I'm gonna reread this – maybe after I finish On the Road, for the second time, and Desolation Angels – and do a better-thunk-out review, because I thiI'm gonna reread this – maybe after I finish On the Road, for the second time, and Desolation Angels – and do a better-thunk-out review, because I think this book deserves it. After a first read, my impression was that the path of The Dharma Bums has highs and lows, like the mountainous country around which most of the book is based. I liked the first half-ish, the climb with Japhy and Morley; the third quarter was a bit dull (read: hitchhiking and family disagreements); the last quarter I loved and found to be the most poetic, the most poignant and hopeful. A quality of hopefulness is not (in my experience) as common with Kerouac as with Ginsberg or other Beat poets, so I really appreciated it here, though it still made me sad. Made me want to live in the mountains alone myself and find simplicity. But emotional reactions aside, it's good to get into reading Kerouac again. TBC....more
This book is helping me to get my head out of an awful depression and toward self-love and acceptance. I've read similar Buddhist self helpish books bThis book is helping me to get my head out of an awful depression and toward self-love and acceptance. I've read similar Buddhist self helpish books before, since that spiritual path is one I feel drawn to – but none of the other books affected me quite like this one. If anyone could motivate me to meditate – a good habit I always quit in favour of yoga, though I knew that both would be beneficial – it's Cheri Huber and this easily readable, relatable intro to some Zen Buddhist philosophy. Of course, in order to really grow from this book I'll have to maintain a meditation practice. Yet I feel that the boulder in my brain has shifted enough to allow me to do that and not drown in despair first. So I highly recommend you read There Is Nothing Wrong With You – if you feel open to learning that there really isn't....more
A hustler's memoir. A smooth weave of prose, glosa, haiku, free verse, like different shades of hair on the same scalp. I went to a public reading ofA hustler's memoir. A smooth weave of prose, glosa, haiku, free verse, like different shades of hair on the same scalp. I went to a public reading of How Poetry Saved My Life by the author at Venus Envy (Halifax, NS). I even got to chat with Amber Dawn for a minute, a bit nervously, because I'm always nervous talking to accomplished writers (but I had to ask her to sign my freshly-purchased copy, so it was worth my awkwardness). If the topic of this book hadn't fascinated me, her reading definitely would've. Amber Dawn reads so beautifully. I can barely hope that I'll ever learn to read my own writing, or anybody else's, half so skillfully.
But I found in reading it to myself that the lyricism is just as much in the written word as in her spoken voice. The sure intonation and sharp lilt in her (true) stories and poems of survival, truth-telling (or sometimes lying, because that is also survival), and solidarity – mercifully without useless pity for self or others – were audible and convincing to me. I read it alone, stretching the small volume over a week, because it deserves at least that much time. It will stay in my head and heart for much longer.
I don't think there's much I can say that will draw the strands of this artwork together any more succinctly than is already done in its pages. And it's hard for me to think about what this book even means to me - as a relatively-privileged, white, straight (publically speaking), university-educated woman who has never suffered from any kind of sexual exploitation. Dawn doesn't try to draw an us-vs.-them line between herself and more privileged people. There aren't necessarily outsiders and insiders in her narrative. She writes with a significant degree of understanding and even compassion for those 'on the other side' of her experiences, which to my mind is one of the most awe-inspiring aspects of this memoir. It's the sign of someone who has undergone so much transformation in her life that the tired old going-strong dichotomies, however much they command all of our lives, no longer hold much stock for her. And I don't know if this is how she feels all the time about how her life represents the lives of many she writes about and for. But that's what I read, on this first reading at least, and to communicate that seems as difficult a feat as really believing it. For that and many other reasons beyond my articulation, I hope this book will be honoured....more
I did it! I finally read a C.Brontë novel that's not Jane Eyre! And I really did love Jane Eyre, back in tenth grade (my only time reading the whole tI did it! I finally read a C.Brontë novel that's not Jane Eyre! And I really did love Jane Eyre, back in tenth grade (my only time reading the whole thing through), but I love Villette more. I think this would be true even if I reread Jane Eyre now. It could be a result of oversimplification in my memory, but I don't recall Jane's character – or Rochester's, for that matter – having the psychological depth that make Lucy and Paul Emanuel so stunningly different from other Victorian, or modern, characters I know. Brontë seems to make no effort whatsoever to make Lucy likeable. I could relate to her at many points, in her sense of total isolation and her gratitude to any eye that looks kindly on her – but I never felt better about myself or Lucy for that empathy. As for Paul, we get such a biased view of him most of the time that I was less inclined to admire him than Lucy would think her reader to be. (These are certainly not the only worthwhile characters in the novel, but I'm trying not to write another novel here.)
In *most* points, Lucy Snow's inner world feels chillingly real, not distanced by her era but rather painfully immediate. Her fairly straightforward experiences are, I feel, imbued with Brontë's understanding of the banality of suffering. Lucy could be the blueprint for those children in the Series of Unfortunate Events books. As for the ending, well, I could barely handle the ending. The last lines clipped, resigned, tying up the frayed ends we don't care about in the wake of the storm. Our expectations, one last time, are subverted. And yet I don't see any other narrative way that Lucy's existence, as we come to know her, could continue beyond the last page. If you don't like reading about pain, don't read this book, please.
Toward the Paulina-and-John Graham story I have mixed feelings. Paulina drove me slightly crazy from the first page she was introduced (this is the intended effect of the "neat, completely-fashioned little figure," yes?). She's just too dear for words. And not really interesting, beyond the unchanging ability of little pixie-girls to be fascinating in themselves no matter what. 'Thank goodness the story's not centred around her,' I thought. Imagine my dismay upon reaching the glut of chapters devoted to her burgeoning romance with Graham – ohai, Prince Charming!
"She belongs there, left with her liberty, never known as a non-believer; she laughs and stays in the won-won-won-wonderful." (Pace Brian Wilson.)
Admittedly this is where I dropped out of the book for a couple of months, due also to some summer goings-on, and didn't come back to read the last hundred or so pages until this week. I would really like to reread this, but if I reread every book I didn't "feel sure of" before reviewing it ….
I just want to mention a final thing that bothers me about "classic" Victorian literature in general, including this work. UTTER. REPRESSION. OF. SEXUALITY. I understand why it's repressed in this period, relative to our own; it's just come to bother me more and more over the years. Geez, Paulina and Graham are attractive young people – they're not marrying solely because they have nice childhood memories and engaging literary discussions. Never mind them, though; I needed Lucy to come alive, just a little bit more than she ever does. She is so full and yet so empty. Virtually every single moment she blocks her emotions with shuddering pride and fear. Rightfully, understandably, she needs so much! and it only made sense to me if she needed sexual connection as well as friendship. Look, it doesn't need to be a lot. I wanted to hear just a little bit of how magnetically Lucy is pulled toward Paul, how he looks at her lips, how she strokes his hair, the electricity when their eyes meet. I guess that if I can imagine all of this then my wanting it in the book is superfluous. It's just that I can't really "commit" to a relationship that is incredibly rich in two components (the mental and emotional, maybe even spiritual as well) and devoid of a physical aspect. Sorry, Victorian era. Maybe I need a good fix of Apollinaire....more