Very good. "Notes on Discretion" near the end of the book feels like the thesis statement, a dissection of the power and politic involved in manners a...moreVery good. "Notes on Discretion" near the end of the book feels like the thesis statement, a dissection of the power and politic involved in manners and correctness.(less)
Essentially a story about a bunch of sad & brutal men being sad & brutal and concluding that their behavior is dictated by the sad & bruta...moreEssentially a story about a bunch of sad & brutal men being sad & brutal and concluding that their behavior is dictated by the sad & brutal times in which we all live. In other words, a war story. It has little of the nuance and complication Tim O'Brien wove into "The Things We Carried".
That said, some of the writing did shimmer:
"Sometimes, when I reached G.W.'s, I'd wait just inside the wood line until whatever old pickup turned its last rusted quarter panel down the road, and I'd walk into the chime of the double doors through the dust it had left in its wake. I can't really explain what that feeling was like. Shame, I guess. But that wasn't all of it. It was more particular than that. Anyone can feel shame. I remember myself, sitting in the dirt under neglected and overgrown brush, afraid of nothing in the world more than having to show myself for what I had become. I wasn't really known around there anyway, but I had the feeling that if I encountered anyone they would intuit my disgrace and would judge me instantly. Nothing is more isolating than having a particular history. At least that's what I thought. Now I know: All pain is the same. Only the details are different." (p. 132)
"I looked out the window and saw the street and railroad tracks, the woods beyond. Beyond the woods, the county of which they were a part. And so on, until it all dissolved into the larger thing: my mother's house becoming every other house as I once had seen it, sitting atop the southern end of a broad river valley, close enough to the the mountains that every few years a scared black bear would wander down into the remaining forest, and close enough to the ocean that those early English settlers took it as the farthest point they'd go upstream, the geology of the place preventing them from having any choice other than the one wherein they said, "We are lost; therefore we will call this home." And close enough that as a child I had been teased by older kids who said if I only tried hard enough I would smell salt water, and I, believing, stood among the light poles and the gulls in the parking lots of A&Ps and cried when I knew that it was true despite the fact that they had meant to lie, as children sometimes do." (p. 133)(less)
Fair and empathetic. Churchwell critically, systematically dismantles the cultural notion and dead metaphor that has become the story of Marilyn Monro...moreFair and empathetic. Churchwell critically, systematically dismantles the cultural notion and dead metaphor that has become the story of Marilyn Monroe (the 'many lives' of the title refers to the many biographies Churchwell discusses throughout the book) by continuously subjecting the stories and interpretations to Occam's razor. Additionally, does the reader the favor of not condescending, either to her subject or her reader, pitting historical Monroe against modern notions of women's worth, as a figure struggling for power and actualization in a pre-second wave world. Instead of making her a subject of pity, Churchwell allows Monroe to be complicated, frustrated, curious, romantic, salty, smart, self-improving, competent, powerful, needy--y'know, human.