Even though the author was discontent I didn't really get what I wanted out of it. I'm someone who is constantly told to smile by customers and who inEven though the author was discontent I didn't really get what I wanted out of it. I'm someone who is constantly told to smile by customers and who in general, doesn't have a bubbly disposition. I was looking for something more in that vein and I was also a bit turned off by the author's unexamined privilege....more
I loved Chronology of Water; I was completely entranced by it. Then I tried reading Dora and hated her immediately within the first few pages and hadI loved Chronology of Water; I was completely entranced by it. Then I tried reading Dora and hated her immediately within the first few pages and had to set it aside. So it was with some trepidation that I purchased The Small Backs of Children. Unfortunately, my trepidation proved right because this book is a mess; it's full of what it perceives to be its profundity. Page after page of rambling and stream of consciousness writing hinder this book in a way that worked for Chronology of Water, most likely because novels usually have a linear plot. Instead we are introduced to characters we have no reason to care about who convene because the Writer (who basically sounds like she's just a stand-in for Lidia) falls into a mysterious coma because of an argument she had with a photographer about the picture the book is based on. No work up to it either, one moment the Writer is fine and the next she's at death's door.
Then, for no plausible reason the Poet decides they should go kidnap the child of the photograph to save the Writer's life (because who cares about the child's feelings, am I right?) and the rest of the book stumbles through this ridiculous plot until its conclusion.
Flimsy plot aside, there were several random irritants throughout the book. One such irritant was the overuse and overemphasis of being American. I get it, they're in a different country. I know Americans have a reputation worldwide for being boorish, crazy, and independent but it's weird to constantly note their being American in lieu of actually describing their character- it's lazy writing.
Another thing that I found odd were the random sex scenes throughout the book. Most, if not all of them added nothing to the narrative whatsoever; I would argue they detracted from it actually. Almost every character seemed to have either slept with or fantasized about sleeping with the Writer; a couple of them were even obsessed with her. Much mention was made of the Girl's sexuality to the point where it got redundant and a little gratuitous. For no discernible reason numerous characters are sleeping with the Painter who is the worst person in the book; I especially hated that the Girl ended up with him.
In general, no character was particularly well-developed. It made the urgency the book was going for fall flat and led to an unsatisfying conclusion.
Granted, Lidia seems to favor a more hazy style of writing that is purposely vague on certain details which worked wonderfully when she was recounting her life story. The blurriness of the narrative seemed to mirror life's natural fogginess and added credibility to what she was saying; it made her story seem to be a universal experience.
However, you can't just copy and paste the same style in a novel and expect a similar result. For me it made the book boring, tedious, and pretentious. It was drunk on its own importance because it believed it had meaningful things to say. It wanted you to absorb its lessons about ART and WOMANHOOD. It wanted to shock you by having artists use bodily fluids because they're just so DEEP and ENLIGHTENED. It wanted to shock you by mentioning rape cavalierly and showing women being abused by men everywhere.
Look, I'm a feminist and I believe in rape culture. I know that rape happens and women are shamed for their sexuality. That doesn't necessarily mean that I want to read about children being raped for the fourth time and then running home to paint pictures with their menstrual blood. It doesn't stop me from rolling my eyes at the heavy-handed message that men are responsible for all the evils of the world and can never understand women no matter how hard they try. It just feels like Lidia's intent was to bludgeon the reader over the head with what she felt were BIG, ORIGINAL IDEAS and she didn't care how she achieved it.
It isn't worth sacrificing characterization and believable plot for shock value and a "profound" message. Good books don't need these kinds of cheap tricks to get their point across and a writer as good as Lidia was in her memoir can do better. ...more
Though the author is pretentious and says some things that irritate me, I'm still moved by his love of books. Each chapter is an ode to paper books thThough the author is pretentious and says some things that irritate me, I'm still moved by his love of books. Each chapter is an ode to paper books that talks about a particular facet of reading that is intimately familiar to me. Though I haven't even read half of the books he mentions and likely never will, I can still appreciate a fellow book-lover's long-winded, colorful love letter to reading (his misanthropy isn't too bad either)....more