The book leaves a mixed impression. On the one hand, Tim O’Brien wrote a good piece of war prose, and it seems to me that the stories “The Things TheyThe book leaves a mixed impression. On the one hand, Tim O’Brien wrote a good piece of war prose, and it seems to me that the stories “The Things They Carried”, “On the Rainy River” and “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” (this one somehow brings Joseph Conrad’s “The Heart of Darkness” to mind) are real masterpieces.
On the other hand, though it’s understandable that the legacy of the Vietnam war is a very painful issue for the American society on the whole as well as for the author, I can’t but keep thinking that in spite of the messages of the sort of “the war is a bad thing”, “the war is inhuman”, “everyone fights his own war”, etc., the author willingly or unwillingly shows the dreadful hollowness of his characters.
It seems to me that most of the soldiers portrayed in this collection of stories are not dehumanized by the war: they had already been dehumanized before they went to Vietnam. Indeed, there’s a lot about inconveniences they suffered in Vietnam (as if wars were generally fought with soldiers spending nights in 5-star hotels and dining in chic restaurants with plenty of sweethearts about), there’s a lot about horrors of the war (the descriptions of the dead and mutilated), there’s a lot about how people turn into beasts, but there’s very little about their being discomfited by their mindless cruelty, by what they do to the Vietnamese, as if those people were objects, not human beings. Remember shaking hands with the dead old man (the scene is almost obscene in its emotional numbness), imitating the dancing girl who went insane after all her relatives had been killed, the "trick-or treating" that humiliated the old woman (and the soldiers see nothing wrong in it, they think it's FUN), etc. They also think it's FUN to torture the young buffalo. Sorry, but I, as a reader, cannot bring myself to sympathize with them.
On the whole, the chapter “The Man I Killed” is rather an exception from all the other stories in the book. It kind of clashes with all the other stories here. It seems to me that the author is the only character that tries to give the war a thought, to see some lessons to be learnt from the war. The author stands quite alone among his dumb and hollow mates. They don’t give a damn. They are just frightened, angry and peevish, and want to go back to where it’s safe and to where one can buy Coca-Cola any day of the week. I think that this is a major artistic drawback of the book. ...more
One story from this collection stands apart and, though I read the book about 10 years ago, will be etched in my memory for years to come - "A LovelyOne story from this collection stands apart and, though I read the book about 10 years ago, will be etched in my memory for years to come - "A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts" by Charles Birkin. It's a small masterpiece, it's a real winder, punching you in the gut mercilessly. The sheer horror and the inhuman mockery it features are unforgettable. 10 stars out of 5. ...more
It started as a very promising novel about the human nature and its irrepressible urge to break all and every hierarchy and aspire to new order. UnforIt started as a very promising novel about the human nature and its irrepressible urge to break all and every hierarchy and aspire to new order. Unfortunately, the deeper into the book, the more predictable it got. Approximately after the first 6 chapters I started figuring out the denouement. The inner beast, the biological "It" swallowing up morals, reason and sociality, the Dionysian against the Apollonian, the suicidal urge, men turning against women and women turning against men - all these too artificial, taken to the absurd, boring in their predictability. Unfortunately, just another mind-constructed dystopia with not a single character alive, not a single HUMAN being, a dance macabre of sceletal representations of numerous theories. A pity it turned out like this. ...more
I don't know what made Angela Carter hate males so, but it's the second book (and the last) by this writer I've read, and it's ovious that she valuesI don't know what made Angela Carter hate males so, but it's the second book (and the last) by this writer I've read, and it's ovious that she values women over men and on the whole is a real ballcrusher. She has a fixation on the motive of castration. Well, I understand that it takes all sorts to make the world, but I also think that there's enough strife between the sexes as it is, and it's unwise parading the goodness of ones against the badness of the others. It's the pot calling the kettle black.
The book is a mix of "The Golden Bough" by James George Frazer and Freudian motives + a bit of Sacher-Masoch. Regretfully, she doesn't favour "Morphology of the Folktale" by Vladimir Propp, and this book might give new angles to the old motives and might also prompt some plot twists that would make the ending look more natural, and not so abrupt and crumpled.
On the whole, if you want to read about growing up and the rites of passage and initiation, the death of old king and the coming of the new, etc. I'd strongly recommend "The Golden Bough" itself - it's much more interesting.