"He was a bad priest, he knew it. They had a word for his kind -- a whisky priest, but every failure dropped out of sight and mind: somewhere they acc...more"He was a bad priest, he knew it. They had a word for his kind -- a whisky priest, but every failure dropped out of sight and mind: somewhere they accumulated in secret -- the rubble of his failures. One day they would choke up, he supposed, altogether the source of grace. Until then he carried on, with spells of fear, weariness, with a shamefaced lightness of heart" (60).
At this moment, this is enough to say about the book. Also, I will add that it is on my all-time favorite list.(less)
“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." ― Charles Dicken...more“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." ― Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
Not to be a Negative Nancy, but I wanted tighter POV. I wanted less narration. I didn't want to be tol...moreMaybe something magical was lost in translation.
Not to be a Negative Nancy, but I wanted tighter POV. I wanted less narration. I didn't want to be told how characters felt. And I don't think readers need the plot points repeated in interior monologue.
With that said, I loved the blurry sense of time and reality. I loved the "cat town" and the unexplained mystery that was not tidied at the end. And maybe all the stuff above really did get jumbled in translation. English and Japanese are quite different. (less)
"I don't think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see." - Saramago, Blindness
It's true, tha...more"I don't think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see." - Saramago, Blindness
It's true, that the dog of tears is a bit much, but I like Saramago's Blindness. This, as you'd expect, is a book about blindness. It's a story about sight. It's about Saint Lucy. It's about the anonymity of survival. It's about the beauty of community in the face of danger, the miracle of the five senses. It's about post-apocalyptic horror and pre-millenial angst. And (you might have guessed I'd say something like this) it's about fiction itself.
When I describe writing to my students, I sometimes tell them that their job is to guide their blind reader through the story. All readers are blind, I'll say, and in our writing we create eyes for our readers. As writers, we're not unlike Saint Lucy, offering our eyes up for readers on a platter. Saramago's description of blindness (offered on a platter, if we want to imagine it that way) leaves the blind reader feeling anything but blind. We see the blind world: the stalled cars with families living inside, the crawling blind men feeling for groceries on the floor. At the same time, Saramago invites us to imagine what it would be like to be without sight -- calling our attention all the while to the fact that we can't actually see what he's talking about, that inside his story we're blind too. So as I read, I wonder about my own blindness as a reader, even while it seems, through the descriptions I'm given, that I can see everything in full color.
I can't help but wonder if Saramago meant for me to wonder this, at least on some level, because there, toward the end of the story, is the appearance of a blind writer, writing his story of blindness, blind himself to the story he has written. And that's how it is. We are walking our readers, blind, through our stories. But we are blind too. Fiction and storytelling itself is like a world of the blind leading the blind. Ah, but that's just a cliche isn't it? (less)
"In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time ... I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter all over the world,...more"In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time ... I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter all over the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there's only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit." — Emma Donoghue (Room)
Emma Donoghue's latest novel, Room, tells the story of a child and his mother, held captive by a mysterious man named "Old Nick." The story is told from the viewpoint of five-year-old Jack.
What I most enjoy about this story is what some readers find most frustrating: the voice of the child narrator. Jack (who was born inside the room and has been there ever since) looks at the world through a narrow lens, and his viewpoint is --well, shiny. Jack sees his world in a kind of Technicolor. For Jack, everything is alive, from the mouse and spider in the room to inanimate objects like the blanket, bed, and wardrobe. Donoghue weaves references to psychological object relations theory here, as we begin to see that Ma and the room are the world for Jack --and as we see how Jack, a usual boy, must develop in this unusual environment. In seeing the room through Jack's eyes, we come to see the world differently too. The closeness of it all--the room and Ma and the familiarity of each day-- become a kind of womb.
While the narration may not be 100% realistic for a five-year-old and while Jack does have an inconsistent vocabulary, I find that I like following his point of view though the world. I like seeing the room and the world through Jack's bright vision, and I like seeing what happens as his world changes.
It's a worthwhile read -- for writers interested in a study of point of view, for psychologically-minded folk, and for those hoping for a new way to see the world. As Proust once said, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." If this is true, Room, I believe, can help us get a bit closer to a new kind of sight.(less)
**spoiler alert** Twain isn't on my list of five fave authors. While I enjoy a good yarn about time travel as much as the next gal, Twain's adventure-...more**spoiler alert** Twain isn't on my list of five fave authors. While I enjoy a good yarn about time travel as much as the next gal, Twain's adventure-humor is not exactly my cup of tea. For a good part of the book, the story seemed to be about how clever our egotistical narrator is, how he gets out of sticky situations, and how he brings his idea of civilization to the silly, chivalrous citizens of the 6th Century.
The story shifts at the close of the book, however, and deeper meanings begin to take shape. References to slavery and depictions of mechanized warfare make this much more than an adventure story, and the context given by Heather Ordover (of the venerable podcast Craflit) went far in helping me put aside my preconceived notions and dig into meatier parts of the text. The book still isn't among my favorites, but I do appreciate what's going on here. It's worth a read -- as long as you stick with it to the end. (less)
Many readers would describe this as a book about a school shooting, and a shooting does happen in the story (no spoiler alert necessary). Still, a mor...moreMany readers would describe this as a book about a school shooting, and a shooting does happen in the story (no spoiler alert necessary). Still, a more apt description may be to say it's a book about the unraveling of family, a book about motherhood, or maybe a sort of creepy mother-son love story.
Shriver excels at characterization, and I think this is what makes the story haunt the reader afterward. Shriver builds Kevin's character so gradually and so fully -- from the early moments of his babyhood to the tiny clothes he wears to the lopsided grin that acts as facade. Kevin seems like a rock star, and (like Eva) we come to fear, dislike, and sometimes, against our better judgment, admire him.
Eva is a strong character as well, but more evident is the characterization of motherhood. From the moment Kevin is born, we get a picture of motherhood that is often avoided in society -- flawed attachment, abandoned dreams, failed attempts at connection, and a sense of unrelenting, unending discomfort. In exposing Eva's shortcomings, Shriver calls into question our myths of the mother -- and we see the tremendous burden and responsibility and blame heaped upon Eva-as-mother, from the courtroom, from her family, from Kevin, and from Eva’s expectations of herself. Maybe because of this, the most touching moment of the story for me is when Loretta Greenleaf makes her declaration: "It's always the mother's fault, ain't it? . . . It hard to be a momma. Nobody ever pass a law say 'fore you get pregnant you gotta be perfect" (166). Loretta makes a good point – and is perhaps the single voice of reason in a story with all types of crazy.
--So this is a good read. Still, there were two things that I found myself wishing away:
1) The reader gets to witness striking characterization and the knowledge, from the opening pages, that Kevin will one day commit a great act of violence. With all this pulling us forward, I don't think we need the twist at the end (and the trickery from page 1 used to generate surprise). The element of surprise, I think, can be overrated -- and the use of foreshadow, vastly unappreciated.
2) Shriver's writing style is chewy, with language that some have said can get in the way of the story. I didn't mind it. What did sometimes get to me were the occasionally overdone conversations about politics. When the topic of SUVs or American consumption or even school shootings came up in dialogue, I often felt that Shriver slipped out of the story and into a miniature essay. I liked the story better.
With that said, I can see why this book gets people talking – and why it’s remembered by so many readers. It’s an interesting read – a creepy read, a read that might make mothers dream frightening dreams, but yes, a read that’s well worth it. (less)
Although I'm not exactly an Austen fan, I did enjoy Persuasion. Anne Elliot is older, wiser, and less concerned with husband-getting than some of Aust...moreAlthough I'm not exactly an Austen fan, I did enjoy Persuasion. Anne Elliot is older, wiser, and less concerned with husband-getting than some of Austen's other heroines -- and while the focus of the book centers on marriage and manners, there's more to this story than calling cards and dinner parties. We see sadness from a cold family, pain ripened over many years, and reversals of fortune. With a little historical background to temper the romantic interpretation that modern readers can often bring to Austen, a reading of Persuasion can be moving.
I do admire Austen's use of plot in her work -- especially the way she's able to create drama in the smallest detail, like a glance between two people or the drop of a pen. Austen reminds me that even the smallest moments can make a story and that plot is not all about car chases or near-death experiences. (less)