Everyone knows this story, don’t they? A gentle-hearted and dimwitted pretty boy has his life turned upside-down, repeatedly, and in the most reprehensible ways—not just him, everyone he knows or admires or loves—all for the love of a woman* whose name is, presumably, premised on a joke, a pun, for female genitalia.
Yes, folks, a charming little picaresque which, in addition to being an extended opportunity for risqué jokes, afforded Voltaire a much-needed opportunity to vent and rail against every philosophy, religion, nationality, public official, and cleric which or whoever had cause enough to offend him. Well done, sir. Glad you got that off your chest.
Now my own minor rant—Barnes & Noble Classic Editions. Don’t get me wrong, in many ways I love them (even if most are the public domain versions of classics). At least B&N has the decency to include often-valuable Introductions chock-full of insight and SPOILERS. In my experience, these introductions are best-read after reading the work(s) they precede when reading the title for the first time unless one is reading as an assignment when there’s no expectation of enjoying the work contained.
But, alas, now I must cultivate my garden—brown and withered though it may be.
* Straight people, right? As much as I’d like to think so, (blame, point fingers, taunt, etc.) when I look around, I’m kinda stuck thinkin’ : People.
Have you ever relocated to a place a long way from that you consider home, that place where your friends and family remain? Have you done so with some hope for a better future? Has it happened that the move was accomplished with fewer resources than would have made the move much easier, or at the very least, where greater resources—wealth—might have made that transition much easier? Have you noticed that you notice everything? Has it occurred to you that the worst part about a move like that was the, at times, crushing loneliness?
There’s something about Bove’s My Friends that may (likely, will) strike some readers as familiar—the bungled, missed opportunities in pursuit of intimacy of the most basic sort. It seems somehow appropriate that Colette was one of Bove’s champions, with his brief exposition on loneliness, his feel is familiar. Melancholy, but not overwhelming. What Hamsun does for hunger, Bove does for friendship—two urges so basic, so primal, they dominate one’s awareness. Poverty and physical disfigurement contribute to the alienation, and yet never dim hope.
Passing (Victor) Bâton on without reservation. 4.5 stars, rounded up, for its incredible eye toward the detail of ‘withoutedness.’ (Hell yeah! My word. You don’t like it? Don’t use it)
Whoa. Just finished, processing, mulling, wondering…what do I say? How do you prepare someone? Should someone be prepared (I wasn’t)? Imagine the most depressing story you’ve ever read (and I’ve read ALL of McCarthy), narrated by the angriest of narrators (who may mellow, then again, maybe readers simply become hardened), describing circumstances that are necessarily ugly (war, colonial Africa) or merely simply ugly (contemporary culture, old people, young people, other people), but then told with a humor that makes it hard to put down (set down or belittle). The parts that ring true frighten with self-recognition; the parts that ring less true, smack of the absurd to again frighten with self-recognition. And what doesn’t provoke self-recognition provokes dread of foreshadowing (in the novel and in one’s own perspectives).
I’d recommend this one to happy people—in the hope they get over it.
I’d recommend this one to depressives—so they’d learn just how far they have left to go.
I’d recommend this one to…well, I don’t really know who to recommend it to. Maybe you.
Unlike anything I’ve read, and it will send me back for more Céline—just not right away.
With a title like The Immoralist, you might expect something along the lines of Sade. You’d be way off base. Instead, this novel is more subtle, more...moreWith a title like The Immoralist, you might expect something along the lines of Sade. You’d be way off base. Instead, this novel is more subtle, more like Death in Venice, complete with its themes of a septic environment, tuberculosis, and, perhaps, pederasty. The protagonist, Michel, is captivated by healthy and strikingly handsome boys and young men, and of those young men, he is attracted to those who are most rugged and handsome, with their own secrets, or the most dissolute.
At best, or at worst, this is the story of a turn-of-the-century bisexual, not a gay man. To his credit, he nurses and cares for an ailing wife in the same manner that she tended him during his own bout with dangerous illness, and then slinks off to join the company he prefers at night while she rests. In many ways, Michel is rather the stereotype of the predatory gay man who leads a secretive existence—an existence that one is decreasingly likely to encounter other than in the most dangerous of environments, or among those men whose circumstances compel them to a double-life hidden from family, or among the religious. Michel never acknowledges sex with males (men or boys—the only admitted encounters are with his wife and the female lover of a boy who he admired earlier, and that, while the boy was present). It is, however, suggested by the female lover that he does prefer boys.
Rather slow-moving (like the wearisome travels of Michel and his wife when one or the other were ailing); the sex, other than that mentioned above, is, at most, implicit. The story is told in the first-person, as a story within a frame. Well worth the brief time it takes to read. (less)