Best collection of poetry featuring multiple poets I've ever read. Buy it, you'll read it cover to cover. Black and vivid and startling and personal aBest collection of poetry featuring multiple poets I've ever read. Buy it, you'll read it cover to cover. Black and vivid and startling and personal and sad. ...more
I knock at the stone's front door. "It's only me, let me come in. I want to en"Only what is human can truly be foreign."
::Conversation With A Stone::
I knock at the stone's front door. "It's only me, let me come in. I want to enter your insides, have a look round, breathe my fill of you."
"Go away," says the stone. "I'm shut tight. Even if you break me to pieces, we'll all still be closed. You can grind us to sand, we still won't let you in."
I knock at the stone's front door. "It's only me, let me come in. I've come out of pure curiosity. Only life can quench it. I mean to stroll through your palace, then go calling on a leaf, a drop of water. I don't have much time. My mortality should touch you."
"I'm made of stone," says the stone, "and must therefore keep a straight face. Go away. I don't have the muscles to laugh."
I knock at the stone's front door. "It's only me, let me come in. I hear you have great empty halls inside you, unseen, their beauty in vain, soundless, not echoing anyone's steps. Admit you don't know them well yourself."
"Great and empty, true enough," says the stone, "but there isn't any room. Beautiful, perhaps, but not to the taste of your poor senses. You may get to know me, but you'll never know me through. My whole surface is turned toward you, all my insides turned away."
I knock at the stone's front door. "It's only me, let me come in. I don't seek refuge for eternity. I'm not unhappy. I'm not homeless. My world is worth returning to. I'll enter and exit empty-handed. And my proof I was there will be only words, which no one will believe."
"You shall not enter," says the stone. "You lack the sense of taking part. No other sense can make up for your missing sense of taking part. Even sight heightened to become all-seeing will do you no good without a sense of taking part. You shall not enter, you have only a sense of what that sense should be, only its seed, imagination."
I knock at the stone's front door. "It's only me, let me come in. I haven't got two thousand centuries, so let me come under your roof."
"If you don't believe me," says the stone, "just ask the leaf, it will tell you the same. Ask a drop of water, it will say what the leaf has said. And, finally, ask a hair from your own head. I am bursting with laughter, yes, laughter, vast laughter, although I don't know how to laugh."
I knock at the stone's front door. "It's only me, let me come in."
Kicks Harry's ass back to the stone age/kid's section. A life-altering journey into every magical lair you can think of, all set in a giant Jane AusteKicks Harry's ass back to the stone age/kid's section. A life-altering journey into every magical lair you can think of, all set in a giant Jane Austen world....more
Although it might not necessarily be classified as such, it feels like this was one of the first modern, existential novels I read. I remember the desAlthough it might not necessarily be classified as such, it feels like this was one of the first modern, existential novels I read. I remember the despair so well, even though the specifics of the story have grown hazy....more
In high school, I disliked like Toni Morrison a great deal, an never appreciated being forced to read her works. Now I see why. Her prose is academic,In high school, I disliked like Toni Morrison a great deal, an never appreciated being forced to read her works. Now I see why. Her prose is academic, and its mode may have been over my head. Like Faulkner, though, she creates complete characters from psychological fissures. The stories they fall into seem inevitable reactions, just as you are unable to look away from them. Morrison draws it all together in this book with a sharp, poetic ending that finally cradles your heart instead of merely whispering into your mind.
"What shocked Job into humility and renewed fidelity was the message a female Job would have known and heard every minute of her life."
When discussing narrative perspectives in high school English, we never quite got to the part about "Geographical Locations in the 4th Dimension." ErpWhen discussing narrative perspectives in high school English, we never quite got to the part about "Geographical Locations in the 4th Dimension." Erpenbeck tells the story of a piece of land, of the houses and lives on it, from the ice age through modern day. Since that piece of land is in East Germany, and has been owned by Jews, commandeered by Russian soldiers, and gone through some strange communist twists of "ownership", that story is very interesting. The characters seem doomed from the time they enter it, from the crazed maiden who first inherits it to the woman hiding from war who violently seduces a Russian commander, to several families who seem curiously bound to its bleak power. There is a predictable cameo by the holocaust. I suppose Erpenbeck is permitted to explore this territory, but she loses the originality of her narrative in dragging us through the same scenes of ghettos as dozens of other books and movies.
The book will fade from your memory quickly, as the sparse, poetic prose is repetitive and pounding. There is no humor, and virtually no hope, as humanity seems to do nothing with this land that an ice age glacier couldn't do itself.
"Today can be today, but it might also be yesterday or twenty years ago, and her laughter is the laughter of today, of yesterday, and just as much, the laughter of twenty years ago, time appears to be at her beck and call, like a house in which she can enter now this room, now that."
"For three years the girl took piano lessons, but now, while her dead body slides down into the pit, the word piano is taken back from human beings" 
"Perhaps eternal life already exists during a human lifetime, but since it looks different from what we're hoping for - something that transcends everything that's happened - since it looks instead like the old life we already knew, no one recognizes it." 
"She had the perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone, she always had the feeling that it was very,"She had the perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone, she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day." 
"... the enduring symbol of the state which will be known to curious antiquaries, sifting the ruins of time, when London is a grass-grown path and all those hurrying along the pavement this Wednesday morning are but bones with a few wedding rings mixed up in their dust and the gold stoppings of innumerable decayed teeth. The face in the motor car will then be known." 
"And down his mind went flat as a marsh, and three great emotions bowled over him; understanding; a vast philanthropy; and finally, as if the result of the others, an irrepressible, exquisite delight; as if inside his brain by another hand strings were pulled, shutters moved, and he, having nothing to do with it, yet stood at the opening of endless avenues, down which if he chose he might wander." 
"So, he was deserted. The whole world was clamouring: Kill yourself, kill yourself, for our sakes. But why should he kill himself for their sakes? Food was pleasant; the sun hot; and this killing oneself, how does one set about it, with a table knife, uglily, with floods of blood – by sucking a gaspipe? He was too weak; he could scarcely raise his hand. Besides, now that he was quite alone, condemned, deserted, as those who are about to die are alone, there was a luxury in it, an isolation full of sublimity; a freedom which the attached can never know. Holmes had won of course; the brute with the red nostrils had won. But even Holmes himself could not touch this last relic straying on the edge of the world, this outcast, who gazed back at the inhabited regions, who lay, like a drowned sailor, on the shore of the world." 
"And the supreme mystery... was simply this: here was one room; there another. Did religion solve that, or love? But here the other clock, the clock which always struck two minutes after Big Ben, came shuffling in with its lap full of odds and ends, which it dumped down as if Big Ben were all very well with his majesty laying down the law, so solemn, so just, but she must remember all sorts of little things besides--Mrs. Marsham, Ellie Henderson, glasses for ices--all sorts of little things came flooding and lapping and dancing in on the wake of that solemn stroke which lay flat like bar of gold on the sea." [127-128]
"And up came that wandering will-o'-the-wisp, that vagulous phosphorescence, old Mrs. Hilberry, stretching her hands to the blaze of his laughter (about the Duke and the Lady), which, as she heard it across the room, seemed to reassure her on a point which sometimes bothered her if she woke early in the morning and did not like to call her maid for a cup of tea; how it is certain we must die."  ...more
To see the lives of factory girls in china in this decade, unencumbered by their poor education and poor families, propelled to success only by determTo see the lives of factory girls in china in this decade, unencumbered by their poor education and poor families, propelled to success only by determination and a type of crazed, fearless ambition, is to see an older, immigrant America, where any hard worker could latch onto the industrial machine and find a form of fortune. China will become the world's superpower when the next generation inherits this drive and has the education to fully realize it.
The women that Chang follows closely never fail to amuse and instruct with their quest for better material fortunes and their confusion at how the new, shiny, sudden world intersects with their ancestral, traditional villages. I found most interesting was the building of a gigantic shopping mall in the new town and its almost immediate decline into emptiness, sort of the entirety of post-war America condensed into a couple years.
The other half of the book details Chang uncovering her family's history, in which both her grandfather and father come to America, the first returning to be a martyr in China's revolution. The background of this story, where tradition abruptly detonates upon impact with the modern world and Chinese insecurities, is intensely engaging.
Unfortunately, this book has no actual story. Chang employs all the usual tricks to build one, relying heavily on the bullshit memoirist's trick of refusing to put anything in chronological order so it all seems part of a "journey" to "discover herself." However, neither the factory girls nor Chang's family have a story that outshines the historical contexts of their journey, and I found myself learning more about China and human progress as a whole. And, of course, her attempt to tie her story into that of the current factory workers can be boiled down to "all immigrants everywhere look for a better life while keeping something from home."
So, read this if you want to know more about modern China. It's fascinating, and there are lessons to be learned. But I hesitate to say this book is anything more than intellectually engaging. ...more
I believe I accidentally read the "eat, pray, love" of 1980's Japan. Banana comes up with a great premise for a heartwarming story: a girl is orphanedI believe I accidentally read the "eat, pray, love" of 1980's Japan. Banana comes up with a great premise for a heartwarming story: a girl is orphaned when her grandmother dies, but is taken in by a young boy who worked at the flower store the grandmother frequented and his transsexual mother. When the mother dies as well, the narrator must face her grief all over again, just when her life got back on track. There is something to be said for the up-and-down narration style, where life can be bleak and wonderful in the same paragraph. It's perhaps a more honest reading of our daily outlook. But it's not paired with any literary aspirations, and the book relies on the old standards of describing food in great detail and completely manufactured romantic situations to generate its weight. Don't read it. Nothing here holds up. ...more
I can't believe how beautiful this book is. One of the few times that saying "her prose is poetry" is not hyperbole.
It's the story of two girls growiI can't believe how beautiful this book is. One of the few times that saying "her prose is poetry" is not hyperbole.
It's the story of two girls growing up, really, not about a house, or a town, or a family. The book plumbs nature vs. nurture debate at its profoundest depths, and in the end I am unsure whether Ruthie's fate was something her family put up on her or something it was powerless to protect her from. But when she begins to drift out of what we call "normal" life, I felt a sense of my own resistance to change as I sided initially with those trying to keep her moored. We assign normalcy and beauty to whatever best fits our needs for security and love, never quite ready to admit that nothing but love exists in the deepest sense.
"When she had been married a little while, she concluded that love was half a longing of a kind that possession did nothing to mitigate." 
"For why do our thoughts turn to some gesture of a hand, the fall of a sleeve, some corner of a room on a particular anonymous afternoon, even when we are asleep, and even when we are so old that our thoughts have abandoned other business? What are all these fragments for, if not to be knit up finally?" 
"Imagine a Carthage sown with salt, and all the sowers gone, and the seeds lain however long in the earth, till there rose finally in vegetable profusion leaves and trees of rime and brine. What flowering would there be in such a garden? Light would force each salt calyx to open in prisms, and to fruit heavily with bright globes of water--peaches and grapes are little more than that, and where the world was salt there would be greater need of slaking. For need can blossom into all the compensations it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing--the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries." 
"Imagine that Noah knocked his house apart and used the planks to build an ark, while his neighbors looked on, full of coubt. A house, he must have told them, should be daubed with pitch and built to float cloud high, if need be. A lettuce patch was of no use at all, and a good foundation was worse than useless. A house should have a compass and a keel. The neighbors would have put their hands in their pockets and chewed their lips and strolled home to houses they now found wanting in ways they could not understand. Perhaps, pious as they were, these ladies did not wish to see me pass into that sad and outcast state of revelation where one begins to feel superior to one's neighbors." 
Superb and deeply affecting portrait of a 12-year-old girl going through the crisis of puberty. Frankie feels as alienated and misunderstood as a younSuperb and deeply affecting portrait of a 12-year-old girl going through the crisis of puberty. Frankie feels as alienated and misunderstood as a young girl can, and her anxious terror as she waits to board the (wedding) train to adulthood is palpable McCullers' vivid realism.
What I found most fascinating was my conflicting sympathy and doubt about Frankie. Is her selfishness and meanness a natural, inevitable phase, or has she already been corrupted by unhappy forces that will lead her down the wrong paths for the rest of her life? Frankie has been given equal parts love - by her father and her nanny - and sadness - the loss of her mother when she was born, the loss of her friendships with older girls. At the end of the book she is humiliated and humbled. We are left to ask whether she will learn from these mistakes or allow them to force her into a bitter and permanently hardened shell.
I would argue that the book replays the story of original sin against an imperfect garden, where Frankie is confronted by the devil in every corner, and, instead of choosing between good and evil, must simply select which evil she will settle with and which she will fight against. ...more
A land of no hope, in a book outside of time. The narrator and her three male friends, all quiet rebels in an oppressed post-war Romania, think theirA land of no hope, in a book outside of time. The narrator and her three male friends, all quiet rebels in an oppressed post-war Romania, think their thoughts of freedom and wait with a sickening dread to be punished for them, despite doing little more than writing poetry and planning to emigrate. Muller makes a point of showing just how fragile human connections are in a society based on fear. She lives with various nice women, has a supportive mother, and holds onto her close friendship with Tereza, the daughter of a Party member. But all three of these do their best to force her to forget her dreams of freedom, and she is left to drag what remains across the border and to an eternally-compromised peace. Muller uses the word "transfinite" to describe the good and the bad in a fascist state - the mortal lasts forever when it is made part of the terror or the struggle against it. Told in rapid-fire statements that hop between place and time, the story is most moving when the narrator (based closely on Muller) meets her friends, and they try to defeat, through laughter, knowledge, and love, as much of the evil in the world as they can. According to Muller, even when success comes, the rewards are thin and haunted. ...more
An expertly crafted, thrilling tale of a girl forced into child combat in her post-apocalyptic society. A few things really struck me about this book.An expertly crafted, thrilling tale of a girl forced into child combat in her post-apocalyptic society. A few things really struck me about this book. First, Collins does a good job of drawing us into the same voyeuristic mode that the book's fictional spectators enter when watching the deadly games, and once there, she toys with several "deus ex-machinas" to show we have no choice but to cheer for someone in even the most abhorrent games. There's a dark side to that, but it also shows that we are always drawn to find the best people, the ones worthy of triumph or just survival. None of the children should have been there; but once they are, we have to find the best solution. Second, I was impressed with the efficient and ruthless construction of the book's universe. Collins is obviously a student of the best fantasy worlds, and she knows how to set up one up with great economy. She does this by using images we already have of post-apocalyptic worlds and tweaking them slightly but significantly.
However, the book does not contain the same amount of sheer wonder as Harry Potter, nor does it pursue any moral lessons as strongly as Watership Down. Several other books have set up the same basic premise to this one, and although Collins does everything exceedingly well, she doesn't really do anything new. Read this addictive and entertaining book for the thrill, though, because such a well-crafted story is hard to find in any genre....more