It's quite a novel: clocking in at 281 pages in the edition I read, this covers much more than what 281 pages usually covers—the history, th...moreWonderful—
It's quite a novel: clocking in at 281 pages in the edition I read, this covers much more than what 281 pages usually covers—the history, the family saga, the depth of characters, the richness of the setting are all here, delivered in a precise, beautiful prose. You come to inhabit these people on Cape Breton, breathe their culture, appreciate their customs and beliefs, and love them. You'll laugh at the jokes of Grandpa, you'll be touched by the dogs and by the strong family tie, and you'll weep, heartbroken, at the end.
Though everyone talks almost identically, in the formal, precise, yet lyrical language of the protagonist, it still worked to impart the dialogue and the texture of the story as a whole with a foreignness, maybe even a mythical quality, which is fitting for a story that explores history, folklore, and memory.
This is not a plot-driven novel. This is not for people who'd like a quick read. It's a story that works more like a poem in that it's driven by imagery, by disparate memories that are not always told linearly, but associatively. Once you get used to the pace and nature of the novel, you'll be able to relish every moment with the Clan Calum Ruadh.
I really did. Ever since I read her "How to be an Other Woman," I've been meaning to read more of her stories, and now th...moreI really wanted to like this—
I really did. Ever since I read her "How to be an Other Woman," I've been meaning to read more of her stories, and now that I got this collection with anticipation and excitement, I was a bit let down. Actually I was disappointed, bewildered. There are some gems here, to be sure, some funny moments and poignant insights, but many of the stories included in this collection didn't do it for me—they were completely and sadly forgettable.
But I kept trudging through one story after another, fighting the urge to put it down and move onto something else, but thankfully, the last three stories saved this collection for me: "Real Estate" (entertaining), "People Like That Are the Only People Here..." (sad and poignant in the only way a story can in a postmodern, irony-filled landscape of American fiction), and of course, "Terrific Mother," which is just a gorgeous read all around in terms of humor and the starkness of the experience.
But was it worth it? Was the entire collection worth it for those three gems?
I don't know, but I'm at least glad there were gems in here that I could appreciate.
Less solid a collection than Open Secrets, but still...
Really good, especially the title story, "Apples and Oranges," "Goodness and Mercy," and of cou...moreLess solid a collection than Open Secrets, but still...
Really good, especially the title story, "Apples and Oranges," "Goodness and Mercy," and of course "Differently"—which I think exists on a higher plane than the other stories in the collection. Regardless, in every story there's this moment, subtle and yet familiar because you recognize it—not epiphany but a kind of revelation, the way Chekhov's stories reveal human nature. Hemingway probably would've called it "truth," and it is—an emotional truth.
Not for everyone, though. If you're looking for characters you can *like* or stories that entertain you and nothing else, go elsewhere; but if you love subtle stories that reveal human nature, if you appreciate gorgeous prose, if you want literature, you should read Munro.
I have to admit I didn't quite *get* some of the stories (e.g. the title story) and had to reread some to understand them (and still not 100%...moreSo good.
I have to admit I didn't quite *get* some of the stories (e.g. the title story) and had to reread some to understand them (and still not 100% sure if I really understood them). But the stories here go deeper than the mere intellectual/cerebral level and challenge the reader to appreciate them at another level—metaphorical, associative, poetic even. In stories like "Carried Away," "The Albanian Virgin," "Spaceships Have Landed," and "Vandals," Munro proves herself to be a real master of the short story (or the "long" short story): she bends the "rules" of the form every which way, twisting them and breaking them and molding them as she sees fit, and the result is exhilarating; she shows what's possible with the form. As a writer, this collection was a treasure trove of possibilities.
As a reader, too, the stories were solid. Subtle. Engaging. Not the kind of stories where you say you can't put it down. No. It's a kind of book that grows on you. Many stories don't start out with a bang, they end in a perplexing fashion, and they might not provide the sort of excitement other types of fiction might provide, but still. These are not "potato chip" stories that you can wolf down and keep wolfing down, but rich confectionery that must be eaten slowly and savored, over a cup of tea so strong it's black.
It took MacLeod a total of twenty years to finish the sixteen stories contained in this wonderful collection, and it shows....moreExquisite, rich, evocative—
It took MacLeod a total of twenty years to finish the sixteen stories contained in this wonderful collection, and it shows. The prose is exquisitely wrought, with a formal but comforting lilt reminiscent of Faulkner and McCarthy in a way, and the stories—almost all of them—are extremely well-conceived and crafted. MacLeod doesn't rush, though; he doesn't just give you the quick excitement, the easy high, but feeds it to you slowly, as sumptuous meals ought to be fed, and it's well worth the effort to read, say, 15 pages of exposition or page after page of family history or the daily life of a farmer. He slowly immerses you into the world of Cape Breton Island, and it's in a way like reading Joyce's Dubliners—you get to know the inhabitants—miners, fishermen, farmers, and others—as well as the desolate and beautiful setting from inside out.
Some of my favorites include "The Golden Gift of Grey" (heart-warming), "In the Fall" (the little boy—simply majestic), "The Road to Rankin's Point" (heartbreaking), "The Closing Down of Summer" (philosophical and evocative), "Winter Dog" (again, heartbreaking), "The Tuning of Perfection" (heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time), and "Vision" (complex, richly layered).
If you like lyrical prose and being slowly immersed into a world, this is a book to read.(less)
The prose in this modern translation of the Tale is amazingly supple, elegant, and clear, with helpful in-text explanations for obscure mean...moreExcellent!
The prose in this modern translation of the Tale is amazingly supple, elegant, and clear, with helpful in-text explanations for obscure meanings and customs without sounding too unnatural and in your face. Though it's not the whole of the original (it ends with Genji's decision to become a monk and cuts all the stories that come after his generation), it presents a compelling narrative arc of one man's entire life.
AAAHHHH!: A test of how much ambiguity you can take--
At first glance, it reads like a reiteration of The Trial: K. as the name of the protagonist, ina...moreAAAHHHH!: A test of how much ambiguity you can take--
At first glance, it reads like a reiteration of The Trial: K. as the name of the protagonist, inaccessible authorities, futile, repeatedly frustrated attempts to access it, etc. But here Kafka is doing something different from what he did brilliantly in The Trial, and that is to portray a community. Instead of the extremely solipsistic and solitary life of Josef K., we get K.'s relationships with the villagers, even a strange romance (something that is prematurely aborted in The Trial, with various women).
Here more than in his previous novel, I felt like Kafka steps up a notch the ceaseless ambiguity he loves so much. Everything is thrown into confusion, every statement, characterization, fact is established only to be cancelled, annulled, equivocated by the opposite possibility. The woman you thought you knew is cast in a very calculating, chilling, heartless person; the official K. saw with his own eyes is now disputed to be the one and the same official everyone else is talking about; a family is despised and yet they may be innocent; what a character says is interpreted in a different way and overridden by what another character says next; the castle is powerful and efficient and yet it takes them forever to process anything and at times seems powerless; everything is constantly shifting and you're not sure where you are, and THAT is the pleasure of reading Kafka. It's pretty much a test of how much ambiguity you can handle, and if you can, this is an awesome book.
And that Chapter 23 (out of 25)...!! THAT chapter is simply MONSTROUS. EGREGIOUS. Or whatever you want to call it. I literally SCREAMED at the end of it, whether in pleasure, pain, or otherwise is for you to find out. But that chapter alone is worth trudging through all 270 pages.
I wasn't impressed. It's too Dickensian, too farcical, too flimsy and lack the dark and compelling stuff The Trial or Metamorphosis...moreNot Quite Kafka Yet
I wasn't impressed. It's too Dickensian, too farcical, too flimsy and lack the dark and compelling stuff The Trial or Metamorphosis are made of. Granted, all the marks of later Kafka are there: the helpless protagonist pushed around by vast systems (esp. the hotel and the Oklahoma theater, which foreshadow his later novels), the seemingly pointless and endless meanderings from one place to another, the long and swift-reading sentences strung with semicolons and comma splices, the vivid descriptions with a hint of the absurd/parodistic, etc. But it felt like Kafka, like the protagonist Karl Rossmann, was meandering his way through this world to find himself.
One thing i did take away from this is a new understanding of what kind of writer Kafka is: he is a writer of farces. Breon Mitchell, the translator of The Trial points out that The Trial begins as a farce and ends as a tragedy. Here, in The Missing Person, it's mostly farce. It's the farcical premises he begins many of his stories (the most prominent one being The Metamorphosis) and takes it to its tragic conclusion.
All in all, only the most stout Kafka fans should tackle this novel.(less)
This is my second time reading this (after seven years) and holy shit it's so good I was blown away, and I liked it so muc...moreA Perfect Unfinished Novel--
This is my second time reading this (after seven years) and holy shit it's so good I was blown away, and I liked it so much that I'm fantasizing about "finishing" the novel for Kafka himself. I don't want to read this as a surreal tale of alienation and absurdist parody of bureaucratic rigmarole as most people might, or interpret it in any way because to me that'd be doing a disservice to such a beautifully weird and complex world Kafka creates. So without imposing any interpretation and reducing the work to some analytically/intellectually gratifying (yet artistically limiting/crippling) thing, I want to accept it as it is: a dark and strange story that resonates with something deep and unconscious in us.