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
I finished this ages ago and I loved it to pieces. Well, except for two or three long passages trying ardently to defend animal slaughter for human coI finished this ages ago and I loved it to pieces. Well, except for two or three long passages trying ardently to defend animal slaughter for human consumption – I'm sorry, Mrs. Kingsolver, not even you can make this palatable or remotely excusable to me. Aside from the typical forms of hypocrisy in evidence (e.g. Kingsolver says she couldn't bear to kill pigs because of the intelligence in their expressions; chickens, though, are "stupid" so it's all cool to murder them), yes, ASIDE FROM these sections, I truly admire the goal of this book and the family who undertook to write it. Their dedication was clearly immense, and depicted honestly but with great love for the purpose behind it. As in all Barbara Kingsolver's work, the lyricism on any subject under the sun is at times mind-boggling. This book has helped me become much more aware of local eating and its vast benefits. I enjoyed (almost) every minute of reading it....more
I finished this over a month ago and forgot to review it then, so I won't go into too much detail about the things I loved ... It was just beautiful,I finished this over a month ago and forgot to review it then, so I won't go into too much detail about the things I loved ... It was just beautiful, an outwardly-simple and beautifully complex story. It carried in strong arms what I imagine was the feeling of a genuine fairy tale, back when fairy tales were genuine. I wanted to visit Lettie's farm myself and never leave. The picture of the universe that this story paints, from a mere patch of farm and wild land in Britain, is astounding and gratifying. Only my second Neil Gaiman read, and a quietly, unassumingly marvellous one....more
I goddamn loved this book so much. One of my housemates provided it to me through an Exmas book exchange, and I read it with total glee over the duratI goddamn loved this book so much. One of my housemates provided it to me through an Exmas book exchange, and I read it with total glee over the duration of my holiday. The energetic plot, the ... loveable-in-spite-of-themselves characters, the wry dialogue, lightly-treated crumblets of philosophical meditation, and relatively obscure cultural/literary references (I'm certain I didn't get them all, but I got enough to thoroughly delight me) -- there was nothing I can think of that I wouldn't praise about this novel. This is my first book by either Gaiman or Pratchett, and I'd happily look at their solo work....more
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 thaI 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....more
Excellent novel; I wasn't initially impressed when I finished reading it but after reading several works after it in my class on postcolonial literatuExcellent 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....more
I can't pretend I'm terribly impressed with Young's attempt to give a micro-introduction to PoCo. Very little information is given clearly; too many eI can't pretend I'm terribly impressed with Young's attempt to give a micro-introduction to PoCo. Very little information is given clearly; too many examples and not nearly enough theory is presented. My overall impression is that the author is both so knowledgable and so emotionally drawn into the metanarratives of postcolonial thought that he can't take a step back and write from a clear, less-biased vantage point. Rather ironic, this, given the entire point of postcolonialism, but sometimes that's academia for you, isn't it? I read this for a class on PoCo literature but it was scarcely helpful. Will not be holding onto it....more
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 starsFor 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....more
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 spriI 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....more
Um ... my big question is this - how much sympathy am I *supposed* to feel for Emma Bovary? Because I recognize her disadvantaged position as a woman,Um ... my big question is this - how much sympathy am I *supposed* to feel for Emma Bovary? Because I recognize her disadvantaged position as a woman, and her 'romantic sensibility' and even her immaturity, her lack of truly helpful guidance when troubled. But for all that, after all she did, I can't give her a great deal of sympathy. She was vain and selfish. She reflects too much of myself back at me.
It's hard to like anyone at all by the end. Still, I found this a surprisingly quick and engulfing read. Mais que ma français etais bon pour le lire dans la langue originale.
At times a delicate, at others a scalding example of social satire with more than a pinch of tragedy....more