“Thus it came to him merely to run away was folly, because he could never run away from himself.”
Oh, George Babbitt. I suppose I shouldn't be too spoo“Thus it came to him merely to run away was folly, because he could never run away from himself.”
Oh, George Babbitt. I suppose I shouldn't be too spooked that my current age is exactly the same as our bumbling protagonist in this eponymously-titled novel. Yet I'm guessing that my age is exactly why I'm both repulsed by and sympathetic to our (anti)hero, and see this aspect of the book as its greatest success. I surely don't consider myself as morally rudderless and vacuously bourgeois as Babbitt, but I certainly can relate to his hand-wringing struggles between following his conscience / passions and then his duty to family, his not wanting to rock the boat lest he be cast out of his comfy Zenith eden. And the issues Babbitt wrests with around politics, education and family are still surprisingly applicable today.
But Lewis lays on the satire and Marxist leanings a bit too thick. Babbitt's hypocrisy is funny at first, then gets numbingly repetitive before long. And while the 1920s banter between characters is amusing enough, Lewis's writing is pretty prosaic, stylistically. I longed for a little less ham-fisted critique (even though the insights are wise) and a bit more poetic eloquence. ...more
The phrase "a novel of ideas" gets thrown around a lot and usually the book being described as such rarely(Reread November 2017. Originally read 1992)
The phrase "a novel of ideas" gets thrown around a lot and usually the book being described as such rarely delivers on that description. Immortality is one of those few works that actually lives up to the term.
Many point to The Unbearable Lightness of Being as Kundera's signature work and while I'm a big fan of that book, too, after rereading this one almost 25 years later, Immortality is my pick now. A provocatively intellectual, compulsively readable, ultimately moving masterpiece of literature....more
This book’s popularity and praise surely benefits from the Trumpian times we are living in now. And that it supposedly is now required reading for eveThis book’s popularity and praise surely benefits from the Trumpian times we are living in now. And that it supposedly is now required reading for everyone of the Beltway class in Washington DC is a sad commentary on how isolated so many of our so-called coastal city elites just might be. But none of this actually makes Hillbilly Elegy any good. Vance’s story may feel alien to those raised of relative wealth in urban centers, but for the rest of us it shouldn’t be so surprising. (I was also raised in the Rust Belt, but in privileged comfort compared to Vance.) It’s not his challenging of long held liberal assumptions about the poor that rub me the wrong way—I welcome them, actually—it’s his frequently defensive tone that presumes few of those reading have any understanding of his plight. And that his plight is somehow a proxy for everyone growing up poor in middle America.
Maybe my criticism would be tempered a bit if the writing was better. Maybe it’s unrealistic to even expect this book to deliver on a high aesthetic level, since the author was never out to accomplish such aims. But it’s the beauty and nuance of related books like The Unwinding and Evicted that make them stick, make one think differently. Elegy too often feels like a pedantic self-help book on understanding the hillbillies of the title. I finished the book actually admiring Vance as a person. Just not as a writer....more