After many a viewing of Tom Stoppard’s film adaption of his play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” (many… many… viewings… I mean, c’mon… Tim Roth and Gary Oldman circa 1990? uh… yeah!) I thought that it might make a nice, light, summer read. Right. I should have just picked up the new James Patterson.
I’m not complaining… no way no how. This play is awesome. Ros and Guil, Guil and Ros… they are two parts of one big bumbling(?), bewitching oaf. I just want to hug them and ruffle their hair and maybe run my hand down their chests… and….
ROS: What are you playing at? GUIL: Words, words. They're all we have to go on.
Whoomp! There it is! That’s the whole point to all of this right? Words, words, words. I am passive aggressive by nature therefore I rely heavily on innuendo and jest. I’m more likely to crush on a well written character than a well defined underwear model. Booknerd indeedy.
ROS: Fire! GUIL: Where? ROS: It's all right – I'm demonstrating the misuse of free speech. To prove that it exists.
You have to love Ros/Guil---or Ruil or Gos… or whatever—you just HAVE to, get it? Ok?… they are wise in their perplexity… they have no idea where they have been and seemingly always forgetting where they are headed. They amuse themselves by playing Questions and flipping coins. They are fearful and hesitant and yet they get it. They know that the big bad world is undeniably big and bad.
ROS: I'm afraid – GUIL: So am I. ROS: I'm afraid it isn't your day. GUIL: I'm afraid it is.
Their bond. Their yin yang of hope and despair. Their wordplay. I laughed, cried, peed a bit, snorted and guffawed. That’s worth 5 stars, isn’t it?
GUIL: You scream and choke and sink to your knees, but it doesn't bring death home to anyone – it doesn't catch them unawares and start the whisper in their skulls that says – "One day you are going to die."
Okay, so maybe metaphorically speaking it could be about a great house, like as if we all live in the ‘great house’ of life blah blah blah but, really, it’s about a(view spoiler)[desk. (hide spoiler)]
I’m not complaining. I really really like the (view spoiler)[desk. (hide spoiler)] (aside: you can actually click on those... It's not a real spoiler, I just wanted to test that feature out.) It sounds like it could hold a house with all its drawers and it’s magnitude and daunting history. “To call it a desk is to say too little. The word conjures dome homely, unassuming article of work or domesticity, a selfless and practical object that is always poised to offer up its back for its owner too make use of, and which, when not in use, occupies its allotted space with humility….This desk was something else entirely; an enormous, forboding thing that bore down on the occupants of the room it inhabited, pretending to be inanimate but, like a Venus flytrap, ready to pounce on them and digest them via one of its many little terrible drawers.”
I am sure that I am not worthy of this desk. Desks like these are for Significant People. I am comfortable in knowing I am not one of them. Except to my six year old, who has yet to learn.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel at the end of this book. It’s sort of… aloof. It has a presence and it’s not one to embrace you and absorb you within its pages being so unkind as to make you ignore your family, friends, traffic lights. No, it’s dignified. It stands there and says ‘OK, I’m here and I will tell you a story but you need to follow along, I’m not going to hold your hand, I’m not going to wait for you—don’t try to hug me. Personal space, buddy.’ It’s been awhile since I’ve read something like this and at first the psychoneurotic in me pushed it away. I didn’t feel the demand and it made me stand offish.
I’m not sure where the switch happened. Where I couldn’t put the book down even though it still had me at arms length. Was it at "I tapped a giant bruise on my knee that I couldn’t remember getting. I’ve reached the age where bruises are formed from failures within rather than accidents without.” or was it “… silence was not so much a form of evasion as a way for solitary people to coexist in a family.” I think I just sort of erected a shanty around it. Each section is really its own story and the one thread is the desk. Krauss takes her time connecting them, instead introducing you to new characters or revisiting characters from early on. It can be infuriating if you’re looking for flow but I’m not, so all’s well. I have not read The History of Love yet; I’ve started it and it kind of bored me so…. but I’m sure it was my fault, not the books (it’s never the book’s fault.) so I wasn’t familiar with her writing style. I have to say that it made me feel brainy. You know how some books make you sad or mad or bored or angry? This made me feel mature. Each section reads (to me) like a telling. The character is in a confessional and what you read is raw, exposing, looking for absolution. It made me guffaw to come across her quoting Camus ‘The act of love is always a confession.’ See? Me=Smart.
But, what can I really say about this book? I liked it. You may not. I tend to like female writers, not really sure why, but I do. I enjoyed watching the history of the desk, of what it meant to each character or how it affected others. There were lines that made me sigh: "There are times when the kindness of strangers only makes matters worse because one realizes how badly one is in need of kindness and that the only source is a stranger.” This will stick with me. I will compare near future books with this one. It won’t wear off so soon.
There were two quotes where different characters refer to books that I read more than once then jotted down in my notebook:
“The idea of being weighed down made me uneasy, as if I lived on the surface of a frozen lake and each new trapping of domestic life—a pot, a chair, a lamp--- threatened to be the thing that sent me through the ice. The only exception was books, which I acquired freely, because I never really felt they belonged to me. Because of this, I never felt compelled to finish those I didn’t like, or even a pressure to like them at all. But a certain lack of responsibility also left me free to be affected. When at last I came across the right book the feeling was violent: it blew open a hole in me that made life more dangerous because I couldn’t control what came through it.”
You’re preaching to the choir, Nicole.
“I spent the morning reading Ovid. I read differently know, more painstakingly, knowing I am probably revisiting the books I love for the last time.”
What a sad thought, especially when I can’t remember a lot of the books that I love, but I guess that’s something I have to let go of, for now.
I'm done! I'M DONE! I'm done. Done. I'm done.I'mdone. I'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdo...moreI'm done! I'M DONE! I'm done. Done. I'm done.I'mdone. I'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdone DONEI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdone(not really, but I can't read the last 10 pages, it's too much, it's killing me. I'm sorry, I'm a fake, a hack, a poseur, but I tried. I just don't get it. I don't seeit.I'mdoneI'mdone I'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdone (really... I picture Lily Briscoe as asian reporter trisha takanawa, I'm that base, that dumb, that... not like all of you who love this book)I'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdone I'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdone (I really really wanted to like it, does that account for anything? I know, I don't like Coetzee and Anderson and Diaz, maybe I don't belong with you all, which of these things is not like the others? ME.) I'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdone DONE!!I'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdone (So... they got to the fucking lighthouse. So, the son hates the dad and loves the mom, so the mom is --again,sorry-- annoying, so the dad is a spoiled brat so the other kids really don't get that much air time unless they die or live to actually MAKE it to the lighthouse (poor Cam) so these people are dull! ((sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry))'mdoneI'mdonevI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdone I'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdone.(I have to admit, that I enjoyed reading all of your raving reviews much more than reading this book..thank you for that. It was much better.)I'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdonevI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdone
I'm like that sad clown with the red balloon at the end of a pretentious french film cliche.
life sucks. no matter how hard you try to be good, how much you want to better the lives of your children or for that matter, let’s just throw in soci...more
life sucks. no matter how hard you try to be good, how much you want to better the lives of your children or for that matter, let’s just throw in society, no matter how much you love… someone is there to just screw you over because people are vile, sinful, destructive and are usually bad drivers to boot.
so, just give it up now. you think you came into a lucky break? Naww… that’s just crap throwing you the proverbial bone. little did you know the bone was from a baby lamb. watch another reality show and fry your brain for an hour, you’d be doing more good (read: less harm) that way.
don’t dream. don’t let yourself think that you are going to get ahead. Don’t you dare distress over your fellow man, not worth it. they will cheat, lie, and downright kill you if they think it will benefit them in any way.
my advice? find a cave where you and your ideals can live happily ever after.
Why the hell did I pick this up again? Life's too short, you say? You have 200+ other books on your 'to read' shelf and this was suck...moreOHMYFREAKIN'GAWD.
Why the hell did I pick this up again? Life's too short, you say? You have 200+ other books on your 'to read' shelf and this was sucking your will to read? Give it up! You're right... all of it... and my answer is... my excuse being... because I'm freakin' stubborn. Its Hawthorne . I mean how much more New Englandy can you get? I couldn't just--- give up... I'd be betraying my countryman...
For a few years, in my younger days, I worked down the street from the House of the Seven Gables and I'd always get this literary stab of guilt for not having read it. I'd never fully look it in the eye, feeling the shame wash over me. Its judgmental gables peeking out at me while I'd sit by the lighthouse eating lunch. I want it all back. All those years of remorse. I could definitely put it to better use.
And you know what? It's not such a bad story, really. It's got murder, witchcraft, a creepy house, a curse, a spinster and her childlike convict brother, some mystery hottie and a fair maiden. You throw in an organ grinder and some insolent chickens and you've got the making of a great short story.
See there? What I did? I said 'short story.' But what Hawthorne does, and what irritates the fuck out of me, is draw out the narrative and then... draw it out some more. It gets to the point where you (read: me) throw the damn book down, cursing and feeling like you've just been scolded by your high school english teacher for not appreciating its nuances. Ugh. Double frickin' UGH.
Example: Do I really need 8 pages describing the gardens? Or does he really feel he's being clever when he writes 18 pages playing out the death of one of the characters? (oops---spoiler---my bad) I get it...ha ha... yer just full o' wit there, Nate.
I will say that there was one little salacious scene that had me all a twitter and thinking that I might see some girl on old decrepit man action:
"On Clifford's part it was the feeling of a man naturally endowed with the liveliest sensibility to feminine influence, but who had never quaffed the cup of passionate love, and knew that it was now too late. He knew it, with the instinctive delicacy that had survived his intellectual decay. Thus, his sentiment for Phoebe, without being paternal, was not less chaste than if she had been his daughter. He was a man, it is true, and recognized her as a woman. She was his only representative of womankind. He took unfailing note of every charm that appertained to her sex, and saw the ripeness of her lips, and the virginal development of her bosom. All her little womanly ways, budding out of her like blossoms on a young fruit tree, had their effect on him, and sometimes cause his very heart to tingle with the keenest thrills of pleasure."
I think Nate was dipping into Fanny Hill hoping to quaff his own cup a bit... but, I was bored and of course picked up on this.
Maybe I've just read too much. Maybe I'm just expecting too much. I've said before, I grew up on Hungry Mans and the advent of the remote control. Don't pussy foot around. Give me what I want and give it to me now. Okay?(less)
So, my first jaunt into book club territory. What do I bust in with? The Power and the Glory. What an idiot I am.
I have to say that this is probably not a book that I would have picked if left to my own devices. My first introduction into Greene was The End of the Affair and that’s only because I’m a sucker for a good ‘woe is me’ story. Bitterness and anger to unknown deities? Rock on! But, put into this context - in this setting - I have to admit that I felt a bit lost.
Backtrack: My ‘experience’ with religion is this: Raised ‘catholic’ (read: baptismal based on criminality of original sin, catechism classes to become ‘confirmed’ so that I can get married in a church—of course I married a Jew at a duck pond, so, oops.) My knowledge of religion in general centers around lots of viewings of Last Temptation of Christ and an overbearing sense of guilt for all things.
So, I got the whole abandonment of God from Affair because who doesn’t want to lash out when they see their potential love life ruined by (unfounded) religious belief? Duh. Place me into the 1930’s Catholic Persecution in Mexico and watch me flounder.
That being said, this book isn’t difficult. I enjoyed Greene’s prose. Man, this guy could write. There are so many passages that I was dumbstruck by. So many wonderful observations made. I just couldn’t be empathetic. There were no characters that I grabbed onto and wanted to either shelter or strangle. I need that hook, I need to feel invested. The protagonist in the story, the ‘whiskey priest’ should be this character, but for some reason, I always felt he had an agenda. That even when he was supposed to be absolving himself of his sins, I never quite believed he meant it. He was in it for the (yep, here it comes) the power and the glory. But, I never hated him enough to care. Sure, there were scenes where I might feel anger or pity, but nothing strong enough to make a lasting impression and when his fate is doled out, I’m impassive.
Maybe it’s the fact that this is written in the 3rd person, that we don’t really see what is in the mind of these characters. They each have an important role to play and when these roles converge, the story is impeccable. I can’t find a fault in it. But, again, I can walk away from it.
So, this being Greene’s ‘greatest novel’ makes me (again) feel like a dolt. I should have more appreciation for the subject matter and the controversy and all that, but I need instant gratification. Life’s too short. I won’t continue to ramble on plot or characters as I think some of my peers in The Power and the Glory Group did an excellent job of reviewing but I did do some research on this book in hopes of raising it to a 4 star rating and what I came across that peaked my interest was how it was noted that this book parallels T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’ (which I’d never read before):
The Hollow Men T. S. Eliot Mistah Kurtz—he dead.
A penny for the Old Guy
We are the hollow men We are the stuffed men Leaning together Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! Our dried voices, when We whisper together Are quiet and meaningless As wind in dry grass Or rats’ feet over broken glass In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour, Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom Remember us—if at all—not as lost Violent souls, but only As the hollow men The stuffed men.
Eyes I dare not meet in dreams In death’s dream kingdom These do not appear: There, the eyes are Sunlight on a broken column There, is a tree swinging And voices are In the wind’s singing More distant and more solemn Than a fading star.
Let me be no nearer In death’s dream kingdom Let me also wear Such deliberate disguises Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves In a field Behaving as the wind behaves No nearer—
Not that final meeting In the twilight kingdom
This is the dead land This is cactus land Here the stone images Are raised, here they receive The supplication of a dead man’s hand Under the twinkle of a fading star.
Is it like this In death’s other kingdom Waking alone At the hour when we are Trembling with tenderness Lips that would kiss Form prayers to broken stone.
The eyes are not here There are no eyes here In this valley of dying stars In this hollow valley This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms
In this last of meeting places We grope together And avoid speech Gathered on this beach of the tumid river
Sightless, unless The eyes reappear As the perpetual star Multifoliate rose Of death’s twilight kingdom The hope only Of empty men.
Here we go round the prickly pear Prickly pear prickly pear Here we go round the prickly pear At five o’clock in the morning.
Between the idea And the reality Between the motion And the act Falls the Shadow For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception And the creation Between the emotion And the response Falls the Shadow Life is very long
Between the desire And the spasm Between the potency And the existence Between the essence And the descent Falls the Shadow For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is Life is For Thine is the
This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.
For the past ten years or so I’ve been visiting my local libraries. I felt that at that stage in my life, I couldn’t afford that whole ‘take a chance’...moreFor the past ten years or so I’ve been visiting my local libraries. I felt that at that stage in my life, I couldn’t afford that whole ‘take a chance’ aspect on buying a book and then thinking it’s crap. I guess it’s all part of that growing up or maybe an extension of being cheap or maybe I just felt that wine was a more worthy purchase. Who knows.
Every now and then, I get a book that some patron has felt the need to mark up. I’m not a fan of doing this myself and if it’s done to the hilt, I’m usually pretty peeved, but when it’s subtle, I’m slightly amused. I like to lurk. Okay, not really, but I find it interesting to see what someone has considered important enough to take the step and destroy public property over.
When I picked up The End of the Affair, the book immediately fell open to page 30, as though someone had purposefully bent the paperback to that spot and this line was marked:
”What have we all got to expect that we allow ourselves to be so lined with disappointment?”
Huh. Okay. That’s a valid question. I suddenly craved the smell of a clove cigarette. Go figure.
That led me to start seeking out other lines that this mysterious reader deemed valuable.
”The sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of happiness. In misery we seem aware of our own existence, even though it may be in the form of a monstrous egotism: this pain of mine is individual, this nerve that winces belong to me and to no other. But happiness annihilates us: we lose our identity.”
“Eternity is said not to be an extension of time but an absence of time and sometimes it seemed to me that her abandonment touched that strange mathematical point of endlessness, a point with no width, occupying no space.”
“We are not hurt only by tragedy: the grotesque too carries weapons, undignified, ridiculous weapons.”
(I see some Smith’s fan donning the old adage ‘I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside’ reading this in a cemetery, scowling at the elderly visitors for not understanding the wretchedness of youth. But, that’s just me. Back to the story…)
Remember, these are not lines that I found --- that I coveted. Nevertheless… they are damn good ones.
Right from the start, you, the reader, can feel the bitterness of the narrator. It oozes like foul belly button drainage. Can you imagine? Try.
It’s not like I went into it expecting a love story, right? I’d be stupid to think that. The damn title is The End of the Affair after all. Moreover, after reading Ben’s review, I definitely knew that this is all about heartbreak. (Not like the belly button ooze that I misled you to think of earlier) I just didn’t expect to have the writing actually provoke the emotions, the futility and the anger and the hopelessness right from the get go. This is why I love this book so much. To be inside Maurice’s head and hear how he rationalizes his feelings and then to step back and see how he is perceived by the other characters. Wow. What an amazing job Greene does of playing with your emotions.
And then there’s the whole twist on what affair he is actually referring to… is it the end of his affair with Sarah? Is it his affair with God? The elusive ‘You’? There are so many wonderfully acrid sentences within this book that I cannot even begin to describe it.
Okay, just one, I don’t think I really need to set it up for you to get my point:
“Turning back to Mrs. Bertram, I found myself speaking again to Sarah: You see, I love you. But love had not the same conviction of being heard as hate had.”
How true. Even when we remember, what is most potent? The murmurings of love that is often lost after a day or two or the stinging insults? Life’s too short, people. Hate carries such power, resentment and blame fuels it. We don’t want to admit that we had a part in it and instead focus on the other parties. Whether that be a scorned lover or a false God.
Okay, this is getting too deep for me. I’d recommend this to most people, some might think differently of me later, but maybe, deep down, I’ve always wanted to be the clove smoking Pessimist and not the Pollyanna.
Uh... I really don't have much to say about this... it was---fine. I've got a Conan Doyle book under my belt---I was sort of hoping for a skagged out...moreUh... I really don't have much to say about this... it was---fine. I've got a Conan Doyle book under my belt---I was sort of hoping for a skagged out Holmes, but oh well. This will do. (less)
Okay, so I just read The Awakening. What a novella before its time! You’ve...more
The Awakening ~ A Review in Two Parts ~
Me, 20 years old, circa early ‘90s
Okay, so I just read The Awakening. What a novella before its time! You’ve got Edna Pontellier, manipulated into a stodgy marriage, her husband expecting her to conform to society’s rules and trappings. She now has 2 children and is feeling the pull of wanting to be her own person. An artist, a free thinker, not meant to stay at home and accept visitors. On a summer vacation in Grand Isle, she meets Robert Lebrun, a younger idealist, not as wealthy but still the type who will cater to her every whim. Who sees the person that she wants to be and doesn’t deny her that sense of self. Edna falls into the lull that women crave.. ‘lull’ isn’t the correct word. It’s almost opposite of what I want to say, I’d go more with the excitement of being feverishly desired by a handsome young man. It’s addicting, more than addicting, it’s dangerous. However, for some reason, Robert leaves for Mexico and Edna is left with her marriage and her position in society. She starts to act out and her clueless husband is concerned:
It sometimes entered Mr. Pontellier’s mind to wonder if his wife were not growing a little unbalanced mentally. He could see plainly that she was not herself. That is, he could not see that she was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.
Okay, so she’s not entertaining guests, she must be crazy. Upon returning to New Orleans, she continues to find herself and after her children and husband leave for an indeterminate amount of time, she starts to find her independence. She moves out of the mansion and into a ‘pigeon house’ around the corner, she begins an affair with a local playboy and all the while she still yearns for Robert.
I won’t go into anymore of the plot, but to say that I can see how it would be considered a scandal when released back in 1899. Women didn’t follow their heart or their minds, they were objects upon marriage, losing all identity. Society dictates that she marry well and put up pretenses and she fights back! As Susan Powter would say, ‘Stop the Insanity!’ The Awakening shows that women are capable of being individuals and believing in everlasting love that breaks all conventions. Bring forth the Spice Girls and rock on.
Me, Now, somewhat older…
Edna Pontieller, what a narcissistic little hussy you are. Okay, look….It’s 1899… you’re married to a guy that adores you… Yeah, so he thinks that you might want to act like a woman of the times.. maybe he’s a little off on the whole suffrage movement (which has yet to happen, DUH) and maybe you’re feeling a bit stifled in your marriage, but it’s a GOOD marriage, you want for nothing, you don’t have to take care of your somewhat non-demonic children, you get to vacation for entire summers… when you’re down your husband plans to redecorate the house for you. It’s not like he’s ignoring you! So, what exactly is the problem? He’s not hot? Yeah. He’s not young? Okay. He doesn’t swoon over your little paintings? Whatever. Look, the short of it is, you weren’t forced into the marriage, as much as you thought you had to find a guy that would look good in society and take care of you. You could have said no. Now, what the hell are you doing? Prancing around race tracks with the 1899 equivalent of Ashton Kutcher? Waiting for this poor fool who realizes the restraints of society to come and just be your little cabana boy? Hell, if this were modern times, you’d be reading Twilight and hanging out at skate parks. Get over yourself.
Okay, so that was The Awakening and if I had to rate this based on that novella alone, I’d go with 2 stars. I suppose I’ve got the Sherwood Anderson syndrome here and maybe it’s my fault for not understanding 1899 like I should… I go on my gut feelings, sorry. I’m reading this now, I’m judging it now. I can appreciate the time it was written in, but I’m not going to go gaga over a story that I pretty much think of as a cop out.
But, that being um… said… I did enjoy the other 15 stories, well, most of them. Kate Chopin was a hoot. I think she had the wit and the not so subtle talent and voice to let her feelings be known. She was bitter, yo. I don’t blame her… Widowed at 32 with 6 kids? Hell yeah. And, here she has this talent and what does she get when she publishes her work to make sure she can support her family? Shock, disdain, crap. Sorry… they can all go to Hell. She had balls. My suggestion is to read some of the shorter stories… I enjoyed The Story of an Hour, A Point at Issue!, A Lady of Bayou St. John, Athénaïse… those are my favorites, but they’re all short enough to enjoy and to see what a talented, wry writer she was. (less)
This review is serving as a spiritual tug of war. The Battle of the Conscious. I really don’t know what to think. I hesitate between 2 and 3 stars and...moreThis review is serving as a spiritual tug of war. The Battle of the Conscious. I really don’t know what to think. I hesitate between 2 and 3 stars and Yeah, I know… I’m a heartless bitch. The guilt tells me to rate it higher because of all the persecution and just plain ol’ Horrors that this kid dealt with. As if I’ve lost some humanity if I don’t appreciate this more. But… another part of me is just not feeling it.
It sort of feels like rubbernecking.
Like, it starts off right away with exploding pet squirrels and just gets more and more unbelievable as you go. I’m not saying that this stuff couldn’t have happened (well, maybe I am, but not to ONE person...)and I am well aware that as a French Canadian child born in 1970’s New England I would have NO BASIS on which to judge the monstrosities that this un-named child endured. But, it’s not really real, you know? No? Okay, then I’m colder than I thought.
I can’t get past the fact that this kid really isn’t ever given a break… We go through about 200 pages of beatings and rapes and mutilations and near deaths and you (me) start to roll your eyes and think that Charlie Brown could take some life lessons from this little gypsy boy.
I felt guilty! I shouldn’t be exasperated by this! I should be appalled! I should be weeping and thanking unknown deities that my lame childhood was all about having to walk to McDonalds and clean the pool. But, what did I do? I started skimming. Blah-Blah-beating-Blah-Blah-hanging from a hook to avoid certain death from vicious dog-blah blah-skinning a live rabbit-blah blah-thrown in a dung heap---Blah Blah---you get the picture.
Maybe it was the writing style, the dispassionate, removed, telling of these events. Then interspersed with these flowing images of painted birds and sexual awakenings (rape or not.) It was difficult to juxtapose between these styles and stay in the moment. My breath would catch at a particularly moving passage like:
I had seen the end of terror that shakes one until it squeezes the stomach empty of vomit, like a punctured poppy pod blown open by the wind.
Then move a few paragraphs to:
I began to practice walking. My legs did not obey me and I tired easily. One night I heard noises outside. I peered through a slot between the boards.
You lose the rhythm, the fantasy, and hit the mundane again. My addled brain couldn’t handle it.
I read that Kosinski may have gone all James Frey with this and ‘embellished’ the tale but from what I’ve read, he never really said it wasn’t fiction, right? I mean, others fought to find meaning and truth behind the tale. Then there’s the controversy surrounding plagiarism and then all those health issues he had… Poor guy, no wonder he committed suicide. (See? Compassion!)
So, I’m glad that I read this. I have Being There and I’ve been wanting to read that for awhile… not realizing it was the same author. Only now, I’m not so excited. And that’s sad. (less)
I believe I had a crisis of faith whilst reading Winesburg, Ohio. One of the bestest reasons for GR is that I've been ex...more
Okay, fine, I didn't like it.
I believe I had a crisis of faith whilst reading Winesburg, Ohio. One of the bestest reasons for GR is that I've been exposed to writers that I'd never heard of and to reviews that made me sit up and say 'To the library, NOW' and I really wanted to believe that I'd benefit from reading this. I really did.
So, uh... what went wrong? Where is this crisis of faith? Okay, maybe not faith---maybe foundation is a better word. See, I always sort of thought of myself as an equal opportunity hater, you know in the whole misogyny/misandry angle was never my thing. But, as I read Winesburg, I started to understand why Valerie Solanas penned her manifesto.
Okay, that's a bit harsh. I admit. But, still I don't like going there and unfortunately dear Sherwood made me question my misanthropy.
There are just a handful of women in Winesburg. I couldn't find one that I felt was justifiably written, in the sense of being 'real'... and represented. You have Elizabeth Willard, who has such a chip on her shoulder and such regret that she declares such statements as 'If I am dead and see him becoming a meaningless drab figure like myself, I will come back...I ask God now to give me that privilege. I demand it. I will pay for it. God may beat me with his fists. I will take any blow that may befall if but this my boy be allowed to express something for both of us.” Way to go, Mom. So, she sits in her room with her son and they don't talk and it's awkward and does she say anything to George? Tell him how she has faith in him, thinks he's this great force to be reckoned with? (Bit, of an Elektra complex, maybe?) No... but she was dang passionate about it.
Then there's Louise Trunnion who is supposed to drop everything to walk with George (I begin to think here that has a bit of an ego thing going on... one of those qualities that just make me want to kick him in the shin, btw) and you know as Sherwood writes "She was not particularly comely and there was a black smudge on the side of her nose. George thought she must have rubbed her nose with her finger after she had been handling some of the kitchen pots.” Good old woman's work, thanks for taking one for the team, Weezie. But, hey she puts out... so we can forgive her lack of comeliness.
We've got Alice Hindman and her Adventure. You know, being used and thrown out by Ned Currie before he moved to Cleveland and bigger and better places East. She just knows that he'll be back, right? I mean, she was a weaver of carpets... such a catch. But, you know... years pass and she starts to feel like the spinster she has become and decides one night to run naked in the rain. ”She thought that the rain would have some creative and wonderful effect on her body. Not for years had she felt so full of youth and courage. She wanted to leap and run, to cry out, to find some other lonely human and embrace him. On the brick sidewalk before the house a man stumbled homeward. Alice started to run. A wild, desperate mood took possession of her. 'What do I care who it is. He is alone, and I will go to him,' she thought; and then without stopping to consider the possible result of her madness, called softly. 'Wait!' she cried. 'Don't go away. Whoever you are, you must wait.' The man on the sidewalk stopped and stood listening. He was an old man and somewhat deaf. Putting his hand to his mouth, he shouted. 'What? What say?' he called. Alice dropped to the ground and lay trembling.”
So, instead of snagging Brad Pitt she ends up with Red Skelton.
We have Tom Hard's daughter. Doomed with a calling and a new name before her 6th birthday. She lives in this pit of a town with her faithless dad and a stranger passing through gets drunk and ”...he dropped to his knees on the sidewalk and raised the hands of the little girl to his drunken lips. He kissed them ecstatically. 'Be Tandy, little one,' he pleaded 'Dare to be strong and courageous. That is the road. Venture anything. Be brave enough to dare to be loved. Be something more than man or woman. Be Tandy.'” Uh... 'Tandy' (stripper name???) be a good girl and go talk to Alice and Elizabeth and see what your future REALLY looks like, kay?
Then there's Kate Swift. The 'teacher'. Yes, poor Kate... peeped on by the local clergyman as she reads and smokes cigarettes on a Sunday. Sinner. Poor Kate who is crushing hard on her former studly student, George. Who so wants to pull a Pam Smart except you know, she's not married and lives with her elderly aunt and all. ”At the age of thirty Kate Swift was not known in Winesburg as a pretty woman. Her complexion was not good and her face was covered with blotches that indicated ill health. Alone in the night in the winter streets she was lovely.” But, you know... after her wretched action of throwing herself at her former student she goes home and undresses and throws herself on her bed crying, beating her pillow and then begins to pray. So, of course good old peeping Minister Curtis is redeemed because Kate's become an instrument of God, bearing the message of truth.”. Yeah, that's it.
Okay... so where am I going with all this? Who the fuck knows. I just know what I'm feeling and that's pissed off. And I'm pissed off that I'm pissed off. I'm not THAT person that finds the nitpicky crap and whines about it, you know? Like I said, the world is my dumpster.
I don't see what the big deal is with this book. Maybe I'm missing out, obviously I am if I look at my friend's reviews of this. I did find it rather amusing that most of the ravings belonged to my male friends... hmmm...
Maybe it was the whole 'this book represents Middle America' angle and well, I'm not all that interested in Middle America.
But, I can't say that I'm all that blown away with the 'complex human beings whose portraits, rendered in Anderson's masterful prose, brought American literature into the modern age.' (back cover) So what, it was written in 1919. I don't think it was some great revelation that people make it out to be. Honestly... if I was interested in pre-industrial suburbia and it's dreariness, I'd read some Emily Dickinson.
I don’t know about you, (really, I don’t) but when I was little, I was one of those kids that LOVED finding stuff. Especially if it was on the ground,...moreI don’t know about you, (really, I don’t) but when I was little, I was one of those kids that LOVED finding stuff. Especially if it was on the ground, with a few shoe prints embedded in it, maybe torn, OOH! Gum wrappers! Anything shiny set off a Pavlovian response and I’d scamper towards it gleefully. Fastened to a gutter? No problem. Sticky? Bring it on. Drifting across a busy street? Set me free.
Now, my Mom… Oh, yeah.. Mom. I think I gave her a mini cardiac infarction every time I dropped her hand and lunged for one of my treasures. She would try to pull me away, slap my hand, scream. It didn’t matter… no one was getting between me and that beer bottle cap. She’d find me crouched over a used scratch ticket digging away the unscratched areas with dirty fingernails. She’d dig through my pockets and find crumpled receipts, pigeon feathers, one time she knocked me over trying to stop me from picking up a used condom (it looked like a balloon!), okay, for that, I thanked her later.
This continued on through high school and somewhat through my time in Boston. I would chase down papers and read torn term papers completed by Harvard students. ‘Move out’ day was like a holiday for me. Boxes of stuff left out on the street! I could just have my pick!
In New York I met my match. There were actually people who did this STUFF for a living!!! They’d set up ratty old blankets on Second Avenue and hawk their wares. These people were hard core. They actually went trash hunting. We’d see baseball gloves and old photographs, used journals and books with the covers ripped off. Maurice would always try to pull me away (he had witnessed a few ‘move out’ holidays) but I’d linger and then the seller would try to talk me up. ‘Come on… look here. This dude is naked!’ (The poor man) Then Guiliani came along and my fun was seriously curbed. I had to go back to finding my own treasures and since I’d taken a health class or two, I wasn’t so enthused to pick up a dog eared composition book that had survived a rainstorm (barely)
Now, I’m old and have children and I think the latent germophobe gene has emerged. If one of my kids gets all saucer-eyed over a muddy tennis ball, I’m on their ass quicker than a wink. The Purell is out and I’m my Mother, screeching out the virtues of cleanliness making references to godliness and such. I carry wet wipes with me and love the sound of a street sweeper early in the morning. What happened to me?
Luckily, I came across ‘Found’ It has given me back that joy of unearthing relics and creating lives out of them. Seriously. That’s what I thought I was doing. I was Indiana-motherfucking-Jones!
But, DAMN, why didn’t I think of it? Noooo, some hipsters came across the idea to compile these and make a whole magazine out of it! Then one book, then more! I coulda been…
Whatever. This book was fun. I needed fun. It had hate letters left on cars: ‘Thanks to you, my handicapped wife could not get into our house. I hope you die on the way back to Michigan. Redwings Suck. Fuck you!!!’ and ‘Inconsiderate must come to the minds of all that think of you’ and ‘Curtesy Notice: There will Be a funeral Wensday held at the Hells Angels CluB house. We woulD greatly appreciate your parking space for out of town guests. Thank you Frisco HellsAngels”
There are To Do lists! To Do Turn in library books Find out about college Mail Dads Shit Pay bills in advance Write Crystal Hide Guns Pack Get medication Do taxes Sew PC up Change adresses Pay Columbia bill
And To Do Email Corey Introduce him to lesbians Continue to convince self that I’m not in love w/ him
You can’t make this shit up. Okay, you can… but whatever, they’re still fun.
1. Suck hard and light bowl on fire until chamber is filled with white smoke 2. Exhale 1st Hit 3. Lock valve at intake 4. Relax. Tell a story 5. Unlock valve at intake 6. Clear chamber 7. Repeat iF Necessary 8. Make Food!!!!
You fuck up you always fuck up your a fucker just like all the other fuckers you call fucker you are a fuck up you always try but you always fuck up try harder it just takes longer just to make the fuck up time more suspenseful you always fuk up you alwaysfuckl up what have you done good what haven’t you fucked up nothing you fuck up everything you are a fuck up I love you I can’t get rid of you but what do you do with a fuck up nothing because they always fuck up because you are a fuck up you always are a fuck up because you are a fuck up fuckup being a fuck up and fuck up.
Love Letters! Dear Delane, You and I are just friends. That’s the way I wish to remain. I like you but only as a friend I would be happy if this doesn’t effect our bond--as friends Please understand it is not because your black. It’s not because your not handsome enough it’s just because you and I are friends. And that’s it. The reason you can’t be my boyfrient is because I am not attract to you as you are to me. To be honest, I just want us to be friends that’s all. It’s your choice wheather you want to be my friend or not. Julia.
Okay… you get it. Okay, one more:
Just so you can see for yourself.
Not all of these are fun. Some are sad, some tell stories, lots of messages in bottles, who does that? I want to meet them.
What was I expecting from you? Certainly not a frolicky day in the park… no Maurice Chevalier dance routines. No...moreCancer Ward … hmmm… Oh, Cancer Ward….
What was I expecting from you? Certainly not a frolicky day in the park… no Maurice Chevalier dance routines. Nope. I can’t say I was duped.
Cancer sucks. Hell, I’m not spouting some fresh angle on an old dictum. Just nod and agree, folks. Most of us have had some dealings with it, some more than others… it’s one of the nastiest things out there… rots you from the inside out, leaves you to dwell on things left unaccomplished and fills your head with messy words like ‘sarcoma’, ‘carcinoma’, ‘lymphoma’, ‘melanoma’, and you know, the biggie: ‘death.’
So, here it is the beginning of Spring, the most joyous of times, birds tweeting, flowers sprouting... and I’m reading about a ward full of cancer patients in Soviet Uzbekistan circa 1955.
Actually, the thing is, it was.
You think that these characters have lived through sieges and war and exiles and now this horrible disease and you still see them grasping at the hope that it's not what it is or what it could be.
There's this great chapter called 'What Men Live By' where each of the characters ponder over the riddle 'what do men live by?' They start to call out responses 'productivity!', 'Professional skill!', 'their pay!', 'Food! Water!', 'Air!' and then you have the quiet ones; 'your homeland' and 'ideals' and finally 'love.' I guess that is the mother load of questions, right? What keeps us going? What keeps us moral? Are we just sheep?
Yeah, I didn't sleep a lot while reading this.
Oleg, who, I guess you could call, the protagonist, the character that Solzhenitsyn models after himself, won me over. We see him struggle with his doctors to have some control of his treatments and then dealing with the side effects (read: Impotence) of said treatment. He comes to the Cancer Ward from his 'perpetual exile' in Kazakhstan and we see how his ideals clash with his fellow bunkmates. His struggle with what life has dealt him with:
"If my life is totally lost, if I can feel in my bones the memory that I'm a prisoner in perpetuity, a perpetual 'con', if Fate hold out no better prospect, if the only expectation I have is being consciously and artificially killed--- then why bother to save such a life?”
Can you even imagine? Hell, I can't even get past my anger at the pedestrian that hits the walk sign and then proceeds to cross without waiting. I need to reassess. Big.Time.
There's another great scene where he is visiting the zoo. He's promised another patient that he will go there and report back, he's just been released from the ward, given a free day to roam the city before returning to Ush-Terek and the first encounters a spiral horned goat. It had stood there a long time just like a statue, like a continuation of the rock itself. And when there was no breeze to make its straggly hair flutter it was impossible to prove it was alive, that it wasn't just a trick. Oleg stood there for five minutes and departed in admiration. The goat had not even stirred. That was the sort of character a man needed to get through life.”
Then, he continues on to see a crowd gathering around another cage. Inside is a squirrel in a wheel. ...And there, quite oblivious of its tree and the slender branches up above, stood the squirrel in its wheel—even though no one had forced it there or entice it with food---attracted only by the illusion of sham activity and movement. It had probably begun by running lightly up the steps out of curiosity, not knowing then what a cruel, obsessional thing it was. (It hadn't known the first time, but now at the thousandth time, it knew well enough, yet it made no difference.)”
That's it, I'm playing hookie tomorrow. Screw the machine.
I guess you can ask, how can you be inspired and uplifted by this, Kim? (Don't lie, it's there, I can see you forming the words...)
Hell if I know. I was just overwhelmed by the sense of hope that these people still carried, no matter their lot in life. Sieges, exiles, bread lines, grappling with the idea of ethical socialism yet living in a competitive, do better society. Fighting the idols of the marketplace while trying to stay true to themselves. That says a lot.
So, does this:
The meaning of existence was to preserve unspoiled, undisturbed and undistorted the image of eternity with which each person is born. Like a silver moon in a calm, still pond. You can't know everything in the world, whatever happens you'll die a fool.'
There is little that freaks me out more than the Holocaust. And I'm not belittling it at all with the phrase 'freaks me out.' Growing up in the 1970s...moreThere is little that freaks me out more than the Holocaust. And I'm not belittling it at all with the phrase 'freaks me out.' Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, I felt sufficiently desensitized enough by television violence to be able to gauge how often I need to shake the jiffy pop and run to the bathroom before the program/violence resumes.
Elie Wiesel's Night brings me back to my senses, makes me hate the cold hearted bitch I've learned to be. And not by some overtly dramatic rendition of the horrors of life in a concentration camp but more of the LACK of it. The down to the nitty gritty telling of what happened during the year that he was imprisoned. It wasn't going for the kick to the gut reaction, more of a confused, inconceivable retelling of day to day events, and this---this--- is what really makes me shudder and be at a loss for words. Hell, words? Who am I kidding? Try coherent thought.
“I would pause at every sentence, and start over and over again. I would conjure up other verbs, other images, other silent cries. It still was not right. But what exactly was “It”? “It” was something elusive, darkly shrouded for fear of being usurped, profaned. All the dictionary had to offer seemed meager, pale lifeless.”
His description of his last encounter with his mother and little sister:
“An SS came towards us wielding a club. He commanded: “Men to the left! Women to the right!” Eight words spoken quietly, indifferently, without emotion. Eight simple, short words. Yet that was the moment when I left my mother.”
Words. The power they can hold is devastating. Yes, not a new thought, not an original one, yet fucking true nonetheless. Buna. Buchenwald. Mengele. Auschwitz. Words, but ones that incite something within. Creepy crawlies or nausea. Fear.
I have met only one Holocaust survivor, that I'm aware of. And 'met' is too strong a word. I was working in a store during college and was collecting payment from a customer who handed me the money and flashed his tattoo. I paled. My eyes darted from the faded black green numbers that served as this man's identity to his face and knew that I was just another gawker. That in that one moment I had created a history for this man. No.. he WAS history. Certainly makes you rethink being pissed off that Sbarro's had left the food court.
I think that my kids will most likely never meet a survivor. That books like Night and Anne Frank will have to serve as an education, a reminder that THIS, in fact, DID happen and that it is cruel and moronic and downright irresponsible to believe otherwise.
I could say that I did have some sense of relief that at least I wasn't alive during this. That I didn't sit back and have some vague understanding of this going on. But, that's not really the case, right? We have Rwanda and Darfur and god knows what other insane situations happening out there---and we're outraged over the price of an iPhone.
“For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences.”
So, Elie Wiesel's account, at 112 pages, serves as a powerful, undeniable, testament. As simply stated as that.
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and tuned my dreams to ashes. Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.
And in the Preface to the New Translation, he says: “And yet still I wonder: Have I used the right words?'
Why is it when I pick up To Kill A Mockingbird , I am instantly visited by a sensory memory: I’m walking home, leaves litter the ground, crunching un...moreWhy is it when I pick up To Kill A Mockingbird , I am instantly visited by a sensory memory: I’m walking home, leaves litter the ground, crunching under my feet. I smell the smoke of fireplaces and think about hot cider and the wind catches and my breath is taken from me and I bundle my coat tighter against me and lift my head to the sky, no clouds, just a stunning blue that hurts my eyes, another deep breath and I have this feeling that all is okay.
Why? Why this memory? I mean, this takes place in Alabama and mostly in the summer, well there is that one climatic scene on Halloween, but I bet it’s still hot enough to melt the balls off a brass monkey.
It must be the school thing, my daughter just finished reading it, prompting me to give it another go, to fall back into Scout’s world and pretend to be eight and let life simply be.
How is that? How can life for Scout be simple? I mean, she lives in the south, during the depression, she has to deal with ignorant schoolteachers and town folk, her ideas of what is right, what is what it should be are laughed at by her schoolmates… man, and I thought my childhood was rough.
Still, she lives in this idyllic town, I mean, except for the racism and the creepy neighbors and the whole fact that it’s, you know, the south…(forgive me… I’m not immune to the downfalls of the north, I mean, we had witches and well, Ted Bundy was born here…) But, there’s this sense of childlike innocence to this book that makes me believe in humanity… even in the throes of evil. What am I saying here? I guess, that this is a good pick me up.
What I also get from this book is that I have severe Daddy issues. I consume Atticus Finch in unnatural ways. He is the ultimate father; he has the perfect response for every situation. He is the transcendent character. My heart melts at each sentence devoted to him and I just about crumble during the courtroom scene.
Am I gushing? I sure am. I was raised by a man who thought that Budweiser can artwork was the epitome of culture. That drinking a 6-pack was the breakfast of champions. That college was for sissies. He could throw out a racial slur without a single thought, care or worry to who was around. I won't even get into the debates/rantings of a 16 yr old me vs a 42 yr old him... What a role model.
So, I thank Harper Lee for giving me Atticus. I can cuddle up with my cider and pretend that I’m basking in his light. I can write this blurb that makes sense to maybe a handful but that is okay, I am approved of and all is good. (less)