Kristen's Reviews > The Street

The Street by Ann Petry
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Mar 25, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: own, favorites, fiction, make-you-put-a-gun-in-your-mouth
Read from March 15 to 24, 2011

I haven't felt so mindfucked from an ending since Bend Sinister. Yet, whereas Nabokov does it simply because he can, in The Street it serves to underline the message, and I would say message rather than plot because Petry was a political writer and this novel certainly is that, besides being a wonderful piece of fiction. Some books shouldn't have happy endings, life in 1940's Harlem as a single mother didn't often have a happy ending and some types of books should just completely break you because maybe it wouldn't get through otherwise. In Petry’s novel the characters are not simply good or bad, they are just people acting according to the natural, logical consequences of their conditions, the result of genocidal economics in action. Yet even the character Junto, who comes to embody the crudest kind of predatory capitalism, much in the way Ben Harrison embodies dickface trolling, is still a pawn in the social/economic conditions of which he is largely unaware. I see Petry often compared to Richard Wright and there is certainly a compassion to be made with this novel and Native Son, yet for me as much as I did understand what Wright was saying and the significance of his protagonist becoming a murderer on a rational level, I just never really bought it as a narrative, Petry I buy, and based on this novel I say she is far more talented than Wright (best Wright story=The Man Who Lived Underground) The paradox of Lutie's very resistance to the pressures of the unrelenting ontological angst of living in such dehumanizing conditions leading her to commit a horrendous act is illuminated in a way Wright never captured. My only complaint of this novel is the noticeable lack of unicorns.

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Reading Progress

03/19 page 278
02/04 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-25 of 25) (25 new)

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Esteban del Mal Hells yes. I adore this book.

Kristen I love this so far, I love Petry's descriptions of the street itself as this menacing entity with the battering winds, buildings that block out all light, walls that closing in on her.

The best summation I've heard of this book is that it's about 'genocidal economics' and yeah that's true, but it's much more, like Lutie's fear of becoming resign to her life and losing her will for resistance, that's a universally human thing and man do I get that.

Esteban del Mal Good. Now expand that comment into a review, please.

And don't forget "ontological" and the unicorns.

message 4: by Esteban (last edited Jun 16, 2011 09:38AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Esteban del Mal Holy crap! I can't believe I missed the review! I luves it! Even has ontological and unicorns! You write made to order reviews! Fucking awesome!

Kristen I normally post photos of unicorns in ALL my Goodreads reviews.

Esteban del Mal Because of my *ahem* suggestion, I'll have you and everyone else know.

Esteban del Mal Ontological the Unicorn...

Kristen Esteban wrote: "Ontological the Unicorn..."

He prefers to go by the name 'Ricky'.

Eric Aiello I'm reading this now based on your review.

Kristen Yeah!

If you love it I get all the credit . . . and if you hate it I'll blame Ricky.

Endora harris The street is one of the best pieces of fiction I have ever read! Petry brings Harlem and the 1940s back to life along with the characters she breaths life into This is no Mary, Dick and Jane kind of story. It's a full throttle psychological thriller that highlights how women are especially the prey of not only males, but the entire system of capitalism.

Kristen What's most disturbing about this story is that Lutie really has no choices, so as shocking as the end is, it's also seems inevitable. That's why I feel like Petry succeeded where Wright did not, in showing that the violence of the protagonist is the nature result of the violence of capitalism/society.

Endora harris For sure! It's why women's voices are so important. Women need to tell their stories, from their POV, with their voices.

Adrienna I am halfway through and do not see the comparison to Richard Wright, loved his work in my late teens...she is mediocre to me so far.

Kristen I mention Wright because I constantly came across that comparison when I read up on Petry, I think mostly because both were overtly political and have characters who really live out the fatalistic consequences of capitalism in a way that is disturbing because it is so deterministic. Now the specific comparison I make between the two books comes at the end of The Street (view spoiler)
You rate your books before you finish them though?

I don't know that I would still make such a strong claim that Petry is a better author Wright now, a year later while The Street still has left an impression on me I find some of the short stories I've read by Wright have stayed with me far more vividly, but mediocre? No way, The Street is one of the main books behind my "make-you-put-a-gun-in-your-mouth" bookshelf and that's saying something!

Adrienna Sometimes I do...because I already see where the book is going midway for me...been reviewing for over 3 yrs and kinda know where I stand when I read halfway, rarely changes.

Adrienna It is good to keep an impression. I like books like that. Not just another read.

message 18: by Kristen (last edited Apr 19, 2012 12:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kristen Goodreads has so corrupted me I keep a running star rating in my head, it's awful actually.

The ending of The Street is really what got to me, hopefully you'll up that rating once you get there, it was disturbing in a way few books are.

Esteban del Mal Wright (who I like) seems more preachy/didactic to me. Petry kicked me in the nuts. And I'm still smarting from it years later, too.

Kristen All I've read of Petry is The Street, and of Wright is Native Son and collection of short stories. Now this compared to Native Son, no doubt The Street is far superior, and Native Son is preachy at the end. His short story the Man Who Lived Underground is fucking bad ass and is what made a huge impression on me, you'd like it, the closest thing I could compare it to is maybe Kafka's The Trial. But for books with ending that fucked me up The Street ranks way up there!

Esteban del Mal Native Son is the only Wright I've read; The Street is the only Petry. I see Native Son as 5 stars, The Street as 5+ stars.

As big an impression that these authors have had on me, you'd think I'd have read more from them. I guess I can only handle so many kicks to the nuts. (I'll try to squeeze in that Underground Man this summer.)

Kristen It's about 150 pages, and nothing like Native Son.

Adrienna I read Native Son back in high school, so who knows what impact or impression it would be on me today...20 yrs later.

Adrienna Kristen wrote: "Goodreads has so corrupted me I keep a running star rating in my head, it's awful actually.

The ending of The Street is really what got to me, hopefully you'll up that rating once you get there,..."

"up my rating" we shall see. However, I do not like star value period. As a reviewer, aside from leisure or book club reads, I prefer people to see our dream rating (like dream on, okay dream, what a dream, sweet dreams, and wooed me dream which would be like a 1 to 5 star value) and read the written review. However, most of us are superficial and prefer star-quality value. 3 to me, means I liked it...just didn't necessarily love it or wooed me. So far, I like her writing...

Adrienna Esteban wrote: "Native Son is the only Wright I've read; The Street is the only Petry. I see Native Son as 5 stars, The Street as 5+ stars.

As big an impression that these authors have had on me, you'd think I'd ..."

First book I read in sophomore or junior year of high school was "Black Boy" and it made me want to read "native son" and his other literature work a year or two haven't read his work since 18/19 yrs old. But it still kept an impression and impact on what I read during this time span...

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