a big NO, which is a shame really, since it had so much potential. The historical parts are pretty good, in terms of how a copy of Greene's (1588) Pana big NO, which is a shame really, since it had so much potential. The historical parts are pretty good, in terms of how a copy of Greene's (1588) Pandosto (which was probably a source of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale) came to pass through a number of owners, all listed on a page of this work. The author does a really fine job traveling forward in time as the Pandosto changes hands. That alone would have made for an awesome novel, and combined with the main character's search to discover whether or not the version he comes across is/is not a forgery, it could have been even better. But the author chooses to go mainstream on this one, throwing in a modern love story (also traced through time), a murder or two, and even worse, a visit from the main character's dead wife who visits him in his times of trouble and indecision.
I was scanning reviews here and noticed someone likened this book to Byatt's Possession; not even close.
Now I have to go face down my book group (the reason I read this book) and take my well-deserved licks for picking this one. Oy! All I can say is that it sounded good on the back cover blurb.
Much more about this book later, but I finished this book about 3 a.m. this morning and I literally have not stopped thinking about it since. I just oMuch more about this book later, but I finished this book about 3 a.m. this morning and I literally have not stopped thinking about it since. I just ordered Forster's Selected Stories, hoping that the other stories in that book are as good as these are.
Seriously -- super book. My favorite quotation from the entire collection:
"Readings of Pym range widely, from psychoanalytic exploration to social satire, from self-referential commentary on writing (or reading) to a metacritical demonstration of utter absence of meaning. Those commenting on the text apparently cannot reach any consensus or 'thrust toward uniformity,'..."
Depending on which/whose critique/analysis you read, Poe's Pym is either a seagoing take on the American push for frontier expansion, an interior journey into the self, a quest novel (vis-a-vis Harold Bloom's definition, mentioned in this edition's introduction, ) a "jeremiad of the evils of slavery" or "covert statement of Southern racist ideology" , and it has even been noted as (in part) a story of thwarted colonialism (from Mat Johnson's hilarious novel Pym). Author Toni Morrison also argues re Poe's work that "no early American writer is more important to the concept of American Africanism than Poe" because of the "focus on the symbolism of black and white in Poe's novel."
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is a strange but interesting little book. According to that online font of knowledge called Wikipedia, Poe himself called this "a silly little book," and in some ways he's definitely right. It is way over the top and as another GR reviewer puts it, the "elephant in the room" of racism is definitely there. [as an aside, whether Poe was/was not a racist is still a matter of debate in scholarly circles.] After having read it, I can see why there are so many different interpretations of this novel (you can also add in bildungsroman), but in my opinion, no matter how you read it, it is much like many of Poe's other works, largely concerned with confronting the self in terms of other (if nothing else, the scene where he is disguised as a a dead man and can't recognize himself in the mirror is a huge clue), and the destabilization of the self that follows as a result. In the end, though I believe it's a novel best appreciated on an individual basis -- I mean, seriously, if vast numbers of scholars over the last 100-plus years can't agree about the nature of Pym, how can there be any definitive interpretation?
** A brief word about this book: for anyone remotely interested in further studies of Poe's Pym, this particular edition from Broadview Press is a good place to start. The narrative is extensively footnoted, and there are three appendices -- "Sources for the Novel", "Contemporary Reviews," and "Other Writers' Responses to Pym" (Melville, Beaudelaire, Jules Verne, and Henry James). It also has an extensive bibliography and even a map of Pym's travels. ...more
this is the short version...you can find the longer one here.
Kovály's memoir covers a span of time from 1941 to 1968, from when the Nazis began to depthis is the short version...you can find the longer one here.
Kovály's memoir covers a span of time from 1941 to 1968, from when the Nazis began to deport Jews from Prague (and the author found herself first in the Lodz ghetto and then Auschwitz) until just prior to arrival of Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia, after a very brief Prague Spring. She was lucky -- when the Nazis evacuated the camp she was in and made all of the remaining prisoners walk from Poland to Germany under heavy guard, she and a few other women managed to escape and make it back to Czechoslovakia.
The author goes on to describe how, when the war was over and Jews, partisans and returning political prisoners came home, they were greeted less than enthusiastically; she also (something very important to understand) reveals how people came to choose Communism over democracy after the war. Very briefly, several factors came into play -- including the failure of prewar democratic ideals, the forsaking of the country by Western Allies, the liberation of Prague by the USSR, and false glorification of Communism by people who'd spent the war in Russia. But the major belief was that building socialism in Czechoslovakia would result in "peace, in an industrially-advanced country, with an intelligent, well-educated population." But, as she goes on to explain, by the early 1950s these ideals had been largely forgotten and things had decidely turned for the worse.
The bulk of this book is in how Heda survived after her husband's arrest, his official ouster from the Party, and his death. She describes an all-encompassing life under the Communists -- the regime reached down into every aspect of life, controlling seemingly ordinary people through brutality and fear.Her account ends with a brief Prague Spring under 1968 before the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia; she herself left the country shortly afterwards.
I started reading this because of my interest in the author after having read her Innocence; or, Murder on Steep Street; before that, I'd never heard of her. While Under a Cruel Star is a very personal story, it can also be read as an exploration of human nature under the most arduous and extreme conditions. You can read it as an understanding of how the best of idealistic intentions can often result in a nightmare, and it is also reveals how totalitarianism affected everyday, average people who, because of the need to survive in an atmosphere of complete fear, often felt compelled to choose self-interest over the welfare of fellow human beings. I don't often read memoirs but as difficult as this one was to get through at times, I'm very happy I did. Recommended. ...more