From the afterword:"We humans are incredulous when we hear how much responsibility we bear for our own fate and that of others. Is itA profound work.
From the afterword:"We humans are incredulous when we hear how much responsibility we bear for our own fate and that of others. Is it God we don't believe in, or ourselves as images of God? If we believed in the latter, our ways would have to change." - Matthew Fox...more
I know that this is a darling of many; and, I'll admit, there were moments where I flew through Wolff's occasionally exceptional prose-work. What bothI know that this is a darling of many; and, I'll admit, there were moments where I flew through Wolff's occasionally exceptional prose-work. What bothered me so much were his hugely obvious sins of omission. Though I won't go into specific details here, I found the story to be highly convenient. So much comes out washed--even two-dimensional at times.
I've heard this billed as a redemption story, a "coming-of-age" tale. That could not possibly be farther than the truth. Wolff builds himself into a "bad kid with a heart of gold" who, in the book at least, never grows up. And I never saw things reach beyond the BKWAHOG trope. He plays with guns, he steals, he lies, he drinks, he fights. Okay. Sure. So...what? There are few attempts to provide perspective or context. And though that may be Wolff's purpose, stylistically--to write a tale of THIS IS HOW IT WAS--I never believed that this is how it actually was. There are too many skips for a chronological ordering, there are too many situations left unexamined. Is this a reflective exercise by the author? Doesn't seem to be very cathartic.
My biggest beef, though, is that it is, essentially, an anti-empathy novel. What do I gain from being in his shoes for 288 pages? I don't need social commentary or strong conclusions about the nature of men, his life or the struggles of a single-parent household. But I do need to feel like the author gives a crap about other people. He makes claims throughout the novel--in brief asides as an adult--of how foolish, silly or unnecessary many of his actions were. Yet, he writes in the style of a tough guy. So his style is engrained in the necessity--the verisimilitude--of his actions. Then he writes a whopper like this:
"The sheriff came to the house one night and told the Bolgers that Chuck was about to be charged with statutory rape. Huff and Psycho were also named in the complaint. The girl was in my class at Concrete High--one of a pack of hysterically miserable girls who ran around in tight clothes, plastered their faces with makeup, chainsmoked and talked in class and did their best to catch the attention of boys who would be sure to use them badly. Somebody knocked her up. She'd kept the pregnancy secret for as long as she could, and she was so fat to begin with that this deception came within two months of bringing her to term. Her name was Tina Flood, but everyone just called her The Flood. She was fifteen years old."
He's not writing as a tough guy. He's writing as a jerk. You might argue that such is the point. Well, I don't need beloved "coming-of-age" novels where jerks remain jerks....more
Getting glimpses of anything is better than seeing nothing at all. Each glimpse of each life herein--as deliciously exposed in mere moments of sweet pGetting glimpses of anything is better than seeing nothing at all. Each glimpse of each life herein--as deliciously exposed in mere moments of sweet prose--provides a clear understanding of my own (our own) processes of thought. What I would experience in a moment is here described, detailed, for pages. And, unlike loftier examples of stream-of-consciousness, Woolf provides a deep connection to the soulfulness of her characters and situations.
I've read others describe them as two-dimensional. But how can something be two-dimensions if a deep and abiding set of thoughts is revealed? I don't understand why I need more time with a character/person/people to see whole, fully rendered human beings.
Stream-of-consciousness is a gift to us: if we always read, hear or assume a complex set of thinking-through (a formidable consciousness) lurking behind every face, we might more readily humanize. The style is a form that teaches empathy. For if we get in the habit of plotting the thoughts of others (both the banal and the extraordinary), we might reach toward understanding.