Fully realised and emotionally inescapable, The Book of Negroes brings humanity to the atrocities of history. It is, in turns, infuriating, heart-warmFully realised and emotionally inescapable, The Book of Negroes brings humanity to the atrocities of history. It is, in turns, infuriating, heart-warming, eye-opening, and inspiring. Hill's protagonist, the unforgettable Amidata Diallo, brings a precocious wisdom to the horrors she endures and vividly paints the case against slavery from the colours of her life.
Meticulously researched, the intersections with history, especially history that defies the present Canadian narrative (that the True North was a bastion of freedom and safety for escaping slaves), brings gravity and momentum to Amidata's journey, elevating it from an individual struggle to a symbolic one. Whether rubbing elbows with historic abolitionists, fellow 'adventurers' in Sierra Leone, or those simply caught up in the winds of change, Amidata stands for the nameless thousands whose causes were championed by these larger-than-life figures. Samuel Fraunces, Thomas Peters, and John Clarkson are rendered as idiosyncratic humans whose historical legacies make their short-comings all the more lovable.
Other characters, suffer for this symbolic weight. Solomon Lindo, although suitably nuanced in himself, is a challenging symbol to a Jewish reader especially insofar as his story concludes with an if-it-walks-like-a-duck-and-quacks-like-a-duck... message. I don't have enough historical knowledge to challenge Lindo as a symbol of Judaism in the American Colonies and am disappointed beyond words that such a refutation may not be possible. To be clear, Hill's depiction is no anti-Semitic charictature and goes far beyond Shylock-ish tropes. Lindo is unique among the slave-owners in Amidata's journey in that he obviously feels temptation that he does not act upon. His transgressions against Amidata are subtle when compared to her more stereotypical previous owner, but are no less heinous when brought to light. There is the ring of truth in his stumbling, imperfect act of contrition and in the lack of closure between him and Amidata.
The world of Amidata is rich and clearly drawn. The rhythm of life in Africa, the colonies, Sierra Leone, and London are all recreated in detail. Hill's narration and voice are musical and plot drives briskly. There is some repetition in the sequence of events and come suspension of disbelief around the number of secondary characters who take terrible risks to aid Amidata but, overall, the integrity of the narrative is strong and the characters are so colourful that much more coincidence could be forgiven.
Any novel that sheds such penetrating light on history intentionally obscured deserves a place on honour in literature's cannon. A novel that does so with such humanity, clarity, and complexity - without resorting to caricature or popular tropes- is an especially rare achievement. The Book of Negroes is the definition of a must-read; informative and provoking of thought and feeling....more
Putting Elliot's significance as a modernist to one side, I found aspects of his referential style difficult. I've read Conrad and a few other authorsPutting Elliot's significance as a modernist to one side, I found aspects of his referential style difficult. I've read Conrad and a few other authors of this period but, evidently, not enough to plug into the constant stream of pre-pop-culture cameos. TS' s talent shines through this difficulty and the phrases are well turned, even if you can't understand their exact meanings. The experience was not entirely unlike reading Shakespeare which is no bad thing - it can't be coincidence that the strongest work in this collection is dramatic in nature.
Rather than leaving me excited for more poetry, this collection made me curious in Elliot as a playwright....more
Surprisingly strong and resonant, despite a slow start in Act I. The Stage Manager character plays a sophisticated game with the audience and the subtSurprisingly strong and resonant, despite a slow start in Act I. The Stage Manager character plays a sophisticated game with the audience and the subtext between characters is palpable.
As the Stage Manager says in Act I, this story is a time-capsule - a monument to the way life was at the start of the 20th century. It succeeds in that regard and further - as a foreshadow of the absurdist and epic theatre styles to come (OK, Brecht was contemporary to Wilder but his work wouldn't reach the North American mainstream until later).
I don't know if I agree with the author of the forward who asserts that this is the great American play (as a Canadian, I'm not sure if I'm fit to judge). It isn't pure romanticism of the rural/small town experience - there are shadows of racism and segregation, moments of startling inequality between sexes and the bleak final act undercuts much of the sweetness that precedes it. Mamet's Glengary Glenross is a more likely candidate (although it gives women shorter shrift)...perhaps Larson's Rent if you're musically inclined; However, Our Town's sense of theatricality, archetypal characters, and timeless conflicts certainly earn it an enduring place in the American canon. ...more
AYLI seems to be a mishmash of Shakespeare's most well-known tropes whose hasty resolution left me rolling my eyes. It is well knownBorders on Parody
AYLI seems to be a mishmash of Shakespeare's most well-known tropes whose hasty resolution left me rolling my eyes. It is well known that the Bard, like successful playwrights of any age, pilfered material from other plays, history stories, and then-current events; it is another matter entirely when he seems to be stealing from himself.
A young nobleman, Orlando, is denied his inheritance by his grasping brother, Oliver. To prove his worth, Orlando accidentally embarasses the Duke and, simultaneously, wins the heart of Rosalind, niece to the Duke and daughter of (stay with me, here...) the previous Duke who was unjustly deposed and lives in exile. Fearing for his life at home, Orlando quits the city for the rustic forest. Rosalind follows him and assumes a male disguise to instruct Orlando in the proper wooing of a lady. They fall in with the Duke in exile and, amid the romantic entanglements of various hangers-on, come to find better happiness in the barren wilderness than in kingly courts.
Without the benefit of research, it seems that the entirety of AYLI is cribbed from other Shakespeare plays. The cross-dressing heroine is given better scope in Twelf Night; the exiled Duke prefigures The Tempest, as does the appearance of a god or spirit to sanctify the wedding in Act V. These elements, and others, suffer for their proximity to each other.
There are high points to this text, however. The clown, Touchstone is a breath of air and his plot is the most effective in carrying the rural over urban theme. As always, Shakespeare is a master of wordplay and, even when the plot falls short, the wit and pacing of the text is good fun.
Like Twelf Night, AYLI has the character of a raucous party where plot takes a backseat to frolic. The difference lies in the last minute reversals of fortune that occur largely off-stage (the fate of the younger Duke, as in Much Ado About Nothing, is resolved by a new character giving a speech and has no causal link to the action of the play) and are independent of the characters' actions. AYLI seems like a roast of Shakespeare rather than a proper play as it trots out, one after the other, characters and plots done previously and better....more
This text captures the pace and festive mood of this quick and lively comedy. The excellent introduction essay paints a vivid and compelling picture oThis text captures the pace and festive mood of this quick and lively comedy. The excellent introduction essay paints a vivid and compelling picture of how the play might have been first performed, insights into Shakespeare's possible sources, and insightful, performance-minded character analysis. This volume is of equal value to the scholar and the performer which is a rare achievement. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed reading Shakespeare so much....more
A great story told without sentiment, recrimination, or cliche. Walls' story is authentic, honest, and so present and real that I found myself shoutinA great story told without sentiment, recrimination, or cliche. Walls' story is authentic, honest, and so present and real that I found myself shouting at the characters....more
Gorgeous imagery superimposed on one of the ugliest chapters in Canadian history. As a story, Obasan is a bit meandering and lacks a firm conclusion (Gorgeous imagery superimposed on one of the ugliest chapters in Canadian history. As a story, Obasan is a bit meandering and lacks a firm conclusion (which can be read as part of its point) but as a telling of history it is a resounding success. This novel tells what happened and how it felt by utilizing Kogawa's talent as a poet. The effect reminded me of Dionne Brand's novel 'At the Full and Change of the Moon', also a story of a diaspora....more
The cult-leader thing comes out of nowhere and, although an interesting theory, doesn't seem connected to the story that Penelope has been telling usThe cult-leader thing comes out of nowhere and, although an interesting theory, doesn't seem connected to the story that Penelope has been telling us for the previous 200-ish pages. I understand that she's meant to be something of an unreliable narrator but I don't think the book provides her with the motivation for fabricating such an elaborate cover story that a) agrees with the patriarchial 'revision' which is meant to repress her and b) is less interesting than story she tells. Having the maids deliver this theory in the dry language of a court hearing was not helpful to me either (a glaring break from the other 'choral' chapters which are generally fantastic. I couldn't help but picture a stage version throughout).
Otherwise, perfectly fine. Provides a great example of effictive Feminist writing/criticism and an excelent dose of courtly intrigue with some fantasy elements (Penelope's state as narrator reminded me very much of Neil Gaiman's work. ...more
Much better than I remember from high school. Willy's predicament is increasingly relatable as economic conditions worsen. The slang shows its age quiMuch better than I remember from high school. Willy's predicament is increasingly relatable as economic conditions worsen. The slang shows its age quite badly, especially in Happy and Biff....more
Not only a showcase for one of sci-fi's most celebrated authors, but a celebration of what gives the genre its power in the first place. PKD's storiesNot only a showcase for one of sci-fi's most celebrated authors, but a celebration of what gives the genre its power in the first place. PKD's stories are as relevant and powerful today as when they first saw print a half century ago.
I especially appreciated the 'story notes' section at the end of the book which gives background on each story's inspiration, reception, and publication history. Some of these anecdotes are as interesting as the stories themselves.
Check out 'The Gun', 'The Variable Man', and 'The Souvenir' especially....more
A great representative of the absurd genre. It's not to my taste but certainly provides a challenge to actors. It's great as an acting exercise if notA great representative of the absurd genre. It's not to my taste but certainly provides a challenge to actors. It's great as an acting exercise if nothing else....more
A chilling account of the horrors of the Holocaust. Personal without sentiment or judgment. Certainly one of the most important treatments of this subA chilling account of the horrors of the Holocaust. Personal without sentiment or judgment. Certainly one of the most important treatments of this subject for readers of any level....more