I can't believe I forgot to review this last year. I read it in one sitting, and the friend at whose home I did the reading can attest to the fact tha...moreI can't believe I forgot to review this last year. I read it in one sitting, and the friend at whose home I did the reading can attest to the fact that I cried a lot during that sitting. And I certainly didn't forget it - in fact, I was looking it up here because I'm probably going to base one of my courses' major projects around it. Being both sick and busy at present, I'm not going to give this the full review it deserves (yet), but I'll copy in the blurb I wrote for a 30-Day Reading Challenge on Facebook, because it covers the basics of how I feel about this poignant piece of dramatic literature ...
Oil and Water is a recent and incredibly beautiful work by a key figure among modern Newfoundland writers. Chafe dramatizes the true story of Lanier Phillips, one of the only survivors of a 1942 shipwreck on the Burin Peninsula. Phillips was the first black man ever encountered by the locals who rescued him.
A review of the show from 2012 summarizes how this story "brings out the humanity in a small Newfoundland town" - the selflessness and tolerance shown by the residents of St. Lawrence. But one can't reduce any of this play to black and white (pun intended, I guess?): we catch a glimpse of the difficult, dangerous lives of St. Lawrence miners; we hear Phillips, much later and living to the U.S., trying to communicate their example of kindness to his daughter, a victim of hate crime. I'm not doing it any kind of justice, so you really should read it. Or even better (as with any play), see it. Someday I will, and I *know* I'm going to cry up a storm.(less)
Excellent novel; I wasn't initially impressed when I finished reading it but after reading several works after it in my class on postcolonial literatu...moreExcellent novel; I wasn't initially impressed when I finished reading it but after reading several works after it in my class on postcolonial literature, I've realized that a) PoCo fiction is a difficult genre in which to write; b) Kate Grenville does it better than lots of other people. The Secret River is sensitive to its own unavoidable hyprocrisies (Grenville is a white Australian writer, a Pakeha writing in part about injustices to Aboriginal peoples). At the same time it backs down before those hypocrisies, at times, not always willing to face as brutal a truth as might be faced. Will and his family are protagonists, and by the structure of the novel – starting off in England, where we see the lifelong marginalization of the poor – we are obliged to feel sympathy for them and keep rooting for them, even when they begin to commit atrocities themselves. If this book illustrates anything, it's that we allow ourselves to be corrupted and blinded by power because it feels good. It feels better than the alternative of NOT having power. The end is perhaps unexpectedly chilling, and the epilogue a minor masterpiece, in my opinion. There's a great deal to be said about the treatment of female characters in this story (which I think is one of the strongest critical elements here), but I finished it last month and I'd want to reread it before going into the issue.(less)
For some reason I can't quite five-star this one. I'd give the first two (which I read this summer but have neglected to review, as of yet) five stars...moreFor some reason I can't quite five-star this one. I'd give the first two (which I read this summer but have neglected to review, as of yet) five stars in a second. Maybe the end can't help but be disappointing, though I don't really feel that Endingness is the problem here, if I can even call anything a problem. I was riveted, I laughed a lot, I had my share of moments calling on Oh Fuck to be my cosmic helper.
What I'm able to pin down right now is that it doesn't seem exactly satisfying that so many of those left on Earth after the Waterless Flood came together, knew each other intimately already, were able to restart from sort-of scratch with ease. I know, it's well set up: some of the Gardeners, the Painballers, and the unnecessarily lucky (Ren being safe in Scales & Tails solitary, for example) were all more likely than most to survive the Flood. And hey, so they mostly knew each other beforehand. In Atwood's strongly-woven context it's believable, but somehow it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Yeah, I know, it's great storytelling, not Fusion cookery; so suck it up, Amber. Yet it's obvious that this book is of a far different type than Oryx and Crake is, and even different from The Year of the Flood, intermediary as that one is. MaddAddam is less gritty, more story-like. I somehow wasn't prepared for that difference.
It's still most certainly on my shelf-of-honour. Idiosyncratically, I am obliged to give space on that shelf to anything that makes me cry buckets of salty confusion, the Why-What-Bitter-Happy-Over-Sadness syndrome. I promise myself I'll come back to this review and fix it when I've had more time to examine all of its knots in my head.(less)
I found this in my library, by accident, when I was feeling inspired by a theatre group with whom I'd been performing for the later weeks of this spri...moreI found this in my library, by accident, when I was feeling inspired by a theatre group with whom I'd been performing for the later weeks of this spring. I was seeking books, theoretical - philosophical - anything - about community, the creation of community, its endurance, most of all its magic. (Don't look at me like that. It's a powerful, spiritual ... thing ... I was grappling with.)
This ethnography is about community at its heart, so I wasn't disappointed that way. The aspects of community that Carspecken explores in Lothlòrien were not entirely expected (by me), though: the roles of (many) spirituality(/ies), functionality of alternative democratic forms, the variability of "safety" in different kinds of societies ... it was a truly excellent read. I'm not describing this very well, because it's not the kind of work I typically find myself devouring, but c'est ça. Also, even if one can tell that Carspecken is emotionally attached to this place and its people, I think her writing stands up pretty well to a social scientist's standards of objectivity. Also-also, now I'm pretty curious about Paganism. Anyone more knowledgeable than I, do recommend some good books on it, if you'd be so kind.
One of the most 'magical' aspects of this book was its evocation of a REAL place, of the kind that most of us only dream about - a measured, open-minded description of a geographical-ideological space that IS magical, if anywhere in the sieve-lyzed world still is. (Excuse my wordplay. I've also been reading a lot of Atwood, on the side.) I hope I make it to Lothlòrien someday. And I hope to take Carspecken's reasoned, hopeful attitude to the concept itself of utopia in my mental-spiritual artillery, for a long time. It is needed.(less)