I was surprised to find out that Kostova isn't an academic, because this book is a love letter to libraries and archival research if I've ever seen onI was surprised to find out that Kostova isn't an academic, because this book is a love letter to libraries and archival research if I've ever seen one. Bram Stoker's Dracula is one of my favorite books of all time, so I was understandably cautious in picking up a book that attempts to historicize Dracula AND write in its vein as an epistolary novel. That said, Kostova pays Stoker a massive compliment with her rewritten tale. I thoroughly enjoyed traveling with the protagonist as she begins a long search for the truth behind her father's disappearance and the fragmented documentation of Vlad Tepes/Drakula. Kostova has a true gift at rendering places and people vibrant on the page, capturing the strange scents and and sounds of old Europe in a way I haven't seen in other novels. Fantastic read--you won't be able to put it down. ...more
**spoiler alert** I read this series once in order to keep up with pop culture and stay aware of what my students were reading. I recently reread it w**spoiler alert** I read this series once in order to keep up with pop culture and stay aware of what my students were reading. I recently reread it when my 11-year old stepdaughter expressed interest in the books.
My review is somewhat ambivalent. On the one hand, I was reasonably engrossed with the series despite its obvious simplicity and Stephanie Meyer's apparent ignorance regarding the difference between who and whom. The books include vampires, werewolves, baseball, La Push (one of my favorite places on the planet), and enough erotic tension to get anyone in the mood. What's not to like?
On the other hand, the story itself could easily be read as a metaphor for conservative Mormon theology. Not only that, the idea of teenage girls accepting Bella and Edward as an acceptable relationship model is horrific. No, they do not practice unsafe sex. Instead, each person in this couple is so inflexibly "in love" with the other that they literally cannot exist without the other. Threats of self-immolation, self-hurt, and suicide abound in each other's absence. Edward is an overprotective, controlling, even physically harmful (because of his supernatural strength) partner at times (always remorseful, but never quite able to stop himself); Bella just keeps coming back for more (grimace). When they are apart, Bella LITERALLY falls down and can't get up. Meyers leaves blank pages for entire seasons in New Moon--periods of Edward's absence when Bella's depression is so rampant that her thoughts and actions are not worth recording. Bella is only able to be a person again with the help of another semi-paramour, Jacob. That's right, she needs the help of a good man to get her sad face off the ground.
Without blowing the ending for future readings, it's safe to say that all will be right in the world by the end of the series. Marriages will occur, babies will be born, and the happy domestic dream of a Mormon-inspired life will ensue--one in which the female is never able to achieve happiness or true self-realization on her own, but requires the assistance of a man in her life in order to fulfill it completely.
Sure, the series tantalizes the Daddy issues of millions of women, but here is the question with which I was faced: would you feel comfortable with your impressionable tween/teen daughter reading this particular paradigm of love and self-growth?
You can probably guess my answer. Two stars, Ms. Meyer. You get the second for holding my interest, but you should be mildly ashamed. ...more
Somewhat lacking in the gorgeous detail that can make good historical fiction come alive, Stevenson doesn't slack on historical grounding, and does aSomewhat lacking in the gorgeous detail that can make good historical fiction come alive, Stevenson doesn't slack on historical grounding, and does a relatively decent job of rendering a completely fictional story believable when one of the primary characters is a real and significant person (Elizabeth of Bohemia). Although it would be ludicrous to think that such an affair would go completely unnoticed by her house, or that she would even consent to such a relationship that she has with Pelagius. ...more
It's an okay book. The narrative moves quickly but has a rather ominous feel. Una, the protagonist, is described as a sort of renegade--her anachronisIt's an okay book. The narrative moves quickly but has a rather ominous feel. Una, the protagonist, is described as a sort of renegade--her anachronistic, self-professed independent streak is chalked up to an upbringing by Unitarians/Atheists in Nantucket. She's a serious character, makes few jokes, and expects the reader to take everything as seriously as she does. This also applies to the majority of her interactions with other characters, which means that the majority of the characters in the story also have the social sensibilities of a 21st century person despite living circa 1842. To that extent, the jarring dislocation between these two periods renders many of the characters unbelievable and somewhat trite even if they are more likable to a 21st century audience. I'm sure we'd prefer not to think of Una as a demure female unwilling to hide a runaway slave, stow herself away on a ship, and even cross-dress as a cabin boy. We like her spunky self a little better because it's more recognizable to us. But at the same time, her escapades become increasingly less plausible as the novel continues. At one point we discover that she and her two best friends stayed alive on a boat in the middle of the Pacific for three weeks by eating the other passengers. Are you telling me that a woman small enough to pass as a thirteen year old boy is going to stick out starvation and cannibalism better than a bunch of swarthy sailors? Again...unbelievable. ...more
I picked this book up on my way out of Boston a few years ago. I'm not a huge fan of Jonathan Safran Foer, mostly because I tend to find his prose asI picked this book up on my way out of Boston a few years ago. I'm not a huge fan of Jonathan Safran Foer, mostly because I tend to find his prose as over-meditated as an Elijah Wood character (who actually plays the character of Foer in the film version of Everything Is Illuminated)--obvious and couched in ironic hipster humor. That said, despite the moments when Foer tries way too hard to stupify the brain of an extremely precocious child as a way of compensating for his narrator's age, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is one of the few post-9/11 books I actually enjoyed. Forget The Good Life or Saturday. In a weird way, it seems like the only appropriate narrator for some of the effects of this particular historical event is a child in the first place--one which demonstrate the subtle and indistinguishable mixture of naivety and perception that most people experienced who were in New York at that time. ...more
This was a fun book to read. Co-written by Alisa Smith and her partner J.B. MacKinnon, Plenty is structured like a monthly journal based on the coupleThis was a fun book to read. Co-written by Alisa Smith and her partner J.B. MacKinnon, Plenty is structured like a monthly journal based on the couple's blogs about a year of eating food that was produced within a hundred-mile radius of Vancouver, B.C. I chose this particular permutation of the 100-mile diet craze because I was curious about the options available in the generally climate I also inhabit (the Pacific NW). Learning about all the stuff I could do with wheat products from Minnesota wasn't really going to help me much. As journalists, Smith and MacKinnon write with a free and familiar prose style that's easy to move through despite the reader's undoubtedly busy lifestyle. Although I would have appreciated more detail in terms of what they actually ate (each monthly chapter really only offers a meager sampling of the meals they probably consumed), MacKinnon in particular points to a number of external sources that would help anyone interested in eating a local yet diverse diet. ...more
I liked this book quite a bit, despite its bearing a cover photo taken by Edward S. Curtis and a jacket summary that uses silly words like "frontier",I liked this book quite a bit, despite its bearing a cover photo taken by Edward S. Curtis and a jacket summary that uses silly words like "frontier", "American West" and "epic masterpiece". Vanderhaeghe writes a pleasant portrait that moves in and out of what Frederick Jackson Turner called the "death of the frontier" in 1896, both affirming the status of the frontier and undermining the reader's assumption about what constituted the frontier as a space in the first place. That ambiguity alone is worth the read.
The writing becomes steadily more engaging as the story progresses. Vanderhaeghe refuses to conform to standard historical fiction in several ways. First, not much actually happens in the story (two brothers set off with a few other folks in 1876 Montana, searching for the third bro who has gone missing), and he still manages to keep it engaging. The majority of the plot is spent wandering around the Montana prairie, and the various characters ruminate on things like stars, grass, and each othe...and yet you want to keep reading to find out what the others think. Which brings me to my second point--Vanderhaeghe's narrative structure. Curiously, Vanderhaeghe chooses a very Faulkner-esque mode of narration. Each chapter is split between several characters who tell the story for a few pages from their perspective--much like As I Lay Dying. Unlike Faulkner, however, Vanderhaeghe's character voices are often indistinguishable from one another, despite the fact that one is a woman, one is English, one is a half-blooded Blackfoot who is supposed to have bad English skills, another is Irish, and so one. You would think their dialects and individual cadences would vary substantially...sadly, this is not the case, which was a bit disappointing. We are also unclear who each person is addressing in each section. They are all written in the past tense, often with reflective tones that seem to be speaking from quite a few years later: "I knew it was going to have to be that way" sort of thing. Yet by the end of the novel, more than one character is dead. Are they excerpted journal entries? If so, why didn't Vanderhaeghe just take the plunge and write as an epistolary novel, opening himself up a whole new way of distinguishing characters via their obviously varying literacy levels?
Structural issues aside, the novel itself is quite engaging. Although the non-traditional protagonists (the Indian, the female) that Vanderhaeghe attempts to write are not always as complex as the white male characters, the entire narrative drives well--as a reader, I wanted to know what was going to happen next. As a novel that isn't quite historical fiction or literary fiction, The Last Crossing takes some chances that pay off enough to where its weaknesses can, for the most part, be forgiven.
Like many of the critics of nationalism, Powell once again takes up the nation as defined by Benedict Anderson in Imagined Communities, but, somewhatLike many of the critics of nationalism, Powell once again takes up the nation as defined by Benedict Anderson in Imagined Communities, but, somewhat by default, returns to one of the more traditional definitions of nationalism in theorizing what he calls a “ruthless democracy.” A term borrowed from Herman Melville, “ruthless democracy” allows Powell to conduct a more thorough analysis of the violence underlying the apparent aporia between discourses of multiculturalism and monoculturalism that underlie the cultural logic of U.S. nationalism—an aporia that has, at it heart, the kind of violent histories that Ernest Renan suggests narratives of nationalism seek to forget. For Powell, theorizing this aporia what allows him to re-remember some of the historical violence that is still present but unseen, to recover the traces and contributions of those who are present but have “dropped out of sight” (175).
I enjoyed Powell’s text, if only because it attempts to suture together the textual imaginations of the nation with the violent realities these imaginations both uphold and forget at the same time—specifically in terms of race. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if, in his ambitious attempt to rethink the American Renaissance through the recovery of an explicit multiculturalism, Powell isn’t himself falling prey to the pitfalls of modern multiculturalism he seeks to critique—that is, the way it “masks social inequalities with a rhetoric that celebrates social differences” (8). In pointing out his explicit attempts to revise the literary hierarchies of the American canon in terms of race—a move that is undoubtedly important, particularly when questioning the role of the recognized imaginer of Anderson’s communities (18))—, Powell seems to be pointing to himself as a writer who has managed to supersede the racial politics that constitute the conditions of his critique. The question becomes, then, how one is to offer this sort of affirmative critique of nationalism while accept the way in which one’s critique is necessarily positioned within the discourse of nationalism.
Under the pretext of breaking through nationalist identity politics, Bhabha compiles a smattering of various texts dealing with literary manifestationUnder the pretext of breaking through nationalist identity politics, Bhabha compiles a smattering of various texts dealing with literary manifestations of nationalism in the attempt to utilize post-structuralist reading strategies to “evoke [the] ambivalent margin of the nation space,” (4). Granted, it's a dated project. Granted, the term "ambivalent" feels worn out and cliche to anyone who is invested in postcolonial or nationalist studies today. Still, Nation and Narration is one of those anthologies that is so often cited, it's impossible to avoid.
Some of the essays are markedly more “ambivalent” than others. Some, like Geoffrey Bennington’s discussion of the logics of “post” in national literary culture (both as the prefix for ‘after’ as well as a logic sustained by the postal service), or Timothy Brennan’s exegesis of several “postcolonial” novels in the attempt to identify the ties between form and nation, are more interested in the politics of marginalization than others—Rachel Bowlby, for instance, insists on a rather surface-level reading of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in order to make a rather reified feminist reading of American national culture.
After reading quite a bit of Bhabha over the last few years, it’s become clear to me that he generally makes the same argument in different ways, always moving in and out of three key texts (or writers) to compile his own method: Derrida, Freud, and Marx. His contribution to the book is no difference, invoking Derrida’s notion of aporia, particularly as it reasserts itself as an entire lexicon (play, différance, etc.) in order to locate the margins of national culture. Bhabha borrows Derrida’s understanding of dissemination and iteration to development what, for me, is the most important critical contribution of the book—the revision of Anderson’s “calendrical time” to include what Bhabha calls “iterative time”—that is, the chronology of simultaneity in which utterances fight, conflict, and ultimately create spaces of uncertainty within larger cultural narratives like nationalism. The temporal logic of iteration is an incredibly useful tool, particularly when examining the proliferation of violence as an aesthetic in 19th century mass-marketed literature (both in Britain and the United States). However, my critique of “DissemiNation” echoes similar critiques I have made of Bhabhas other essays on colonial literary politics—that is, how is one to track the possibilities that “iterative time” opens up within a material sense of circulation? How do we confront the affect of iteration in a political climate that is primarily based on the accrual of material goods?