After you've finished rage-watching Making a Murder you should totally rage-read The Confession. And, strangely enough, I think Grisham may have captuAfter you've finished rage-watching Making a Murder you should totally rage-read The Confession. And, strangely enough, I think Grisham may have captured what injustice looks like in America even better than that ten-part documentary -- namely, showing that race is a factor in the American system.
I hesitated to pick this up because the last few Grishams I'd read (The Testament and The Street Lawyer) felt preachy to me. Perhaps, as readers, we're not supposed to assume the author's opinion based on their characters, but it definitely seemed like his own opinion was leaking through.
The Confession, however, manages to avoid that. Yes, there's a huge miscarriage of justice and MONSTROUS HORRORS of the system are revealed, mostly through descriptions of the routines of the process. (Which is kind of how Making a Murderer works.) As a reader, if you don't come down on Donte Drumm's side, I'll go ahead and say you're a cold, cold person. And if you don't at least think "Hey, maybe this whole capital punishment thing should be reconsidered," then I say you probably didn't read close enough.
At the end of the day I still kinda wanted to stick a needle in the bad guy's arm and call it good.
I think this is a testament to Grisham's storytelling in this novel. Well worth the read and the cognitive dissonance you will have. ...more
Sarah Ruhl is an amazing playwright and she's a pretty awesome kind-of essayist too.
These reflections on playwriting, motherhood, and theatre are beaSarah Ruhl is an amazing playwright and she's a pretty awesome kind-of essayist too.
These reflections on playwriting, motherhood, and theatre are beautiful and thought provoking. She asks several questions throughout -- lots of rhetorical questions which make her point.
I don't have much to say about this collection except that it's well worth the couple hours it'll take you to read it -- and if you have any kind of passion for writing or theatre, you'll probably read it a couple time....more
I picked up this book after seeing Coates interviewed on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. During that interview I was struck by something that I reallI picked up this book after seeing Coates interviewed on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. During that interview I was struck by something that I really shouldn't have been: I was witnessing two black men speak about race, without interruption or censure or commentary from anyone else. I realized this is a conversation I've never been privy to and I realized what a horrible absence that is.
I read the book, hoping to learn more about the lives of black men -- a world that is apparently as foreign to me as any distant country -- and hoping to hear more of that conversation. I've not been disappointed. I've learned quite a bit.
Mainly what I've learned is that there is so much more to learn. I won't lie, I am still trying to wrap my head around his experiences and perspective. I'm still digesting his argument, his struggle, his questions. I know now I can spend a whole lifetime trying to understand -- and that I should.
Right now my review is to say: Please read this.
And the rest of my review is to quote some of the sections that stick with me...and I've dog-eared almost the entire book.
"My reclamation would be accomplished, like Malcolm's, through books, through my own study and exploration. Perhaps I might write something of consequence someday."
"The trouble came almost immediately. I did not find a coherent tradition marching lockstep but instead factions, and factions within factions....I had come looking for a parade, for a military review of champions marching in ranks. Instead I was left with a brawl of ancestors, a herd of dissenters, sometimes marching in step but just as often marching away from each other."
"The Dream thrives on generalization, on limiting the number of possible questions, on privileging immediate answers. The Dream is the enemy of all art, courageous thinking, and honest writing."
"I was learning the craft of poetry, which really was an intensive version of what my mother had taught me all those years ago -- the craft of writing as the art of thinking. Poetry aims for an economy of truth -- loose and useless words must be discarded and I found that these loose and useless words were not separate from loose and useless thoughts."
"These are the preferences of the universe itself: verbs over nouns, actions over states, struggle over hope."
"Now at night I held you and a great fear, wide as all our American generations, took me. Now I personally understood my father and the old mantra -- "Either I can beat him or the police." I understood it all -- the cable wires, the extension cords, the ritual switch. Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have and you come to us endangered."
"The struggle is really all I have for you because it is the only portion of this world under your control."
"...the changes have taught me how to best exploit that singular gift of study, to question what I see, then to question what I see after that, because the questions matter as much, perhaps more than, the answers."
"I thought back on the sit-ins, the protestors with their stoic faces, the ones I'd once scorned for hurling their bodies at the worst things in life. Perhaps they had known something terrible about the world. Perhaps they so willingly parted with the security and sanctity of the black body because neither security nor sanctity existed in the first place."...more
I won't lie, I was a little disappointed with my reading for 2015...mostly because this is the first year I didn't complete my Reading Challenge. OtheI won't lie, I was a little disappointed with my reading for 2015...mostly because this is the first year I didn't complete my Reading Challenge. Otherwise, the reading itself was great. Read some good literature, some plays, a nice mix of things. Gonna aim a little lower for 2016, and hopefully I'll exceed expectations. ...more
Until 3/4s of the way through this novel, I was into it. There was an intriguing crime, some interesting suspects, and cops who behaved in a smart manUntil 3/4s of the way through this novel, I was into it. There was an intriguing crime, some interesting suspects, and cops who behaved in a smart manner.
Then came the final 1/4 -- which was, in a word, disappointing. Without giving too much away, Maeve Kerrigan, the main character, gets shunted to the side at a very key moment. Seriously, she's been smart and active up until this VERY IMPORTANT MOMENT and then BOOOOOM! She's taken out of commission and her handsome, male co-worker gets the glory (and a strange I-need-to-get-certain-information-across POV chapter). Essentially, she's reduced to a damsel in distress, at the point when she's supposed to be the hero.
It's rather disappointing, considering the lead-up.
Then it happens again.
At another key moment -- when they find the big bad guy (thanks to Kerrigan's top-notch detective work, which makes you think that maybe she'd have some kind of influence on the catching of said baddy) she's relegated to the background AGAIN. The bad guy basically monologues like nothing else (after being confronted by another handsome male character and some evidence) and the whole thing ends rather disappointingly.
There's a lot of good stuff here, but it all gets dropped in the last little bit, which is very frustrating when you've come to understand that this is the opening book of a series featuring Maeve Kerrigan -- who is well worth getting behind. It's really kind of a shame that the storyline drops her so heavily. ...more
After the recent attacks in France, I think Vowell's book is a timely reminder that nations have worked together for centuries -- and sometimes to theAfter the recent attacks in France, I think Vowell's book is a timely reminder that nations have worked together for centuries -- and sometimes to the detriment of the assisting country. She breaks down the alliances extremely well in this book.
I do rather wish it was a little longer, so we could see more of Lafayette's older years in an Austrian prison, his time during the Terror, and how he gets back for his final visit to the US. We see him from 19 to his mid-twenties and, let's face it, there's a whole lotta life after that. But I guess it is called Lafayette in the Somewhat United States. Not Lafayette in the Somewhat United States and for Years Afterward in France.
Vowell is as funny and as biting as she is in her previous non-fiction works. And no matter how I try, after hearing her read her own work earlier, I hear her voice in my head with every new book. ...more
I really, really, really like the premise of the play. I LOVE the idea of trying to hold on to a piece of culture in a post-apocalyptic setting. (ThisI really, really, really like the premise of the play. I LOVE the idea of trying to hold on to a piece of culture in a post-apocalyptic setting. (This play is very Station Eleven in a lot of ways.)
But I don't know how I feel about the delivery in this case, so that's really tough. I bought heavily into the first part -- totally loved the 'exchange of names' that happens when people are looking for their lost loved ones -- but didn't quite make the leap (the wild leaps) of parts two and three. Especially the music. Perhaps I'm just not visionary enough in this case. ...more
Let me start by saying this is a book that should be read, not because it's great literature, but because it shows the evolution of a writer who wroteLet me start by saying this is a book that should be read, not because it's great literature, but because it shows the evolution of a writer who wrote a great piece of literature.
While I'm aware that there is a section of critics who will say it's best to judge this book on its own merit, and forget the story behind its publication or the fact that it's related to To Kill A Mockingbird, I say you cannot separate either Watchman's history or its Pulitzer Prize winning sibling if you want to see the real importance of this novel.
First, based on numerous accounts of how this novel was discovered (and the text itself) it's clear that Go Set A Watchman was written prior to Mockingbird. So you can't, as a reader, view it as a *sequel* in the traditional sense. Lee didn't sit down, write Mockingbird and then, knowing all she knew about these now-iconic characters, write Watchman. You have to reverse it.
She wrote Watchman and that was Lee's introduction to the characters who would become the Atticus and Scout and others we know. The characters are not as nuanced as in Mockingbird. The old white men of the South are the old white men of the South -- and that includes Atticus. Aunt Alexandra is a bastion of Southern ladyship. And African Americans are shown as one cluster of simple creatures or grasping NAACPers. The rebellious things Jean Louise (who is not referred to as Scout by anyone other than Atticus, and then only around three or four times) does in this book are all centered on sexuality in one way or another. These are the characters Lee got to know.
And she got to know them, essentially, without four other important Mockingbird characters: Jem, Dill, Boo Radley, and Tom.
If you pick up Mockingbird and read it next to Watchman (which I did for a little while) the initial difference you'll notice is POV. Watchman is written in a third person POV that kind of barrels through the narration. There's a distinct lack of subtlety. It tells. It doesn't show. We hear about Tom's trial, central to Mockingbird, but it's as if Jean Louise didn't actually live through it. We never hear Tom's name...because Harper Lee didn't know it yet.
Mockingbird is in first person. It allows Lee to explore tough situations without turning to the preachy, racist jargon/arguments that fill Watchman. By staying tight to Scout's voice in Mockingbird, Lee successfully makes the arguments in a way that she tries and fails to make in Watchman.
But, without Watchman, I think Lee would have struggled to create the moments that define Mockingbird -- particularly the trial...
...which went through some obvious edits because there's some inconsistencies between the texts. (Hello, editors...did no one read Mockingbird for consistency before releasing this book?)
For example, in Watchman there's a section where Jean Louise is remembering the trial and Atticus' role in it:
Atticus had two weighty advantages: although the white girl was fourteen years of age the defendant was not indicted for statutory rape, therefore Atticus could and did prove consent. Consent was easier to prove than under normal conditions -- the defendant had only one arm. The other was chopped off in a sawmill accident.
But Mayella Ewell, the white trash girl who was "raped" in Mockingbird is nineteen. And Tom's arm was maimed in a cotton gin. These are details that changed between drafts of books. It's not surprising that characters changed too.
That's one reason why Watchman is such an important book: it shows the evolution of a writer's style and English majors should be peeing their pants over this book.
The other, more obvious reason we should talk about this book is because the thought patterns that allow racism to exist are perfectly spelled out in this book. The institutional elements of racism we're dealing with today were built during the time period portrayed in Watchman.
Example A: Voting/gerrymandering/ID laws: "Think this over: Abbott County, across the river, is in bad trouble. The population is almost three-fourths Negro. The voting population is almost half-and-half now, because of that bit Normal School over there. If the scales were tipped over, what would you have? The county won't keep a full board of registrars, because if the Negro vote edged out the white you'd have Negros in every county office --" ~Atticus Finch
(I think it's also very telling that instead of "So what?" Jean Louise says "What makes you so sure?" to that.)
Example B: Privilege: "I'd like very much to be left alone to manage my own affairs in a live-and-let-live economy, I'd like for my state to be left alone to keep house without advice from the NAACP, which knows next to nothing about its business and cares less." ~Atticus Finch
He's okay in his little live-and-let-live economy because, uh-oh, trigger word, his economy is *privileged.* He's worked for everything he has...but so has Calpurnia, the woman who raised his children. And she's struggling in poverty.
There's more, tons more, that Lee touches on in this book that we are still talking about right now. And for that, for the pieces that it brings to the general conversation about race, and for the revelations about the time period in which the novel was written, I think it's worth the read.
And (especially if you're a writer) if you want to see what rewriting a piece can mean -- read both.