I found Hanna's book very interesting, but rather disappointing. There is a great deal of space devoted to identifying places where gender and sex pla...moreI found Hanna's book very interesting, but rather disappointing. There is a great deal of space devoted to identifying places where gender and sex play a role in dance (this is especially true of the sections about non-Western dance) and then moves on to a different region or piece or something. So sometimes the book reads a little like a glorified list. Which isn't to say that it's not a useful book, only that it falls short of what it could be.
I like Hanna's specificity about the historical role dance played in various locations, and I admire her ability to pinpoint power tensions as expressed through dance. But I think the book would have benefited greatly from some sort of intersectionality, while race is present it is really only acknowledged in reference to men (look, I admire Bill T. Jones as much as anyone, he's awesome! But I think women are affected by race too). The book is about 20 years old, and I know that the thinking on sex/gender and race has shifted since it was published, but that shift can still make it a bit unfulfilling. Sometimes it also makes it disturbing.
On a final note, did U of Chicago P fire all their proofreaders the year this came out? Seriously, there were a distracting number of errors.(less)
Edwin Drood is not really much of a mystery: you know who will do what and why fairly early on (except for the usual mysteries of personal relationshi...moreEdwin Drood is not really much of a mystery: you know who will do what and why fairly early on (except for the usual mysteries of personal relationships that develop during the novel). Dickens usually telegraphed plot developments, and this novel is no exception.
It's . . . okay. I found it difficult to pay very close attention, and some parts are quite troubling (one wonders what Edward Said would say about Edwin Drood). I think it's more ideologically imperialist than the other Dickens with which I am familiar. Also, the most convincing relationships are the homosocial ones, which should provide space for some interesting critical articles.(less)
I found The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice as Chronicled by Her Minstrel Laura a terribly frustrating read. It is a book that really ought...moreI found The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice as Chronicled by Her Minstrel Laura a terribly frustrating read. It is a book that really ought to have pushed my buttons, and there were parts of it I loved (the first third, I think, was my favorite), but overall it just . . . dragged. Morgner's book is clearly meticulous and an admirable achievement, and her humor and intelligence are amazing. But it did not work for me, and although I suspect this is my fault and not Morgner's or her translator's, the fact remains.(less)
Bleak House is a fairly bizarre novel, but this does not stop it from being extremely compelling. In fact, it probably helps.
In Bleak House, Dickens j...moreBleak House is a fairly bizarre novel, but this does not stop it from being extremely compelling. In fact, it probably helps.
In Bleak House, Dickens joins several social issues which he found particularly provoking to quests for identity and happiness. This does not sound strange, because it isn't, but the way in which he executes the novel - in particular the characters with which he populates his world - is so strange! His fascination with the grotesque is really unrivaled by anyone outside of the 1930s American South. The humor Dickens derives from these characters is truly astounding, but so too is the humanity which he can bestow on them (Guppy is, I think, the best example).
The two narrator technique was one I found interesting. Esther Summerson gets a lot of flack from critics and readers, for example: my mother started rereading Bleak House a little bit ago, but had to stop because she could not handle Esther again. I found Esther's passages much more interesting than the third person narrator, who seemed overly keen to show off his satirical scalpels and had no problem taking a cheap shot. Actually, I think the third person narrator is sort of the Dickens qua Dickens voice, which means its flaws belong to him just as much as its assets. This makes it into something of a parody of itself, as it presents a part of the narrative that is highly colored, narrow-minded, sentimental and satirical by turns, essentially masculine, convinced of its own value. Esther's drabness is welcome in comparison, if only because it promises us some shading in of those colors. Esther Summerson is not an exciting character, but she is an interesting one. She needn't be exciting - Dickens signals most of the plot developments far in advance of their actual occurrence (Richard and Ada spring to mind) - so what we need from Esther is emotional analysis. She delivers this to us in spades. What others have criticized as coyness I think is an authentic reaction to her childhood and the expression of an easily-embarrassed personality. The pains Esther takes to hide her insight matter as much as the insight itself.
I want to note that this book was emotionally successful for me, and that I think many of the flaws are 19th century flaws: I find them in many other books of the period. So long as they are books belonging to the period, they do not bother me. Contemporary literature is another matter.(less)
Okay, here is the thing: Swimming in the Monsoon Sea is probably a very good look into the mind of a teenager with a Tragic Past on the verge of a ner...moreOkay, here is the thing: Swimming in the Monsoon Sea is probably a very good look into the mind of a teenager with a Tragic Past on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Um, I mean, a sexual awakening, whatever - but that doesn't always make it very interesting. I'm not far off from teenagehood myself, and now I'm wondering what prevented me from killing all the boys I was growing up with.
I'm not totally clear on the rules of YA, so although I know this fits, I'm not sure if it is "good YA" or just YA, you know? It seemed heavy handed (especially with the symbolism and the allegory, seriously!). Actually, it seemed pretty heavy in general, and I don't mean deep or complicated! I mean like a heavy weight. But I do want to check out Selvadurai's other books, especially Cinnamon Gardens: A Novel.(less)
I didn't really give a damn about this play until I saw the second season of Slings and Arrows. Then I was like, "oh, I get it." And then I had to rea...moreI didn't really give a damn about this play until I saw the second season of Slings and Arrows. Then I was like, "oh, I get it." And then I had to read it for class, and you know what . . .
Before reading Great Expectations, my exposure to Dickens was limited to A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist, which are both pretty terrible novels, an...moreBefore reading Great Expectations, my exposure to Dickens was limited to A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist, which are both pretty terrible novels, and various BBC adaptations, which I never liked as much as I wanted to. Therefore, the nuance and deft characterization (and the vastly improved plotting) came as something of a surprise to me. Great Expectations is a very good book, and I see why some have called it Dickens' best work. It feels less like an archetypal serialized Victorian novel that some of his other writing (where his social conscience - which, admittedly, endears him to me very much - is prominently displayed on his sleeve . . . and his forehead . . . and anywhere else you might think to look for it) and more like a book truly worthy of inclusion in the Western canon.
The clueless main character works really well in Great Expectations, because although he is clueless about himself (oh so very clueless) and about the girl he loves (it's very 500 Days of Summer, which I know is blasphemy, but it's true!), he is very good at sarcastic insight and he doesn't suffer fools gladly. He makes fun of them ruthlessly. Pip reminded me a little of Cecil in A Room With a View, one of my favorite novels. Cecil's problem is that he thinks well of himself, and has never had any reason not to think well of himself. So he's insufferable - until Lucy rejects him. Then he actually has a chance to grow and change, and he becomes worthy of our sympathy. Pip never does anything to deserve the love and good luck heaped upon him, and builds himself up in his own mind. Watching him topple is very interesting.
Also, the deep emotional bonds that develop between the characters were very well drawn.(less)
Moon-Flash intrigued me, and I didn't really expect it to although McKillip is one of my favorite writers ever. In a lot of ways, the book is very sim...moreMoon-Flash intrigued me, and I didn't really expect it to although McKillip is one of my favorite writers ever. In a lot of ways, the book is very similar to Susan Cooper's Seaward, a book I like very much (and a little more than this one). Unlike Seaward, Moon-Flash seems like its on the verge of postcolonialism, although I don't think it ever gets there. I may hunt down the second book, to see if that is what happens.(less)
Like the Morrison works I've read, it is complet...moreThe God of Small Things reminded me of two literary . . . institutions: 1) Toni Morrison; 2) Naturalism.
Like the Morrison works I've read, it is completely devastating, a portrait of people who are so tangled up in each other that they can't move without collapsing. All they do is hurt each other, but watching this inspires sorrow and pathos in us. Which is why it is a good book, I think.
As for naturalism, the thing that I'm going to remember best about The God of Small Things is the seething, malevolent natural world of Kerala. I thought including it was an interesting choice.(less)
I expect Juliet Dusinberre and I would enjoy talking to each other about literature, but I my feelings about Shakespeare and the Nature of Women are m...moreI expect Juliet Dusinberre and I would enjoy talking to each other about literature, but I my feelings about Shakespeare and the Nature of Women are mixed. (I do not know what the third edition is like, although I think the changes in edition are limited to introductions and prefaces, which in this volume at least are very interesting discussions of what being a woman in male-dominated academia feels like. And, as academia goes, English/Literature has more women than many other fields.)
But do I agree with her interpretations of Shakespeare? Well, first, let me say that the title of this book is deceptive: it is about Shakespeare, but it is just as much about his contemporaries (except, oddly, Marlowe, who barely gets a mention). And I think that sometimes the book gets away from Dusinberre. It is quite readable, but I wonder if her organizational method proved insufficient to what she wanted to say: perhaps it would have made more sense to organize by character types rather than social themes? I think that technique would preserve the focus of each section a little better, and have made the book more coherent as a whole.
Dusinberre has a very interesting/sympathetic take on Puritan philosophy, which I know is often underestimated. However, she probably overestimates the "feminism" of Puritanism and her reading of Catholic ideas about sex is quite shallow . . . even though she uses at least two prominent Catholics (More and Erasmus) and dwells very much on Katherine of Aragon's role in shaping the way women were perceived and treated in the time. But that makes sense, I guess, because perceptions of Catholicism in Renaissance England were hardly layered and complex - it's harder to vilify a position if you acknowledge the nuances it incorporates. This is equally true of Puritanism, but I happen to know more about Catholicism. (And, obviously, More and Erasmus are both more complicated than simply labeling them "Catholic" implies!)
What troubled me most was the analysis of the relationship between "femininity" and boy actors. Dusinberre seems to argue, although I may have misinterpreted her points, that because the women Shakespeare (etc) wrote were played by boys, this required a more careful construction of the markers of "femininity" and a deeper examination of the value of those markers. This is a valuable point! And I think it is true: When there are no actual women on stage, you have to take extra steps to prove that those representing women are women at least during the run of the play. Therefore, you do need to think about what it means to be a woman. But . . . that certainly does not guarantee, as Dusinberre says, that the kind of "femininity" put on stage by Shakespeare etc is truer than the kind of "femininity" portrayed by actual women later in history. That is a ridiculous claim. Is Shakespeare a better writer than Congreve? Yes. Would I rather watch Twelfth Night than The Way of the World? Absolutely! Twelfth Night is my favorite Shakespeare. But I would rather watch a woman portraying a woman than watching a man do the same thing. Maybe I'm too entrenched in standpoint theory and third wave feminism (although I'm not great at keeping track of waves . . .) but Dusinberre's book falls apart when she ignores that part of the power dynamic. It is not that she fails to consider power dynamics between the sexes in Shakespeare, but rather that she fails to take into account women in the audience. Or, indeed, women on stage. (less)
I only read Titus (for a class). Those two stars are for Aaron, who is an evil badass and extremely compelling, and Marcus, who is the only sane perso...moreI only read Titus (for a class). Those two stars are for Aaron, who is an evil badass and extremely compelling, and Marcus, who is the only sane person in the play. The scholarship around Titus Andronicus is much more interesting than the play itself, IMO. I think the psychology is cursory (even by Elizabethan standards) and most of the characters are boring.(less)
I'm not really sure what to rate this, because there were two stories in this collection that I thought were very good - "Love and Honor and Pity and...moreI'm not really sure what to rate this, because there were two stories in this collection that I thought were very good - "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice" and "Meeting Elise" - and two I thought were pretty nearly transcendent - "Cartagena" and "The Boat" - and then three that were basically taking up space. In the book . . . and in my life. Like, I would be pleased to regain those minutes.
But, honestly, the title story is amazing and well-worth reading. (I would have liked the inclusion of the lesbian vampires story mentioned in "Love and Honor . . . " but alas it is not here.)(less)
Although I enjoyed Ash, I found it a little disappointing. The genres didn't fuse properly until about two thirds of the way in, which I think was bec...moreAlthough I enjoyed Ash, I found it a little disappointing. The genres didn't fuse properly until about two thirds of the way in, which I think was because Lo needed more worldbuilding. When they do fuse together, it produces a very nice, very creepy old-fashioned fairy tale kind of vibe, filled with sudden violence, bad bargains, and self-understanding.
My other problem with the book was that the villains never attain any depth. There are occasional gestures towards rotundity, but basically they are all stock characters. Additionally, the main fairy character is basically David Bowie. I love David Bowie; I just think we need a new template for menacing fairies who have creepy fixations on young women*.
Still, I think the reinterpretation makes Ash worth checking out. Also, the hardcover (this ISBN) is a gorgeously put together book.