It wouldn’t do justice to Lucky to call it a “rape memoir.” Though the events of the book cycle around Sebold’s rape she experienced as a college fresIt wouldn’t do justice to Lucky to call it a “rape memoir.” Though the events of the book cycle around Sebold’s rape she experienced as a college freshman, in a broader context her story deals with social attitudes and crime/justice. It takes a gifted writer to make brutal events into captivating memoirs; in stories that deal with a single trauma, first-person accounts tend to be so caught up feelings of aggression or grief that the emotions take precedence over the writing itself. Since Sebold wrote Lucky 20 years after the main incidents of the book, however, she was removed enough from the situation to be straightforward.
With detail-oriented prose that doesn’t sugar-coat or euphemize, Sebold recalls facets of her life outside the rape, along with the facets that can’t help but be influenced by the rape. She doesn’t detail her emotions as much as she reveals how others respond to her. To me, the most compelling part of her story was the court case: how race came into play and how the defense played their game.
I originally bought Lucky as part of a psychology class I was taking on the subject of human resilience, and though I didn’t finish the class, I picked up the book again months later. So while I was reading it I was questioning the process of resilience, I was drawn to something Sebold says in the beginning when she’s recalling the actual rape: she says that the women who claim they would rather die defeating rape than to be raped are fools; that you do what you have to do to get by. Though I think most of us would agree with her, what does that say about the resilience of those who don’t? Whoa.
Rena's Promise is a story of the human constitution pushed to its capacity. The story captures the normalcy of Rena's life before the German invasionRena's Promise is a story of the human constitution pushed to its capacity. The story captures the normalcy of Rena's life before the German invasion of Poland in 1939, and then follows her life in first-person through the concentration camp she endured until freedom arrived in 1943. Within the camp, Rena Kornreich illustrates how many lived hanging by a thread; that if you simply willed yourself to die, you would. But Rena retained a fervor for life, largely in part by her sister, Danka, who arrived at the camp shortly after her. She was determined to protect her sister and held onto the vision of presenting Danka to their parents once it was all over.
The account also illustrates human cruelty in its extreme. A constant fear looms overhead of the victims; not just a fear of death, but a fear that they will be subject to merciless tourment or experimentation. One of the wonders of this book is how Rena recalls such specific details, recapping her interactions, her sights, and her survival strategies. We learn how she managed to remain sane with her head buried in mud while a skull beside her is crushed, to her everyday tasks such as creasing her pants as a way to cling to a sense of tidiness. After reading this, I never again want to complain about my daily discomforts--they seem ridiculously petty when compared to a perspective like this. ...more
Before Night Falls is provocative, engaging, and eloquently written. The beginning is a harsh introducion with Arenas near his death bed, then startsBefore Night Falls is provocative, engaging, and eloquently written. The beginning is a harsh introducion with Arenas near his death bed, then starts from his earliest childhood memories in Cuba and moves forward forty years to his life in New York. Style-wise, I love the way this book is composed in fragments. Some of them resemble traditional chapters, but other take on a single subject, such as "the earth" or "witches," and briefly examine his relationship to that subject. Different lights are shed on his identity throughout the book: his sexuality, his politics, and his art. Of the these three factors, politics seemed to be more of a backdrop; an ever-looming presence that was out to combat his free spirit. Arenas's life was one that lacked routine, which is likely one reason this is a captivating autobiography. Aside from his work at the National Library, there wasn't a daily agenda of hopping from one institution to the next, as seen in American life. He followed the heat; he chased his passions.
Those two main passions were his writing and his sexuality. The book takes us into the reality of Castro's revolution, where Arenas must smuggle his books out of Cuba in order to publish them--since his writing, even fiction, is considered counterrevolutionary, his works are often destroyed. One novel, Farewell to the Sea, he had to rewrite twice. His attitute towards sex is very matter-of-fact; broader than his homoesexuality, he was more of an all-encompassing sexual being. That's why this book is only intended for mature and open-minded readers, as the sexual encounters are often raw and completely honest. Don't make the mistake, though, of assuming he's a sexual animal--he refused to make love with any prisoner, saying that it would have been an act of degradation rather than one of beauty.
Director Julian Schnabel did not take shock value to the film, which is why I recommend reading the book and then watching Before Night Falls. Since the film leaves out a lot (understandably so, all adaptions have to) you'll have a much better understanding of what's going on in Arenas's head if you decide to watch it. ...more