Please excuse me while I bat my eye lashes at you a little. I am reading Maps Legends right now and enjoying it so much I actually stopped reading until I had a pen and a cup of tea. Your prose is sick - either in fiction or non-fiction form - and your thoughts on the literary market are like the most trenchant observations taken from years of rants with Rebecca and others. But I should be clear that I only discovered Maps Legends because I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier Clay.
When I was reading K&C, I wondered how I missed it, but you published smack in the middle of law school. Mind you, I still read a ton of novels in law school, but mostly I read a ton of crap. Shameful, shameful pulp, chick lit, mass market mysteries and, oh yes Michael, romance novels. Don't tell anyone, okay? It's kind of embarassing for the aspiring queen of Victorian literature to admit the rubbish she's read.
K&C was yet another Nikki recommendation (sensing a theme here), but I didn't pick it up until this winter. In fact, I put off starting The Goldfinch, my literary obsession of the decade, to read K&C. And I'm glad I did, because but for Finch, you would be my Donna.
With you, I want to talk about place, which probably makes some sense to you, brilliant man that you are, because the physical and metaphyscal place K&C describes is what makes it so enjoyable (and you discuss hit the lack of reading for enjoyment so hard in Maps Legends. K&C has brilliant, richly drawn characters, and a large plot that moves and makes sense, but its magic comes in its places, which you deliver, in large doses, through the use of the golden age of the comic book.
Honestly, Michael, the use of the comic book as a story device made me want to go back to age 11 or 12 and be a girl who reads comic books, who thinks in terms of drawing and writing in those ways, instead of the larger, messier, and less potent canvas and manuscript. As you know, Joe Kavalier is an artist and magician who escapes Prague as the Germans invade to protect the mythical Golem of Prague (google the legend, readers, if you are not familiar with the story of the jew who breathed life into a clay child by putting God's name on his tongue. I cannot do it justice here). And that magical place of your Joe's childhood leaps off the page. Suddenly we are doing illusionist tricks by the river. But once you get out, the place shifts and we are enchanted.
You end up in New York, sharing a room with your tiny cousin Sammy. Within basically no time, the two of you discover you have a knack for comic book creation. You draw, Sammy writes, you collaborate on ideas. And so many of the great themes of what an American consumer wants come out of these discussions. I could have read another 100 pages of Joe and Sammy writing comic books. But instead you take us from their micro level to the macro level and discuss the development of the comic book genre - the major characters, the sales, the story lines and the companies who publish them - and it becomes a place. Like a corner of Manhattan we might walk around, you take us on a long walk through the places of the golden age of comic books and its a long, epic walk that spans the origin until the senate committee hearings.
At some point, Joe splits leaving Clay to fend for himself as well as Joe's pin-up girlfriend. But the place he ends up is its own magical space. A small room in a giant building. So much of this feels like the perfectly shot 1940s/1950s New York film and the characters' ease and disease in the space creates an epic that spans time, themes, and lives. It is worth every last word.
Thanks again, Michael. See you later in your essays. (less)
This book really only deserves two stars as it borrows heavily from the work of other historians and makes blanket suppositions without any basis in f...moreThis book really only deserves two stars as it borrows heavily from the work of other historians and makes blanket suppositions without any basis in fact or evidence. This book, however, was so instrumental in my early education that I cannot give it less than a three. The title will always immediately remind me of one of my most dearly beloved professors -- Dr. Max Kele. (less)
I am plowing through Suite Francaise but clearly struggling with some part of it. There are points where the story becomes so painful while the plot m...moreI am plowing through Suite Francaise but clearly struggling with some part of it. There are points where the story becomes so painful while the plot moves so slowly that I simply want to put it down, but the author's story is so sad and her daughter's act of preserving their mother's novel so courageous I keep reading when the book itself makes me want to stop.
I stole my goodreads pal Leslie's synopsis of the history of the novel as I find it so well said. She writes:
"Ukrainian-born author Irene Nemirovsky was executed at Auschwitz in 1942. Prior to her deportation, she had fled to the French country-side with her family to attempt to avoid the Nazis. While living in the central France, she began an epic novel about life in France during the War. She complete the first two parts of what was to be a 5 part story before she was killed. Her young daughters managed to hold on to the manuscript and 60 years after their mother's death, the store was published."
I also found Leslie's observations about the story very compelling. She said, "[T:]his story captures human nature at strained points and time and highlights the baseness of humanity. The reader is thrown in the mass exodus of Paris ahead of the German occupation and the lack of humanity displayed by the vast majority of characters. . . . [T:]he triumphs of good are so tarnished by by the cruelty of the crowd that I have a tough time reading these stories."
I just finished and am almost heartbroken that the story does not continue as the author planned. About halfway through the second part, I took a break to read the author's notes in the appendix, which alone are an incredible historical find - to see an author fighting to create, craft and complete a novel in the midst of war while her rights as a Jew are swiftly stripped a way is a mind altering experience.
The notes are also helpful to the reader because at a certain point the book feels disconnected. Normally, one would just give the author a certain amount of credit and plow on, but with less than 100 pages left, I felt as if I was reading a book without a core. The notes regarding the author's plan for the unwritten sections gave me a firm sense of what she was trying to accomplish and suddenly, the "sweetness" (or dolce, as the part is called) opened up for me. I was absolutely riveted when I finished and am kind of mourning for the loss of the three unfinished parts.
In so many ways, the book is a masterpiece, albeit, a fragmented one, which might even be better read as two separate novellas than two parts of a novels. But above all, to know that the author's daughters saved this work of art for 60 years after their mother died in Auschwitz makes me proud to have read it. We should all hope to honor our mothers so grandly. (less)
There have been a million books written on the history of the holocaust, but this remains the authoritative tomb. Must read for every liberally educat...moreThere have been a million books written on the history of the holocaust, but this remains the authoritative tomb. Must read for every liberally educated person. Must, must!(less)