No one writes black humor like Waugh. Here he targets the funeral industry as exemplified by Los Angeles. His attacks are understated, oblique and briNo one writes black humor like Waugh. Here he targets the funeral industry as exemplified by Los Angeles. His attacks are understated, oblique and brilliant. Expect no mercy....more
In Poe's short story an unnamed narrator befriends a man named William Legrand on a small island off the South Carolina coast. Legrand's family, HugueIn Poe's short story an unnamed narrator befriends a man named William Legrand on a small island off the South Carolina coast. Legrand's family, Huguenots (French Protestants), had lived the good life in New Orleans until a string of misfortunes drained their wealth. Devastated by his loss of position, Legrand left New Orleans to live as a semi-hermit on Sullivan's Island. The narrator's relationship with Legrand and his companion Jupiter, a freed slave who has chosen to stick with his former master, is casual until Legrand, a naturalist of sorts, discovers a scarabaeus, a large beetle. Legrand is fascinated by the beetle and summons the narrator to fill him on the details of his discovery. It soon becomes apparent to the narrator (and the reader) that Legrand's obsession with this beetle has driven him to insanity. Legrand's speech and actions are totally out of balance with reality. To a degree the narrator plays along with Legrand's sickness. The skeptic is the loyal and baffled Jupiter. Legrand associates the heavy bug with gold, and this hints that the man's illness is associated with his family's loss of fortune. Legrand eventually talks the narrator into accompanying him on a strange quest. So now that Poe has convinced the reader that Legrand is insane, he will take us on a journey that deconstructs the man's insanity. We will get into secret codes and skulls and pirates, fantastic stuff that slowly but surely eats away at the reader's belief that Legrand is off his rocker. It's a clever story. Great use of a reliable narrator. ...more
I read this play/book a few years back and thought it was the strangest thing I'd ever read. It never went in the direction I thought it was going toI read this play/book a few years back and thought it was the strangest thing I'd ever read. It never went in the direction I thought it was going to go. The main character seemed absolutely free and absolutely trapped. The story was simultaneously boring, confusing and exhilarating. I intend to read it again. Five stars for violating all the rules....more
Vance Seaforth is oversexed. No, it’s not that his sex drive is redlining, but that sex is overwhelming him. At the heart of his problem is the discovVance Seaforth is oversexed. No, it’s not that his sex drive is redlining, but that sex is overwhelming him. At the heart of his problem is the discovery that his sixteen-year-old daughter, Chloe, apparently had sex with Stu, her boyfriend and bandmate—under Vance's roof. His once idyllic relationship with his daughter had lately become exceedingly difficult for Vance, but this was unexpected and feels like a betrayal.
Coming to terms with his daughter’s sexual experience, her independence and evolving intellect--losing her as a child--is the main thread of the novel, and a worthy core, but it intertwines with numerous other sexual and gender complications including Vance’s own sexual experiences and relationships, past and present:
His neighbor Campbell, who cast off her husband for a woman, may have a thing for Vance; Sadie, Vance’s new musician girlfriend can't get no satisfaction; a younger girl, a local waitress, is on Vance's mind; memories of Vance’s parent’s sex life haunt him, provocative pop music performers and lyrics (See Liz Phair), once so crucial to his outlook, now undermine his attempted guidance of Chloe; the onslaught continues as Vance deals with sexually precocious teenagers and teenagers who want to be sexually precocious; and then his ex-wife Deb shows up at his door
The situations range from tender to raw and raucous—heartfelt conversations to decidedly graphic sex. The author also doesn’t steer away from some prickly father-daughter questions.
Raising Aphrodite is funny, many times touching, and frequently raises and explores important sexual issues. The writing is fast-paced, the subplots serviceable and the characters involving. I also learned plenty about art and Aphrodite, who as statue and symbol plays an important role .
Although I like references to pop music in fiction, I think the story sometimes gets sidetracked in order to get in another shout-out. I also think that Curnutt sometimes sacrifices a deeper Vance and a deeper story for the sake of comedic punch lines.
My favorite scene in the novel is when Vance takes his daughter to a rock concert. He gets that scene just right. I’ve been there....more
I read this awhile back, but reading several reviews reminded me of how close-knit and absorbing the novel was. It establishes a tone that perfectly rI read this awhile back, but reading several reviews reminded me of how close-knit and absorbing the novel was. It establishes a tone that perfectly reflects the time and its tensions. ...more
Set in the pre-Beatles sixties, On Chesil Beach explores the minds and hearts of a young couple on their wedding night. Both are virgins and innocentsSet in the pre-Beatles sixties, On Chesil Beach explores the minds and hearts of a young couple on their wedding night. Both are virgins and innocents in a time when sex for some (many?)had the weight of death. It would soon become just another dance, but on this night for this couple, sex is an undetonated bomb and Florence and Edward a couple of hapless sappers on their first assignment. McEwan meticulously, tenderly and evocatively unfolds each life, the rituals that brought the two together, and the terror and horror of a white wedding night. ...more
Uncanny, Holmes! is the word's most familiar context, and there Watson means beyond natural explanation. In The Uncanny Freud digs deeper into the worUncanny, Holmes! is the word's most familiar context, and there Watson means beyond natural explanation. In The Uncanny Freud digs deeper into the word. Explaining uncanny by its synonyms: supernatural, preternatural, weird, mysterious, isn't adequate. The word has its origins in the German word for hidden or concealed, heimlich, but a secondary meaning of heimlich is “familiar," and so the word contains its near opposite. Unheimlich (uncanny) then gives us something like the familiar/concealed unconcealed. This leads Freud to repressed sexual impulses (the familiar and concealed) that unconceal themselves symbolically through dreams and neurotic behavior. But then Freud makes a leap: “...the unconscious mechanisms familiar to us in ‘dream-work’ [psychoanalyzing dreams] also operate in the process of imaginative writing. The familiar/concealed unconceals itself in fiction. Uncanny as applied to aesthetics.
What would be an example of the "uncanny" in literature? Freud Freud quotes E. Jentsh: “One of the surest devices for producing slightly uncanny effects through story-telling is to leave the reader wondering whether a particular figure is real person or an automaton." [tk]
According to Jentsh, E. T. A. Hoffmann frequently used a similar psychological maneuver in his fiction. One of Hoffmann’s stories was called “The Sand Man,” and concerns that familiar figure who puts children to sleep. In Hoffmann’s story a nursemaid cloaks the boy's innocent (common) version of the sandman with a sinister version. She tells the little boy that the Sand Man is a bad man who throws sand in children’s eye, which makes them pop out all bloody. The Sand Man scoops up the eyes and takes them to the moon to feed his children. The comforting familiar is transformed into mysterious horror, or something uncanny. Freud argues that the uncanny events in the story represent a boy child’s fear of physical castration by his father. The little boy's emotional reaction in the story is not just to the evil sandman but to his psychological dread of what his father might be planning for him. For the story to be effective, the reader too must get what the boy gets (at some level). Was this Hoffmann's intent in writing the story or was Hoffmann himself unaware of exactly what he was doing?
Freud offers several other examples of the uncanny in literature: evil eyes, doubles, dead bodies, revenants, etc. and examines how they function in the stories. Unfortunately Freud doesn’t spend as much time with writers as I would have hoped, but moves on to Leonardo da Vinci. Most of the book is Freud’s psychohistory of the artist. He attempts to explain the uncanny elements in Leonardo’s art (unfinished paintings) from Leonardo’s childhood traumatic experiences and repressed sexual drives. It’s easy to get impatient with Freud when he makes connections that are little more than guesswork. I’d argue that Freud knows he’s creating something of a fiction. “Should my exposition prompt the judgment even among friends of psychoanalysis ... that I have done no more than write a psychoanalytical novel, I would certainly not overrate the reliability of my findings. I have yielded, like others, to the fascination of this great and enigmatic figure, in whose nature one senses powerful instinctual passions, which can nevertheless express themselves only a strangely subdued fashion.”
So if you’re interested in how a vulture inspired Mona Lisa, The Uncanny provides the answer. Well, a possible answer. ...more