This book is interesting on many levels. On the surface, it is a story about a boy coming of age both physically and spiritually; a sexual awakening a...moreThis book is interesting on many levels. On the surface, it is a story about a boy coming of age both physically and spiritually; a sexual awakening amidst a family's religious background. John, the main character, has a sense he will go out into the world and "sin" even though he is bound by his own morals and by society. It is about a boy on the verge of accepting his homosexuality.
What struck me was the structure that Baldwin uses to tell John's story. It's not only John's story, but also the story of the three important people in his life: his mother, his step-father and his aunt. The book is separated into three parts, with each chapter dedicated to a character. Basically, the book has no traditional plot and mostly written in flashback, which could make for a boring book, but it's not. Each story is packed with hypnotic language and fleshed out in a short space, as if we are hearing a story about a relative while sitting at the kitchen table. The whole book takes place on one day, which also lends the narrative a historical feel.
Speaking of language, Baldwin use of long flowy sentences take on that kind of sermony rhythm found in churches. It definitely reflects the theme, but sometimes feels like it drowns the story. Overall though, I admired Baldwin's uncommon use of language and style to tell this story, and to keep the reader's interest all the way. (less)
okay, so i didn't finish this book. It might have been due to the mood i was in, but I wasn't as absorbed as I thought I would be. I will give it a se...moreokay, so i didn't finish this book. It might have been due to the mood i was in, but I wasn't as absorbed as I thought I would be. I will give it a second try later. (less)
This is a humorous collection that deals with a wide set of issues like love, death, and politics, with some historical fiction thrown in. Almond’s us...moreThis is a humorous collection that deals with a wide set of issues like love, death, and politics, with some historical fiction thrown in. Almond’s use of slang and colloquialism in the narrative give the stories a sense of accessibility, but left this reader feeling there is something missing from the narrative, some important emotional element. Not all of the stories feel this way; some are powerful and linger in the mind after reading them. The story, “I am as I am,” is one of these, a coming of age story about a boy who accidentally kills another boy with a bat. And there is also “Summer, As in Love,” a tender and sad love story.
The language in these stories is more straightforward, less stylized, less wanting to be cool, which lend the narrative a serious hue that make the story wonderful. This decision makes me ponder the use of slang, witty and outlandish language in stories, and also for that matter, the easy talkative tone that many stories these days take. For the most part, if used in concert with a serious subject, this kind of language is amazing. I can think of Lorrie Moore as an example and Junot Diaz, whose street talk offers insight into the desperation of character or heighten the neurosis another character feels. That is not to say that witty language or clever descriptions are not necessary in a piece of serious work, but it needs to be balanced with the emotional weight of the story, which in my opinion, Almond fears getting next to.
In the title story, a woman slowly allows herself to fall in love, only to find out she’s been conned into loving the person, and then dumped. What makes the story entertaining is the narrator’s almost indifference to her lacking love life. When B.B. Chow apologizes for asking about her divorce, she thinks, “I don’t feel especially disappointed, though. I was married to a man who couldn’t operate a washing machine. I got out. The end.”
It is this kind of apathy that drives the story along. She slowly succumbs to B.B. Chow’s odd emotional sensitivity (he’s a doctor who cries), even despite his shortcomings, “Sadly, B.B. is not much of a kisser. He presses too hard, and he doesn’t know how to modulate the whole mouth-opening-tongue-moving-forward thing.” You accept the tone, and expect the story to finish on this note. That is why when she finally realizes B.B.’s been using the same lines on her as he has with other women, you expect a farcical remark that would show her anger and disappointment, instead of the serious prose that seems to come out of nowhere.
“I’m weary of moving through life in this way, punished for my capabilities, betrayed by the glib promises of love. I’m weary of managing these disappointments. I’m weary of my body’s gruesome tick. And I’m weary of telling women it can be different.” I’m sorry, but boo hoo. If we had any clue that these were things she thought about or were hinted at, even from the narrator (who is first person), the weight of them would truly be felt.
The thing is, the stories feel like the author is holding back, but they’re still funny, full of great sentences like this one, “Self-deception, I’d told them, in my profound deeply feeling teacher voice, is the only worthy enemy.”
This coming of age story was dark, funny, sad, a really great read. McCullers takes her time to tell the story of Frankie, a twelve year old girl who...moreThis coming of age story was dark, funny, sad, a really great read. McCullers takes her time to tell the story of Frankie, a twelve year old girl who knows how to handle a pistol and throw knives. She's pissed off, but she doesn't know why. She becomes obsessed with her brother's wedding, and tells everyone that she is not coming back to town after the wedding, that she plans on leaving with the couple to their honeymoon.
The novella is told in three parts, the longest of which is one day. Much of it takes place around the kitchen table, in the form of conversation between Frankie, the black cook, Berenice, and Frankie's little cousin, John Henry. The three characters form a wonderful triangle of emotion, with Frankie being the strongest and balanced by Berenice's wise words and often hysterical cracks at Frankie. For example, Frankie hounds Berenice about whether she is a freak because she is tall. Berenice says no, but Frankie keeps pestering.
Berenice says, "I think when you fill out you will do very well. If you behave." "But by Sunday," Frankie said. "I want to do something to improve myself before the wedding." "Get clean for a change. Scrub your elbows and fix yourself nice. You will do very well."
Frankie looked for a last time at herself in the mirror, and then she turned away. She thought about her brother and the bride, and there was a tightness in her that would not break.
"I don't know what to do. I just wish I would die." "Well die then!' said Berenice"
John Henry rounds out the three with his five year old antics. He is the grounding factor in the story because he's wise beyond his years, and we get to see just how crazy Frankie is by the way he acts around her.
McCuller's descriptions are sharp and interesting, and mirrors Frankie's malaise. She does such a great job of showing who Frankie is that for a moment we do believe that Frankie could shoot herself with her father's pistol if she decides.
McCullers takes her time with scenes and you get the feeling that she's not in a hurry to move you through the story, which creates a lot of the tension. Details, details, details. A reminder to slow down, take your time, really feel it.
I liked this book for several reasons. One, it was the first novel to become an American best-seller. Two, written by a woman who was also a writer of...moreI liked this book for several reasons. One, it was the first novel to become an American best-seller. Two, written by a woman who was also a writer of plays, music, textbooks. She was an actress and an educator. At one point, she was the main breadwinner in her family, which her husband approved of. We're talking in mid 1700's here.
The story of Charlotte begins in England. She's fifteen years old, the only child of two doting parents. A cute British soldier comes along and convinces her to elope with him to America. Steamy stuff! Then she comes to America, gets pregnant, gets dumped by the British soldier and dies. Why did all early heroine's die in desolation??? That's a whole other topic. What is interesting about Charlotte, from a writer's point of view, is the way she structured the novel.
It's written in third person, but along the way, the narrator/author interjects thoughts about the story, statements aimed directly at the reader. There are a few theories out there as to why Rowson did this. One, which is also very interesting, is that by doing so she was able to "preach" to her audience, which women couldn't do in Puritan society. In a way, she broke society's rules in a very sneaky way, which is another reason why I like this book.
Many of the essays in this collection are wonderful. I can relate to his feelings about being a child of immigrant Mexican parents and one of my favor...moreMany of the essays in this collection are wonderful. I can relate to his feelings about being a child of immigrant Mexican parents and one of my favorite essays is the one about his complexion. It's when Rodriguez goes beyond the personal that he sometimes loses me. Many times his essays are abstract intellectual reflections that are obtuse enough for me to not care. Still, even some of those have nuggets of thought I find interesting and the most controversial are his feelings on bilingual education and affirmative action. It is reassuring to find myself in similar company, that labels are more exclusionary than the opposite. Rodriguez's books is most enjoyable though as a personal account of what it was like to grow up as the only Mexican-American on the block.
I keep going back and forth on whether I like this book more or not. In the end, I think it is an important book to read on a historical level and since there are not many books by Mexican-Americans on this subject, a rare insight into the Mexican-American middle class experience. It's easy to find the ex-homeboy accounts, which I also think are important, but not everyone of color grows up in the ghetto. (less)
Another Victorian novel where the heroine spirals into desolation. I can imagine its shock value at the time of its debut and am surprised that someon...moreAnother Victorian novel where the heroine spirals into desolation. I can imagine its shock value at the time of its debut and am surprised that someone actually published it. It is a story about a woman who has a self-awakening spawned by desire. At least, that's what it seems to be about, but personally, I feel that Kate Chopin is making a statement about the artist life and its obstacles.
Kate Chopin didn't start writing until the age of thirty-six and although she had a successful career for a while, this novel was her undoing, and she died five years after its publication. Sad. (less)
A very interesting book about a woman who rebels against what is expected of her and well, pays for it. What I loved is Ms. Rhys' language, accessible...moreA very interesting book about a woman who rebels against what is expected of her and well, pays for it. What I loved is Ms. Rhys' language, accessible and enveloping. This book was written in the 1930's and even though we know what it was like for women back then, it's still slightly unbelievable to think a woman would be turned out of a hotel room if a man was discovered in her room. The narrator, Julia, is not necessarily a likeable character; she's opportunistic, moody, unstable, but she is paving her own way in life.
Rhys' storytelling is fantastic. She draws the reader in with vivid imagery and her insight into human nature is very noteworthy. The book is written in the omniscient narrator, so the reader gets to know what all the characters are thinking, and it's in this structure that Rhys' talent is evident.
Short and a fast read, a definite recommendation. (less)
Excellent! This coming of age story under the watchful eye of a strict religious upbringing still holds up today. The author's humor and sensitivity w...moreExcellent! This coming of age story under the watchful eye of a strict religious upbringing still holds up today. The author's humor and sensitivity with which he retells his parent's overbearing religious fervor and what it did to a young child's psyche, engrosses the reader. Highly recommended. (less)