**spoiler alert** Never before has it taken me over 150 pages to get into a novel. Never before has a book converted me from such impatient suspicion**spoiler alert** Never before has it taken me over 150 pages to get into a novel. Never before has a book converted me from such impatient suspicion to lip-quivering awe. Because of the uniqueness my own experience with it, I'm unsurprised to see how polarizing it is.
What I love most about Garp is that the contradicting forces his personality comprises lead some to see hypocrisy where others see depth. He is proof that anyone with strong opinions will be a controversial figure and this makes him fantastically human. His selfishness and his self-awareness of it, his pragmatic approach to politics and righteous indignation over others' pomposity, his automatic leadership and open insecurity are all profoundly credible. Meanwhile, the plot very often is not. And that - real people in extraordinary circumstances - is what I expect from Good Literature.
Encompassing almost every aspect of contemporary sexuality (childcare and domestic life, infidelity, prostitution, asexuality, child molestation, transsexuality, polyamory, violent and non-violent rape, inappropriate fantasy, misogyny, misandry), the novel is a Rohrschach test for modern readers, any of whom are guaranteed to have strong feelings about and personal experiences with at least one of these aspects. Revealing the strengths and faults of every single character embroiled in these issues, poking fun at almost all of them, Irving essentially refuses to take sides. I was warned before reading that the book "makes fun of feminists" but this is an unfair simplification of both the problems the book addresses and the way it deals with them. Of all the moments in which in the story hits upon society's battles over sex and gender, I find myself reliving one, repeating the fact like a mantra:
He had to dress as a woman in order to attend his own mother's women's-only funeral after her murder by a misogynist. And he did. ...more
Eine sehr schöne Vorstellung von alle mögliche Familienarten - auch arme und obdachlose Familien - mit einer ständig positiven Stimmung, die keine FamEine sehr schöne Vorstellung von alle mögliche Familienarten - auch arme und obdachlose Familien - mit einer ständig positiven Stimmung, die keine Familienart beurteilt. Einfach and deswegen einfach schön....more
Adorno said, "There can be no art after the Holocaust." No justifiable reason to produce anything beautiful; no possible way to portray the HolocaustAdorno said, "There can be no art after the Holocaust." No justifiable reason to produce anything beautiful; no possible way to portray the Holocaust in anything as beautiful as art.
Lo and behold, the half-century proceeding this declaration has produced a plethora of art about the Holocaust. Isn't art the best way to be drawn in? I finished Maus in twenty-four hours. I had nightmares for two nights in a row. Books like these show me that I often forget just how harrowing it invariably is to be drawn into it.
But my admiration for Spiegelman's sense of subtlety, irony and honesty is nevertheless enshrouded in echoes of Adorno's assertion. I get it that he intended to deconstruct the delusion of separate races by parodying it. (Swedes as elk and Brits as fish!) But I can't help but sit uncomfortably with the worry of how easily it lends itself to misinterpretation, much in the same way others argue Life Is Beautiful allows for too much levity.
Cats instinctually kill mice. Dogs chase cats and are Man's Best Friend. Follow this line and you're right back at the doorstep of racism. Had every nationality been represented by animals that are not anthropomorphically stereotyped, the parody would be less vulnerable to misinterpretation. And the reduction of a Sinti woman to a gypsy moth who appears in a book about the Holocaust ONLY to tell a Jewish woman her fortune tastelessly obscures the Nazi genocide of the Roma and Sinti.
Nevertheless, I understand why Spiegelman used such an artistic medium to tell his father's story, and I understand why it was awarded the Pulitzer. Adorno's argument is significant, but ignores that art is the enemy of fascism. The countless portrayals in literature and film that have come out of the Holocaust can very well be viewed as an endless celebration of the Nazi failure. ...more
I wanted to enjoy this so much more than I did. A story nearly strangled by apartheid written by an author with an indisputable knack for conveying teI wanted to enjoy this so much more than I did. A story nearly strangled by apartheid written by an author with an indisputable knack for conveying tension in its many forms showed so much promise. But the stream of consciousness had me reading in circles. Even the dialogue became tedious as irregular punctuation obscured the sequence of speakers. The protagonist was too detached from all the other characters for my taste, preventing me from empathizing or understanding anyone in any profound sense.
I'd like to maintain hopes for Gordimer's other work, but this experience has left me wary. ...more
In March 2010, Rabbi David Wolpe debated Hitchens on the topic of (what else?) religion and eventually sputtered, "Don't interrupt me! I didn't interrIn March 2010, Rabbi David Wolpe debated Hitchens on the topic of (what else?) religion and eventually sputtered, "Don't interrupt me! I didn't interrupt you."
Hitchens smiled. "No, you weren't quick enough."
If that sort of delicious irony makes you swoon, you'll likely adore Hitchens' memoir. If that sort of disrespectful self-regard makes you seethe, you're unlikely to enjoy less than one page of it. I find myself in the middle, possibly the one and only Person On Earth Who Feels Moderately About Christopher Hitchens.
I adore him for his wit and his relentless expounding on the value of dissidence. But I've known many a dissident who's half in it for the ego boost, and Hitchens has yet to convince me he's not one of them. He openly admits to being a Trotskyist who cannot divorce himself from the joys of the gentleman's lifestyle (books, booze and name-dropping). At times I find myself enamored of the intricacies of such a union, and other times enraged by the inherent contradictions.
He could be a little less Eurocentric in his predilections. And his insistence that work trumps experience either ignores or defends the short-sighted arrogance of many intellectuals. But his passion for a life spent arguing oneself an identity is absolutely infectious. I do hope he's around long enough to offer us more of his thoughts.
This is Simply Good Literature. And by virtue of that, it's anything but simple.
At times the stage was a bit too crammed with characters, forcing someThis is Simply Good Literature. And by virtue of that, it's anything but simple.
At times the stage was a bit too crammed with characters, forcing some into mere caricatures (Ryan, Crispin, Magid). And the poetry was unevenly distributed throughout, so that it often came as a startling surprise that left me wanting more ("Her hair crashed down her back"). But straddling the complexity of multi-culturalism while baring the simplicity of white teeth, Smith aimed high and indeed achieved a feat of greatness.
Lamott is the type of California lefty that is not my type - a loopy, believing, recovering addict who makes up the rules as she goes along. But she iLamott is the type of California lefty that is not my type - a loopy, believing, recovering addict who makes up the rules as she goes along. But she is so damn funny. By never taking herself too seriously, she enables her reader to see when her life clearly is very serious....more
The selection of images are as impressive as the introduction and the foreword. The texts accompanying each image failed to do them justice, but thenThe selection of images are as impressive as the introduction and the foreword. The texts accompanying each image failed to do them justice, but then again, I've never been one for the lingo of art history....more
Screw the YA label. Judy Blume writes that in her day, there was no such thing as young adult fiction - there was simply fiction. Adolescents were expScrew the YA label. Judy Blume writes that in her day, there was no such thing as young adult fiction - there was simply fiction. Adolescents were expected to read books written for adults and rightly so. Likewise, I expect adults to read this magnificent challenge.
Stockett set out to make a tremendously important point about the subtle yet sordid injustice toward Southern black maids in the 1960s. But her storytStockett set out to make a tremendously important point about the subtle yet sordid injustice toward Southern black maids in the 1960s. But her storytelling and characters are anything but subtle. It's an action-packed pageturner unlikely to change any minds.
Great stories of social justice show how well-intentioned people are capable of doing profoundly cruel things. That's why they are so harrowing. But Abilene's unmistakable angel wings and Hilly's red-hot devil horns leave no room for reality, no space for the reader to understand where their respective kindness and evil come from. (That Hilly and Skeeter were ever friends in the first place haunts the book with a distracting "How in the world?" question mark.)
Quirky episodes like Minny handing the villainess her just desserts and toilet bowls on a front lawn seem better suited to a romantic comedy than a tale of social critique - it's the kind of delicious embarrassment we'd all like to see, but we never will because society and its problems are deeper than that. One could argue that escapism is what so many readers want and the method doesn't matter as long as the messsage is sound. But it leaves me uneasy, because whenever ideas are simplified, the message rarely goes unharmed.
I have a lot of guilt about not being able to enjoy a story whose basic point bears repeating. But I have more concern about book club members across the country shaking their head at Hilly's wickedness, sheltered from ever considering that anyone they know and love could harbor such racism. When it comes to social justice, such complacency should be the last thing a storyteller is aiming for.