sun rising and setting. The descriptions of Albertine as he first meets her and of lying on the beach, his room at the hotel. His descriptions of young love. Proust is testing me as he tests himself and his memory to tease out all the small details of the past. And I will continue on this ride.
I have added a link to Teresa's review as I found it says much I appreciate.
The places we have known do not belong solely to the the world of space in which we situate them for our greater convenience. They were only a thin sThe places we have known do not belong solely to the the world of space in which we situate them for our greater convenience. They were only a thin slice among contiguous impressions which formed our life at that time; the memory of a certain image is but regret for a certain moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fleeting, alas, as the years. (p 444)
And so ends Swann's Way, Book One of In Search of Lost Time. Our narrator takes us back to his childhood through precious memories and, at the very end, moves these memories closer to his present. He talks of family, home, town, neighbors, love -- his and others'.
Proust's work is famous for its form---sentences that seem to begin and end almost without structure, with multiple clauses that can cause the reader to become lost on occasion. True! I did find myself tracking back to the beginning of a sentence every once in a while to be sure of its full intent. But I also found myself re-reading phrases and sentences because of their sheer beauty or because of their resonance in my own life.
There are many wonderful reviews of this book already so I will keep mine simple. I am very glad that I have finally begun the Proustian journey and am doing this with a group of like-minded readers.
Highly recommended to those patient readers who have not yet met M. Proust....more
"the humor is so sly. at times it's difficult to believe that this was written over 150 years ago. I guess that gentle social humor has always been wi"the humor is so sly. at times it's difficult to believe that this was written over 150 years ago. I guess that gentle social humor has always been with us." --- this was one of my status updates while reading Cranford, my first experience reading Elizabeth Gaskell.
As I finished reading, I felt the same way: pleased with the experience, surprised at the wit and wisdom written so well so many years ago. But then I ask myself...Why am I surprised? There are always intelligent women and always intelligent women who find ways to make themselves heard even in less than enthusiastic societies. I need to keep looking for them!
I had planned to include some of the truly wonderful quotes from various characters but instead I challenge you to read this book and discover them for yourself. I venture to say you will be glad you did....more
Twelve Voices is an excellent exploration of twelve writers of ancient Greece and Rome, writers I had varying degrees of familiarity with before openiTwelve Voices is an excellent exploration of twelve writers of ancient Greece and Rome, writers I had varying degrees of familiarity with before opening this book. I now wish to read more. Surely this is a sign of a well-written, enjoyable text. As the author states in his preface:
The book...makes no claim to be a comprehensive guide to classical literature. It is designed to be suggestive; a palatable taster of what ancient literature and culture can do for us in the present day. (loc 33)
Beginning with Homer, the author takes the reader through not only ancient texts but also their presence and influence in more modern times and the present day world as influences on literature, literary forms, behavior. The chapter on Sappho was actually updated to include new findings and interpretations of her writings. Also from the introduction:
One theme, indeed, is the way that these texts leave so much up to their readers. Because they are richly textured voices they are also equivocal. Cicero invites you to judge between opposing arguments for the existence of a supreme deity. Virgil forces you to weigh in the balance female against male and love against the chaos of war. Juvenal and Lucian press you to choose between the satirist and the targets of their abuse. Sappho challenges you to comprehend her erotic predicament and feel the nature of her pleasure or her pain. These voices urge you to respond...to react... (loc 73)
I was unfamiliar with Lucian prior to reading this but now I really must read more. I laughed aloud while reading some of his satire.
Exactly who would enjoy this book...probably anyone with an interest in classical literature, unless you are already a totally informed scholar which I am most definitely not. Anyone else is very likely to learn or have old knowledge refreshed here. As with the latest interpretations of Sappho, even the writings of these ancients aren't stagnant. Dropping in on them, even in this overview form, can be very valuable.
Supplementing the text is a detailed annotated bibliography for each chapter, a source of more reading!
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley for purpose of honest review....more