It's not often that I come across an author who summarizes my views on several trying quandaries in one teeny 230 page novel. It was, to me, life chan...moreIt's not often that I come across an author who summarizes my views on several trying quandaries in one teeny 230 page novel. It was, to me, life changing. This is not a book you should approach without some sort of foreknowledge about the subject matter or about Coetzee himself. "A steely intellect" they say, and it is true. So steely that it can be trying at times. That is why some sort of mental preparation is required. It is written in almost an essay format, switching from internal points of view to external wherever Coetzee saw fit. Each chapter confronts one of the many innumerable issues that plague humanity: animal rights, the identity and functions of an author, evil (in the broad sense), divinity, and realism. I wish I could wax eloquent on these subjects but alas I would only detract from the beauty of what Coetzee has to say.
The truth of the matter is that writers are entertainers. It seems vain that the value of ones work should hinge on the yea or nay of another. Does it not matter more what your own opinion is? In the end beliefs prove inconsequential, faulty, and unreliable; they are not our only support system nor should they be our principle support system. Our heart, that is to say our conscience, should be the basis of our morality. This is at least the standpoint of Coetzee. A quote, perhaps, would clear this up: “Death to reason, death to talk! All that matters is doing the right thing, whether for the right reason or the wrong reason or for no reason at all.” Words to live by. (less)
Well, well, well, Miss Undset has made it onto my 10-star list. She should be proud. She also won a Nobel Prize for her work, so there is that. Her Kr...more Well, well, well, Miss Undset has made it onto my 10-star list. She should be proud. She also won a Nobel Prize for her work, so there is that. Her Kristin Lavransdatter books are unquestionably works of massive scope on par with JRR Tolkien's Lord Of the Rings. A strange comparison, you say? Well I agree with you. The only thing that comes to mind immediately is the length of the two. But there is so much more. Where LOTR was preparation for battle with Sauron's forces, Kristin Lavransdatter was an intimate look into a Norwegian community. It's the attention to detail that struck me as similar. Tolkien and Undset both took such great care to imbue their work with eternal life. They captured that elusive something that can't be described, or rather could be described in many different ways. Undset obviously did massive research into 14th Century Norwegian customs before she put pen to paper. The community is not, like in so many other books, a static thing that serves as a canvas for the main character to travel across without resistance. In this sense the book displays Newtons Third Law. Each action Kristin makes is met with an equal and opposite reaction from her community. Such is reality. Sadly...
The great wisdom this book imparted on me is what made it unforgettable. It's so layered that it portrays almost all aspects of a woman's life during the 14th century.(I specify the era because many things have changed since then but I wish to stress that I noticed that the similarities between the times are more prominent than the differences) Talk about a woman's perspective! Every budding teenage boy wanting to understand the complexities of a woman's mind should read this. Never before did I realize how different men and women really are.
And the layers! How layered life actually is. Everything is like a circle within a circle within a circle with the inner most circle eventually becoming our intimate other. The second and third book are like a survival guide for the married couple. Erlend and Kristin are not always perfectly faithful - there are minor(well, you could call them major) mishaps between the two - but they never truly stop loving each other. They never stop caring for each other and their children, like most normal parents do. Now I can appreciate how remarkable my mom and pops really are, how truly magnificent women can be, and what it means to bring a life into this world. In fact, there is nothing that I didn't not not like about this book(double negatives included). There is magic, most who know me will attest to my love of all things magical. The prose are humble yet beautiful in there delivery. All in all the book was masterful. It taught me to appreciate life, not just my life but also the lives that are close to mine, more. And to quote Kurt Vonnegut 'If that isn't nice, I don't know what is.' (less)
Kurt Vonnegut is a national treasure. Period. It was my intention to expand upon my opinion of Kurt Vonnegut in this review but the above statement al...moreKurt Vonnegut is a national treasure. Period. It was my intention to expand upon my opinion of Kurt Vonnegut in this review but the above statement alone seems sufficient. I love Kurt Vonnegut. Fuck Fox News. I hate Fox News because they hated Kurt Vonnegut. What did he do wrong? He spoke the truth. He spoke without flourish or innuendo, straightforwardly, about things that are taboo. Fox would rather lie to you and discredit an honest man after his death than risk you going out and reading his books. Well, I say, go out and get yourself an enormous, teetering tower of Kurt Vonnegut books. They'll pull the wool from your eyes. Education, ladies and gentleman, is the only key to a brighter future. Stop watching television, listening to the radio, and giving credence to major media sources. They'll lie to you till you don't know right from left. Instead, I urge you to expand your mind with the only thing us humble citizens still have at our disposal that remains untarnished: books, heaps and heaps of glooooooooooorious books. Good reading to you.(less)
The primary premise of the book is that nearly all of the education system (govt. based, religious based, private) fail our children. These systems ed...moreThe primary premise of the book is that nearly all of the education system (govt. based, religious based, private) fail our children. These systems educate children to be good at techniques or skills, but do not educate them to know themselves.
Without knowledge of oneself, children will grow to be conflicted between the reality of their true nature, and the constrictions of conforming to civil society or religious doctrine.
An educational system that truly sought to benefit the children would be staffed by adults who were continually studying themselves, and striving to deepen their own awareness, not just conformists seeking the safety of job, income and leisure. Only when open-minded, self-aware adults teach with true love can children learn to know themselves, and so lead dignified, effective lives.
We are far from this vision, but it is worth it for each of us to walk along this path. (less)