An exploration of the psychological toll of slavery wrapped inside a beautiful and eerie ghost story. I love how the memories unfolded like a patchworAn exploration of the psychological toll of slavery wrapped inside a beautiful and eerie ghost story. I love how the memories unfolded like a patchwork. The accolades Morrison received are well deserved; I can't imagine anyone else writing about infanticide and black families under slavery, and doing it without a single misstep. I don't understand why some people hate this book; are they just being contrary because its assigned in school?...more
I had no idea what I was getting into with Burke, but now I can say I know a little bit more about the Korean War, the Civil War, Cold Wars in Latin AI had no idea what I was getting into with Burke, but now I can say I know a little bit more about the Korean War, the Civil War, Cold Wars in Latin America, baseball, fishing, oil rigs, southern Catholics, and Mexican farmworkers. Here Burke writes ultra-masculine stories told through the eyes of two character types: a white boy around his elders or a white man around people of color. I haven't read much Faulkner and Hemmingway, but I imagine Burke fancies himself their freakin' lovechild. I enjoyed "When It's Decoration Day" the most from this collection. It's a suspenseful slog through the final days of the Civil War for a young Confederate soldier as he tries to make it to safety while Sherman invades Atlanta. The aging English professor in "Taking a Second Look" also rang true to me, perhaps because it was the most straightforward story in the whole bunch (I could actually understand the character's actions and emotions). And some of Burke's little touches surprised me: Nazi submarines parked at the mouth of the Mississippi and the image of an arm tattooed with an American flag pulling burned soldiers out of the Gulf of Mexico. Burke is relying on precise cultural values embedded in American readers to advance that image to something much more emotionally visceral. But only a particular type of American is moved by that sort of thing.
I'm not sure if I'll read Burke again, but I'll know what to expect if I do. He's at his best in these stories when he's linear, not jumping back and forth through time and place. At his worst ("The Pilot") he reminds me what I hate about those musty southern gentleman writers whom I was forced to read in high school. ...more
**spoiler alert** Transcendental reading, never boring, but heavily metaphorical. Awash in literary devices but never weighed down by them. It takes a**spoiler alert** Transcendental reading, never boring, but heavily metaphorical. Awash in literary devices but never weighed down by them. It takes a certain kind of person to like this novel, and if you don't that's perfectly understandable. I see why some reviews call it intentionally confusing; a masturbatory, creative writing exercise with an undercurrent of misogyny (a man's bitter, entitled treatise against a woman who left him). I was overwhelmed by too many two-dimensional characters all written in the same voice who relentlessly wound themselves with paper cuts, bee stings, and hot pokers.
But I sense that the author is keenly aware of this negative interpretation and the reader's frustrations. The constant mention of Napoleon insinuates the smallness of an author writing a big book about the pain of lost love. To conquer another people against their will (textually) is the only way to maintain his life that spins out of control. And sure, what a pathetic motivation for a novel, right? But the effort is also humanizing and truthful. The colonial "war" is what makes the entire novel work, I think. Somehow all the world's history of colonization, miscegenation, and racial betrayal ("Malinche"...ouch) is brilliantly woven into one guy's break-up with his girlfriend. The story won't reveal this to you at first. So eventually, in the last 100 pages, I came to empathize with the author's sadness over a woman who left him (for a white man), and understand his desire to create and control something else to make the sadness go away. ...more
The veiled allegories of her own life to kings, knights and sorcerers were frustrating at times. But overall I thought it was surprisingly great. I loThe veiled allegories of her own life to kings, knights and sorcerers were frustrating at times. But overall I thought it was surprisingly great. I loved her story of sexual/spiritual awakening. It also had a hopeful ending, which is necessary when dealing when the bitter conflict between religious zealots and homosexuality--or hell, all sexuality in general....more