I actually read this book 2 months ago (DANGIT BAR EXAM), but I’m trying to understand why Bolaño has such wide popularity among my friends… His storiI actually read this book 2 months ago (DANGIT BAR EXAM), but I’m trying to understand why Bolaño has such wide popularity among my friends… His stories generally seem inconclusive – like introductions, and then they end. Or really skeletal. Part of the distaste is admittedly because I have problems with short stories: it takes me much time to get into a new story line, and with the shorts, once I do, it’s over.
Can someone honestly explain to me why “Colonia Lindavista” is good? I don’t see any value in that story. It’s like a forgettable excerpt from a novel. Some exceptions to my distaste would be that I did love “Labyrinth,” which was a short story that described a photo of 8 people. Bolaño goes into exhaustive detail about the objects and people in the picture (“Let’s imagine J.-J. Goux, for example, who is looking out at us through his thick submarine spectacles…”), their possible relation to each other, what they’re looking at, what their poses suggest about all of the above. It’s actually a little bit fascinating to read, despite it having the distinctive feeling of a creative writing exercise.
“What was it that they didn’t like about me? Well, someone said it was my teeth. Fair enough; I can’t argue with that.” Sure, quotes like the preceding are amusing, but not sure they’re enough for me....more
This book is soul crunching. Thomas Hardy believes that doing what you like to do or loving who you want to love, is not accepted by society. Instead,This book is soul crunching. Thomas Hardy believes that doing what you like to do or loving who you want to love, is not accepted by society. Instead, society requires you to marry, which will basically squelch both of the above (i.e. happiness). The story trails the “tragical adventures” of a commoner or obscure man, Jude, and forms a picture of how it actually works if you follow the adage and ‘do what makes you happy’.
Hardy despises marriage. But he also portrays the idea that if you don’t succumb to it, you will be disregarded by society. This isn’t as true nowadays as it was in 1895, but still a similar stigma lingers. Hardy’s references to marriage were so brutal that they were kind of funny, for ex, when Arabella sees sue and Jude together, she thinks they must not be married by how loving toward one another they acted, and then when a landlord sees Arabella and Jude together, he thinks they must be married because they are quarreling and Arabella throws a show at Jude’s head. Other harsh allusions to marriage: “the famous contract – sacrament I mean – is doing fairly well still, and people marry and give in to what may or may not be true marriage as light-heartedly as ever;” “…how hopelessly vulgar an institution legal marriage is – a sort of trap to catch a man…;” “Don’t you dread the attitude that insensibly arises out of legal obligation? Don’t you think it is destructive to a passion whose essence is its gratuitousness?;” “basing a permanent contract on a temporary feeling…;” and my favorite, “Weddings be funerals…”
There was an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kNUDT...) where Will Smith is dating this girl that he is madly infatuated with until they get locked in a basement together, and he keeps incidentally pulling fake body parts off of her, like her hair extensions, fake nails, fake eye color contacts, and large penciled eyebrows, and the infatuation disappears once he knows the real her. I swear The Fresh Prince scene is modeled off of a scene from Jude the Obscure, where on the wedding night of Jude and Arabella, a “little chill overspread him at her first unrobing,” because Jude’s new wife took off her own hair extensions, admitted she had previously been a barmaid (which was shamey), and “he could perceive that she was amusing herself by artificially producing in each cheek a dimple, effecting it by a momentary suction…” I loved this, so funny, Jude as Will Smith imaging.
“If we are happy as we are, what does it matter to anyone?” –the character, Sue Bridehead. It does matter, Sue, ‘anyone’ doesn’t want people to be happy, per Hardy. Sigggggh!...more
Whhhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyy why do people always feel like they can author books because they have led interesting lives? Mary Beath wrote this book in sWhhhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyy why do people always feel like they can author books because they have led interesting lives? Mary Beath wrote this book in self-serving diary form, essays commemorating her life…although, I did read this book for self-serving purposes-I DO want to hike/be alone-so who can blame who here. But I mostly just got grumpy reading about Mary’s dreams (NO ONE likes hearing about other peoples’ dreams, Mary!), pontifications about her dad & her personality, the fact that she's a tomboy with more male friends than female friends (the 'i'm pretty but can also be just like your pal' cliche), and most definitively THIS: “I’d been genetic researcher and scantily clad calendar girl” (The italics=not even mine).
I will take back most of that sulk for the pleasure of having discovered in one of her essays the intrigue of vision quests: religious experiences that physically alter consciousness through starvation in wilderness. Vision quests may have morphed into a hippie-run rite but I am VERY intrigued…it includes 10 days in the wilderness with a guide, 3 days of prep (severance), 4 days of fasting alone in the wilderness (threshold), and 2 days of deconstruction with the guide (incorporation). Natural hallucinations and realizations. Notably, the essay got to be overbearing with passages like this: “’Earth,’ I called…‘thank you for your stability, your richness, and your fecundity…Ants, you’re the guiding image for community, the quintessential living neural net, the answer to one or many?, a reminder that I wouldn’t want to build a bonfire alone, the proof that synergy works.” So that almost ruined it 100% for me. And then when she hit on the guide I felt uncomfortable. 3 stars for topic choice, 1 star for readability. ...more
Forever (Judy Blume) taught me everything I needed to know about sex & young love at age 13. This book is the exact equivalent guide for British tForever (Judy Blume) taught me everything I needed to know about sex & young love at age 13. This book is the exact equivalent guide for British teenage boys, presented in satire. So self-conscious, so calculated, so empty, so callous, so teen. Except I’m not a teenage boy (for the most part), so I was only partially amused. The plot humorously captures the realistic course of modern love through the perspective of a 19-year-old boy (intense longing → courtship → honeymoon period → everyday living → an end). The story was mostly silly but always funny, following Charles Highway, the 19-year-old, who keeps papers/journals on everyone in his life, and reflects on those papers (specifically Rachel) on the eve of his twentieth birthday. The reflections were simultaneously egotistical and self-deprecating. I mostly enjoyed Charles’ persistence with trying to form an attractive character for Rachel:
“What persona would I wear? On the two occasions I had seen her last August I underwent several complete identity-reorganizations, settling finally somewhere between the pained, laconic, inscrutable type and the knowing, garrulous, cynical, laugh a minute, yet something demonic about him, something nihilistic, muted death-wish type. Revamp those, or start again?” + “All I had had to do, really, was make the bed more thoroughly (sprinkling talc between the sheets), readjust the record stacks, and, as a last-minute thought, place two unfinished poems on the coffee-table, to be shyly gathered up when and if I got her in there.”
I’d be interested to see what Charles is like post-teens, which were full of effort, fluff, & cruelty. ...more
Very reminiscent of a main dilemma in The Marriage Plot (Jeffrey Eugenides), but containing the reverse outcome, we have supremely detailed charactersVery reminiscent of a main dilemma in The Marriage Plot (Jeffrey Eugenides), but containing the reverse outcome, we have supremely detailed characters + a beautiful, wealthy, young woman decides between a man with whom she would be comfortable and normal vs. a man with whom her life would be edgy and perpetually seeking the meaning-of-life (though The Razor’s Edge came about 60 years before The Marriage Plot). Here, the characters are as follows:
Isabel: the beautiful and wealthy girl “with her youth, her strapping good looks, and her vitality,” on the brink of a life in rags with real happiness OR a life of normalcy and luxury… Larry: option 1, the seeker of truth and meaning; not interested in traditional career paths and traditional means of happiness (i.e. $); in later years we see him ‘looking 25’ at 45, fresh, all-knowing, at peace Gray: option 2, an earnest stock broker who abides by every word of his successful business man of a father; devoted to Isabel in a simple way that does not spark passion in her; in later years we see him very overweight, “lumbering” into rooms, prone to migraines, and hair-less
Does a girl choose option 1 (discomfort, passion) or option 2 (normalcy, money over passion), seek meaning or don’t seek meaning? We have both options played out in comparing this book with The Marriage Plot…and neither choice ends well for the female, although for the truth-seeking male, perhaps yes.
It was amusing to read about Isabel’s jealousy, disillusionment (“I sacrificed myself…I gave Larry up for the one and only reason that I didn’t want to stand in his way”), and lust for Larry, who is 100% unpossessable. Isabel does possess Gray, and does thus not desire Gray. It’s unnerving to not be able to possess someone, namely Larry (it gives Isabel “a nasty feeling in the pit of [her] stomach”). All similar themes to Of Human Bondage, also by Maugham, which are themes I delight in. But more, all the characters are on little lost trails, all very different, all trying to ‘find a way.’ Maugham calls it a happy ending, although the “sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.” (The sharp edge of the razor also divides between 2 very different sides/lives...) ...more
It seems fitting for the theory of this book that someone stole it from me at the airport (actually I KNOW it was the guy sitting next to me that I quIt seems fitting for the theory of this book that someone stole it from me at the airport (actually I KNOW it was the guy sitting next to me that I questioned for a half hour, if that matters). I have no doubt he thought it was erotica, with a name like Sex at Dawn, and he will be fairly disappointed to discover a semi-scientific study-based account advocating that monogamy is unnatural and human sexual behavior is a reflection of both evolved tendencies and social context.
I’m still a monogamy adherent, despite it being unnatural. The authors likely aren’t trying to push people into polyamorous or open relationships, but to give context to why married couples are so unhappy after time; as to why the loss of libido between couples, and why the rampant infidelity. The strategy was anecdotal: various tribes past and present practice non-monogamous sexual relations; women are not coy and subservient, but rather sexual and fluid creatures; humans are closest in lineage to bonobos, who practice poly love; it’s simply the “familiar fingers of culture [& religion] that reach deep into our minds” to choose monogamy over nature. The authors believe the possessive way humans treat sex & partners came about with the advent of agriculture: “Once people were farming the same land season after season, private property quickly replaced communal ownership as the modus operandi in most societies. For nomadic foragers, personal property – anything needing to be carried – is kept to a minimum, for obvious reasons. There is little thought given to who owns the land, or the fish…” OR the women! We went from communal --> individual thought on every level.
It’s interesting to think about prehistoric people, our ties to bonobos, evolutionary psychology, and our desires apart from societal persuasion, BUT as far as changing the way we form relationships – this seems unrealistic. It feels similar to discussions on climate change: we know origins of problem, but it has spiraled out of control and one person using low-watt light bulbs won’t cure this beast (just like one person living non-monogamously because it’s human nature would just be ignoring society issues of STDs, emotions, logistics, babies, finances, and outcasted rather than emulated)....more
Fascinating contextual backdrop to the heroic case of Texas v. Lawrence (2003), the U.S. Supreme Court case that took the crime of “homosexual conductFascinating contextual backdrop to the heroic case of Texas v. Lawrence (2003), the U.S. Supreme Court case that took the crime of “homosexual conduct” (i.e. sodomy OR oral sex) off the books. Yes, “homosexual conduct” was illegal in some states up until 2003.
Carpenter spends too much time assessing the facts, timing, and stories of all the people involved to theorize whether or not Garner and Lawrence were actually having sex the day the Texas cops busted into the apartment. It seems they probably were not. But the more important thing is: it doesn’t matter. It’s funny that it doesn’t matter, but neither side – the State nor the defense – wanted the real facts to ever be tried or to come to light. The State, because then the cops would have been egregious in misconduct (“Black guy, white guy, apartment, naked” = perfect cop-lying-breeding-ground). And the defense, because if there was no sex, they would not be able to make a claim that people can have sex in the privacy of their homes.
What a serendipitous string of strange events coming together to create Texas v. Lawrence. The officers had to arrest the 2 men, even though “homosexual conduct” was merely a fine (and not an arrestable offense). The common-man defendants had to be interested in pleading no contest, appealing the case to the highest court, and losing any modicum of privacy. The gay judicial clerk talking about the incident at a gay bar, where a gay activist heard about it and got in touch with infamous civil rights lawyers. The Texas courts finding that the “homosexual conduct” statute was constitutional, allowing the defense team to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court granting cert to review! The rather conservative Court striking down the law!
It was super interesting to get this view “behind the scenes” of a case making its way to the USSC: the way the lawyers constructed the case in focusing on the family concept, as opposed to the right to have homosexual sex, or how they consulted numerous attorneys who had been clerks to certain justices on the Supreme Court in drafting their briefs. Even though I knew what the ultimate decision was by the Court, my body broke out into chills – a feel-good moment: gays have some rights, according to the U.S. Supreme Court....more
*Not a book about pedophilia* Instead, a typically favorite topic of mine: family dysfunction. In a very pure way though, the incessant fighting dialo*Not a book about pedophilia* Instead, a typically favorite topic of mine: family dysfunction. In a very pure way though, the incessant fighting dialogue among the Pollits family members got under my skin. That & the tedious way Sam Pollits (the father) spoke, full of hyperbole, tangents, and winding whimsical musings (EXAMPLE: “This Sunday-Funday has come a long way,” said Sam softly: “it’s been coming to us, all day Leni Lenapes and the deeps of the drowned Susquehanna, over the pond pine ragged in the peat and the lily swamps of Anacostia, by scaffolded marbles and time-bloodied weather-board, northeast, northwest, Washington Circle, Truxton Circle, Sheridan Circle to Rock Creek and the blunt shoulders of our Georgetown. And what does he find there this morning as every morning, in the midst of the slope, but Tohoga House, the little shanty of Gulliver Sam’s Lilliputian Pollitry-Gulliver Sam, Mrs. Gulliver Henny, Lugubrious Louisa, whose head is bloody but unbowed, Ernest the calculator, Little-Womey-“…asdjasdfjk).
The introduction mentioned that after reading the story, you will be unable to get the Pollits out of your mind, your skin, your ears, etc. etc. This is so, in a very unpleasant way. While that may make for artistically moving literature (see: the movie Requiem for a Dream), I feel depleted. Aside from the nagging family fight club, all were hopelessly depressed, haranguing that “…life is nothing but rags and tags and filthy rags at that. Why was I ever born” or categorizing the family as “weedy, rank children getting merrier and merrier on the dungheap that was their life” or a dad saying to his daughter: “You don’t know what you look like, you great fat lump. I don’t want to see your legs: keep your dress down. And please tell Henny to lengthen it” as he looked “aghast at her fat thighs half revealed.” I felt a lot of metaphysical pain reading this book. What it comes down to is that I CANNOT read fiction about hopeless depressives interacting in a hopeless society anymore. This was my arena in high school, and now it just tires me out; I’m too old.
*I did love Louisa, the “great fat lump”...it’s easy to identify with her because she is the only family member who feels trapped in the sordid depressive circle, while the others just exist in it. And this bit on her, hits close to home or somethin: “She was by this time a mere barrel of lard, as everyone said; and nothing was more clownish on earth than Louisa with her ‘spiny gray eyes, long ass’s face, lip of a motherless foal, mountainous body, sullen scowl, and silly smile’ (as Henny remarked), going into ecstasies over Miss Aiden and forever scribbling about love.”...more
Apropos time (x100) to read this book about a drought in an economic depression, during a drought in an economic depression. Though everyone who saw mApropos time (x100) to read this book about a drought in an economic depression, during a drought in an economic depression. Though everyone who saw me reading The Grapes of Wrath was all, ‘didn’t you read that in high school...?’, the answer is: NO I did not, people. And I would still suggest most should reread if read in high school. I really appreciated the book, in both its micro and macro views of the ‘social ills’ of America, which are apparently cyclical.
I love that John Steinbeck has been quoted (per the Introduction): “My whole work drive has been aimed at making people understand each other and then I deliberately write this book the aim of which is to cause hatred through partial understanding.” The fiction author mantra: understanding! However, I don’t think there’s a ‘partial understanding,’ because it gives us a rounded perspective of all interacting parts: migrant workers, farm owners, and bank involvement. It’s perfect.
On a micro scale, the travails of the Joad fambly rumbling towards the West was endearing. Grampa was the best, a dichotomy of toughness + exuberance: “His was a lean excitable face with little bright eyes as evil as a frantic child’s eyes. A cantankerous, complaining, mischievous, laughing face. He fought and argued, told dirty stories. He was as lecherous as always. Vicious and cruel and impatient, like a frantic child, and the whole structure overlaid with amusement. He drank too much when he could get it, ate too much when it was there, talked too much all the time.” It’s a contagious intensity.
On the macro, this quote describes the point of the book for me:
“And the great owners, who must lose their land in an upheaval, the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact: when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away. And that companion fact: when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed. The great owners ignored the three cries of history. The land fell into fewer hands, the number of the dispossessed increased, and every effort of the great owners was directed at repression. The money was spent for arms, for gas to protect the great holdings, and spies were sent to catch the murmuring of revolt so that it might be stamped out. The changing economy was ignored, plans for the change ignored; and only means to destroy revolt were considered, while the causes of revolt went on…In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.” WOW, I’m moved!!!!!!!!
*And the vocabulary in this book! E.g. fambly (family), Rosasharn (Rose of Sharon), tar’d (tired) – aside from using these 3 words, among others, in my thoughts all the time, I’ve been writing to friends that I’m tar’d or can’t wait to see my fambly, so I’m hopin that translates....more