Mirrors can be the unlikeliest of deceivers. They suggest a clean retelling of just the facts, an accurate reflection of what’s placed before them, wiMirrors can be the unlikeliest of deceivers. They suggest a clean retelling of just the facts, an accurate reflection of what’s placed before them, without judgment or commentary. But of course what we see in a mirror isn’t always the truth, at least not exactly. It’s the surface of things, and even that is often distorted. We know this, yet we can’t stop looking at them for confirmation. We crave the reflection, choosing to trust its accuracy against our better judgment.
Helen Oyeyemi’s latest novel, Boy, Snow, Bird, begins with just this conundrum. “Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy,” says Boy, the first of the book’s three titular protagonists. That doesn’t stop her from obsessing over mirrors, to the point of kissing the glass with her fists against it, her mouth meeting her “mouth.” And she’s not the only one: Snow, her stepdaughter, and Bird, her daughter, have similarly troublesome and obsessive relationships with the reflective material—in their case, they occasionally don’t see any reflection at all.
A magical mirror? You know that old story. On its surface, the plot of Boy, Snow, Bird is the Snow White tale told from the perspective of the stepmother—the sort of turnabout tactic made standard thanks to books like Wicked. But the talented Oyeyemi takes a familiar story, sets it for the most part in 1950s New England, and removes almost all the familiar imagery, making it her own. There are no dwarves, no poisonous apple, and no awakening kiss. In its place are simply women. Women of all ages, races, economic backgrounds, and motives. Women who deal with, and sometimes inflict, all the horrible injustices—racism, abortions, questions of sexual identity—that aren’t on display in a Disneyfied version. Women who, with no Prince Charming on the way, must instead find ways to solve their own problems.
I agree with most of the criticism about the lack of any research or semblance of understanding of social media etc., but at the same time ... I was tI agree with most of the criticism about the lack of any research or semblance of understanding of social media etc., but at the same time ... I was totally absorbed in the absurdity and took an, admittedly short, Twitter break. ...more
I actually found the collection as a whole kind of uneven, but some of the stories were just so great that it deterred most of my negative feelings. PI actually found the collection as a whole kind of uneven, but some of the stories were just so great that it deterred most of my negative feelings. Particularly the first few. ...more
Any memoir either leaves you loving or hating its author-subject hybrid. GLK tackles loneliness: "Loneliness is always relative to possibility, right?Any memoir either leaves you loving or hating its author-subject hybrid. GLK tackles loneliness: "Loneliness is always relative to possibility, right? Or at least it is for me. So when I'm at home in Berlin on a Wednesday and nobody has called to see what I'm up to, and I can imagine all those people out having fun without me at the abandoned U-Bahn stations, I feel lonely. But here on the margin of the end of the world, there's nothing I could possibly be doing and nobody I could be doing it with, so I don't feel lonely." Why we do things (and Wittgenstein!): "If you ask someone 'Why?' enough times,--if every time they proved a 'Because ...' you respond with another 'But why?'--they get to a point where no further account is available, where they are doing something that seems to them self-evidently worthwhile. You must then simple say, 'I have hit bedrock. My spade is turned. This is what I do.' "
There more, and ultimately, there are moments of philosophical identification (there has to be a better way of saying that, basically when you identify with someone else's ramblings) that makes you love him and anyone's journey, especially a solo one, has potential interest, which makes you want to be him, but the book starts to feel kind of gimmicky midway through the second pilgrimage (the third just feels tacked on, which it is). I'm not going to get into how he tries to tie everything together with his father, I found that to be the least compelling part--and alas, this is what he centers the book around. (His relationship with his brother was much more interesting to me.) I loved Wild, and wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Now I want to go on a bunch of pilgrimages, but as Kraus writes: "Life has no fixed points. But pilgrimages does; that is the point."
I will say, I did enjoy reading the acknowledgments section....more
I absolutely loved this book. I was kind of shocked by how much I enjoyed it. But I think what sealed it for me was every moment that I feared it wasI absolutely loved this book. I was kind of shocked by how much I enjoyed it. But I think what sealed it for me was every moment that I feared it was going down the wrong direction, that moment in movies where you're like ugh, really. That moment in Season 5 of the Wire when you're like, really? You're going to have McNulty do THAT? Wolitzer managed to swerve back on track. The only thing I could have done without were the llamas. Was I missing something? ...more
This book was everything I'd hoped it would be; everything I thought it would be. And then I got to the end and promptly forgot everything because it'This book was everything I'd hoped it would be; everything I thought it would be. And then I got to the end and promptly forgot everything because it's utterly forgettable and cliched. The Calvino comparisons are premature/misguided. ...more