Emilie's Reviews > The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
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Oct 26, 11

bookshelves: 2011, mythopoetic
Read from October 17 to 26, 2011

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Comments (showing 1-50 of 117) (117 new)


Eh?Eh! Hahaha! I agreeeee! But I feel milder about it, like Pace picante salsa instead of your jalapeno. I forgot about all the similes.

What is this [] that is still 6 months away??? A secret?


message 2: by Mariel (new)

Mariel I miss having a []. That was Harry Potter and the Fever series for me.


message 3: by Shane (new)

Shane awesome review emi.
i love it when you get passionate about a book. (although I prefer you to enjoy them, I certainly am amused by your sarcasm (incidentally, I think you should embrace your inner sarcastic tongue. b/c i for one love a good sarcastic rant.


Emilie Eh?Eh! wrote: "Hahaha! I agreeeee! But I feel milder about it, like Pace picante salsa instead of your jalapeno. I forgot about all the similes.

*smiles* i like your food simile, it's good to dislike with someone, it's like mixing the jalapeno with the pace picante.

What is this [] that is still 6 months away??? A secret?"
if you are very, very good...

I miss having a []. That was Harry Potter and the Fever series for me.
i still haven't read potter!

embrace your inner sarcastic
bad influence!


Eh?Eh! I'm a good girl I am!


Emilie aw, i just read your lovely writing about breadcrumbs, and i can relate to the "good to the point of isolation", and so now i want to change it to: if you are very, very bad...


message 7: by David (new) - added it

David Ha ha! I'll steer clear of this one, Emilie.


Eh?Eh! Heh! Uhhhh, spank spank?


Emilie hi dave, i think that you might like The Marbury Lens. it's an atmospheric, moody piece that plays with reality and has horror elements and deals w/ptsd. if it was a movie, you'd have seen it.

eh!- mmm...okay, i'm not sure about this either...hmm.


Eh?Eh! Me either. My kind of bad is taking the last cookie or reading while driving (at stoplights...mostly).


Emilie you are going to have to eat a lot of last cookies!


message 12: by David (new) - added it

David Thanks, Emilie. Added!


message 13: by Nancy (new) - added it

Nancy I was thinking about reading this, but maybe I'll just give it a pass too. Thanks for the laugh, Emilie. I do love your one-star reviews. :)


[Name Redacted] I didn't get the feeling of American nationalism, but i definitely agree about the poor writing and terrible characterization.


message 15: by Emilie (last edited Oct 23, 2011 06:07PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Emilie thanks, nancy! it's good to know that something good is coming of me getting this worked up over the 1 stars! you should hear the things i am yelling at the book! *smiles*

ian, i didn't see it so much as american nationalism as a kind of ethnocentrism and arrogance that i think is often sadly an unconscious part of contemporary american culture. they go into (i'm blanking on the name; the alternate world) and they don't even try to interpret it on its own terms. there is no relativsim, no openness to the world. they go in to impose themselves on it and to use it. they judge the beings to be inferior, non-human and therefore okay to kill etc. it's hard for me not to see this as an echo of a type of ethnocentric attitude (not always american) that leads people to go into other worlds/countries and act immorally.
i was also referring to that rule about how this entire world needs to have earth (and it has been historically american) kings & queens to rule it. they cannot rule themselves. they cannot save themselves, they need to be saved by earthlings/american children.

i can respect not interpreting it that way, though.

eta:immorally


[Name Redacted] I actually read that whole part as a sneering condemnation of Western interventionism. I'm pretty sure the Chatwins (the first kids who go to Fillory) were actually British, so it felt more like the whole thing was a critique of the West's approach to the rest of the world than America's specific policies. And, to a certain extent, their approach to Fillory reminded me of the way wealthy Westerners behave as tourists -- as in "Eat, Drink, Pray" or the Against Me! song "Americans Abroad", where Westerners travel abroad and treat the world as though it exists simply to amuse, entertain and be consumed by them.

That said, the Earth-children are still expected to abide by the laws of the other world -- they're brought in by the "gods" of Fillory, serve the "gods", and are then forced to leave when their usefulness has ended. That approach could actually be interpreted as analogous to the American treatment of illegal aliens: "Do the jobs we don't want to do. Then get out." It is only when one of the earth-children rebels and refuses to go back to Earth that things break down.

In any event, I suspect we're both giving Grossman entirely too much credit.


message 17: by Matt (new)

Matt Emilie: One of the reasons that I find that charge unconvincing is that its an attack on Grossman from the socio-political 'left', of which Grossman indubiably is a part (and indeed is placing himself in the role of champion thereof). Given that the entire genesis of the book is to make an attack on social conservatives and religion in general, I think it more likely that Grossman was trying to mock or highlight books like the Narnia series or The Lord of the Rings as being sexist, ethnocentric and arrogant. If in doing so he managed to make a book which was on the superficial level more sexist, ethnocentric, and arrogant than the books he was attacking I'm not terribly surprised, though I am amused. Still, does it color your impression of the book to know that Grossman would probably be appalled that you'd read him as endorsing those things you accuse the book of?

Personally, I think you are probably spot on in most of your criticisms of the book, for example I think that the flaws in the character are in no small part related to the arrogance of the writer and his overinflated opinion of himself, but that your attack on the books political incorrectness is probably misplaced.


Emilie shane, i apologise for the ill usage of your friend ethics. edit comment n.15 to 'immorally.'

ian-- yes, you're right. i had forgotten that the chatwins are british. i had read it as a commentary on the americans specifically and westerners in general. i think that you right though, now i am noticing the emphasis on 'earthlings' kind of thing, it seems less american and more western.
i saw too a commentary on the treatment of pretty much any kind of difference.

i should say, though, i was seeing that in the treatment of the inhabitants of fillory and not specifically in the parts with ember and umber. i wrote this review before finishing the book (i have a fever and didn't really think of people reading it until the status changed to 'read'. i just got to the place where they meet the ram. i think i have about 50 pages left.)

In any event, I suspect we're both giving Grossman entirely too much credit.
haha!


Emilie Matt wrote: "Emilie: One of the reasons that I find that charge unconvincing is that its an attack on Grossman from the socio-political 'left', of which Grossman indubiably is a part (and indeed is placing hims..."

matt, it does not surprise me at all that grossman sees himself in the role of champion of the cause of the left.

i am not reading him as endorsing these things. i think that the book is intended to be a meta commentary on these issues. it's that i think that he is both ineffective and i think he engages in the very things he claims to be criticising in an unconscious way at the same time.

i don't see this as only occuring on a superfcial level, it pervades every moment of the book in a way that makes it so that this book, is, for example, the most sexist book i've read this year. and i think that the only people who will notice it are people who are already aware of it. some will laugh, others get mad like me. and i think that most, will just not notice it, because it is so much a part of our culture. to me, this is not effective commentary. and this is misogyny. almost every thing quentin says or thinks about alice makes me ill.

my criticisms have nothing at all to do with political correctness.

they are not intellectual abstractions, these are deeply felt personal values.


[Name Redacted] I wholeheartedly agree that he engages in the very things he seems to believe his is satirizing. The entire "climactic battle" was almost nauseatingly cliched and stilted. It was actually embarrassing to read.

I agree about the misogyny, but what surprised me was how much of it wasn't just Quentin. The misogyny seemed to suffuse the world Grossman had created for himself to play in (not just Fillory, but his representation of Earth as well).


Emilie i agree that the misogyny suffuses the entire world of the book. the females feel like blow up dolls to me. his first love (i can't remember her name) was treated miserably, he is disgusted by her when she is in pain and not pretty on the outside any longer (and he thinks that she is not as smart as him anymore). alice is only in fillory because she loves him, no matter how he treats her, she feels a bit like the stereotype of a 50s housewife. janet is only interested in making alice jealous. the way they speak even, the misogyny is in the language of each character and they all speak the same. none of the girls are friends with other girls, they are only there to compete with each other. janet is a slut for having different boyfriends. the boys who do the same are not sluts, just males. that story of the girl who alice's brother loved was told in a way to make her responsible for what the man in power did to her...


i think the reason i focused on quentin is that i am reading him as a stand in for the author and a stand in for the reader. it's just a guess, but i am expecting him to have his 3 minute epiphany of his own shortcomings in the last few pages, and to suddenly understand how sexist, ethnocentric &c. he is. and to realise he didn't appreciate his life, alice etc. i feel like we are being set up to be illuminated by his great wisdom of his journey.


[Name Redacted] I think I read Quentin as the author's attempt to substitute a normal, realistic person for the protagonists he believes are common to genre fiction. The problem, of course, being that normal, realistic humans are just as likely to be heroic, altruistic and moral (like typical genre fiction protagonists) as they are to be self-centered, miserable, and amoral (like Quentin & co.).

This is one of the major problems I have with the so-called "great literature" of the modern age -- it's not about capturing genuine human emotion or experience, even though the authors and critics pretend that it is. In reality, it's almost universally about wallowing in hyperbolic caricatures of human weakness and inadequacy, either because it makes the readers feel better about themselves by comparion or because it makes them feel justified for behaving as badly as they do. It's supposed to be enlightening, but it really just confirms the biases the readers/authors already have.


message 23: by Sarah (last edited Nov 22, 2011 06:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sarah Of course Quentin was a character that you could easily hate. I hated him too, but if literature is just supposed to have "likeable" characters then we're going to be creating very limiting books.

I don't think that Alice was a 50s housewife. She's intelligent, and yes, she's swayed by love--as are most people. I think we're afraid of not creating self-actualized female characters that are very physical and kick ass. Quentin is very vulnerable. He's weak. In every sense of the word Alice is a lot stronger than he is. And when he thinks she's not as intelligent as he is, he's proven wrong because she's been studying the entire time he's been partying. This isn't a celebration of Quentin. He gets really really screwed in the end when Alice dies. That's why he promises never to do magic again, because he just hurts people. It might also interest you that that the third book of the trilogy is from Janet's perspective--who isn't really described as a slut (Grossman actually stated that she's one of his favorite characters.) She's promiscuous, as is everyone else. Everyone in this book is probably unlikable. And that's what makes it strong.Quentin is just as petty, jealous and insecure as all the females. He's allegedly intelligent, but they're all socially stupid. That's the point. That's the classic nerd archetype.

I am interested though in what makes you think Janet is described as a "slut." Can you explain? (I'm genuinely curious.)

I understand where you're coming from. I have no tolerance for misogyny, and I agree that Quentin is a misogynistic piece of crap. But I don't think that weakens what this book is about (I wrote a review if you're interested.) Is Lev Grossman a total pig? He might be, who knows.

Also, in regards to the ethnocentrism: you realize that this was a criticism of anglophilia, not its glorification, right? Or did you mean some other kind of ethnocentrism? They go into Fillory, thinking it will be all great and sunshine and rainbows, and then they get effed up, because it's not this idealistic world that they imagined. (Which really, they would have know if they had read "Orientalism" by Edward Said.)But that's kind of the point.

I agree that Janet especially should have been more sympathetically portrayed, and that while Grossman has made a bunch of asshole characters irrespective of sex, the WAY they're assholes is gendered. Janet competes with Alice by having sex with Quentin. Alice gets back at Quentin by having sex with Penny. On one hand, this is probably more realistic due to the way women are socialized. But, Grossman does seem to accept this behaviour without interrogation and doesn't really criticize the structures that make this possible.

I know how it feels: Quentin has a very Hemmingway-esque way of looking at the world. He goes around, gets drunk, is existential and bored. But this works into what the novel is about (a critique of fantasy using the fantasy genre.)


Emilie Sarah wrote: "Of course Quentin was a character that you could easily hate. I hated him too, but if literature is just supposed to have "likeable" characters then we're going to be creating very limiting books. ..."

i have no wish to limit literature to characters that i like.

Everyone in this book is probably unlikable. And that's what makes it strong.

i don't think making everyone in a book unlikable makes a book strong. it just makes everyone unlikable.

He's allegedly intelligent, but they're all socially stupid. That's the point. That's the classic nerd archetype.

i don't think he is an intelligent person. i don't think he fits the "nerd archetype", this is not an issue of lacking social skills but of an utter lack of intelligence. he wouldn't last a week at the college i went to.

I am interested though in what makes you think Janet is described as a "slut." Can you explain? (I'm genuinely curious.)

mmm, i don't have the book anymore, but i think when quentin is getting to know the gang of 'physical kids', he introduces us to her, he describes her and calls her a slut(or some word to that effect).


Also, in regards to the ethnocentrism: you realize that this was a criticism of anglophilia, not its glorification, right?


i've already responded to this in my comments above.
(see message 19)
again, i think that this book is intended to be a meta commentary. i do not think it's effective or interesting and i think that grossman engages in the very things that he thinks that he is critiquing.


message 25: by Sarah (last edited Nov 22, 2011 09:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sarah Thanks for responding!

don't think making everyone in a book unlikable makes a book strong. it just makes everyone unlikable.

I think the point of the book though was that it was supposed to have these complicated characters who were all suffering their own personal drama, and therefore sought magic as an escape. In that sense I thought it made the book stronger. I'm one of those people that find unlikable characters more fascinating and engaging.

i don't think he is an intelligent person. i don't think he fits the "nerd archetype", this is not an issue of lacking social skills but of an utter lack of intelligence. he wouldn't last a week at the college i went to.

To be honest, I've met a lot of nerds like this. And maybe he wouldn't last a week at your university, but I don't go to half-bad institution, and if he's memorizing 25 languages and is brilliant at Math and could get into an ivy-league university, then I think he'd do fairly well...

again, i think that this book is intended to be a meta commentary. i do not think it's effective or interesting and i think that grossman engages in the very things that he thinks that he is critiquing.

I thought it functioned pretty well as a meta commentary actually. I guess I just want to know how you think he's engaging in the things he's critiquing, because I don't get that from him at all.

I don't want to use the "authority" card in this, but I'm a graduate student and I've been a Teaching Assistant in Women and Gender studies classes and my thesis focuses on gender etc., and so I figure when I read these books I'm going to know what to look for. I've read plenty of misogynist books, but in this case, I just don't see it, and I'd be really interested if you could pinpoint how he engages in the things he criticizes? I know that the characters are misogynists, but I would never assume that what the character believes is what the author believes.

I will, however, agree that there was one point when the book made me uncomfortable and that was when they had sex as foxes (it wasn't the fox part that bugged me.)

"He locked his teeth in the thick fur of her neck. It didn't seem to hurt her any, or at least not in any way that was easily distinguishable from pleasure...he caught a glimpse of Alice's wild dark fox's eye rolling with terror and then half shutting with pleasure...Her white fox fur was coarse and smooth at the same time, and she made little yipping snarls every time he pushed himself deeper inside her. He never wanted to stop."

I would say that would be a very male identified way of having sex, and the eroticizing of pain really really bothered me. Other than this scene though, I'm not sure I'm convinced that Grossman, as an author, is making a commentary that is misogynistic (other than the point above.)But of course, Quentin sees everything and relates it to women (when Bimby shows him his wings, when he takes off his shirt, it reminds Quentin of a woman unhooking her bra.) He is, without a doubt, a total pig.

mmm, i don't have the book anymore, but i think when quentin is getting to know the gang of 'physical kids', he introduces us to her, he describes her and calls her a slut(or some word to that effect).

I just looked at the chapter where the physical kids are introduced. Janet is described as loud, but that's about it. She also mentions how she hates Richard, one of the old Physical kids because she got "plenty of him," alluding to how they had a sexual relationship that went awry. I really don't remember her being described a slut. Maybe she is described that way at some point and I can't remember. It sounds like something she'd say about herself sarcastically...but I really doubt Quentin would call her that.

Anyway, thanks for responding!


message 26: by Matt (last edited Nov 22, 2011 09:35PM) (new)

Matt "I think the point of the book though was that it was supposed to have these complicated characters who were all suffering their own personal drama..."

Suffering from personal drama doesn't make a character complicated. There is nothing enherently deeper and more interesting about characters who are shallow, self-absorbed, hedonistic, petty, and foolish than characters who are none of these things. In fact, many of the most complex characters of literature are deeply struggling with things a bit more serious than feelings of insecurity, jealousy, or ennui. Indeed, I might as well admit my biases say that I think all the more complex characters of literature tend to be mostly above these childish shallow matters and they certainly don't wallow in them. It's like suggesting that the height of human depth is a bratty seventh grader. I mean the one great lesson of high school I learned was how ultimately uninteresting everything people in high school were interested in actually was.

"I'm one of those people that find unlikable characters more fascinating and engaging."

Honestly, why is that? I really don't get it. Is the White Witch more interesting than Lucy? Would Edward be more interesting than Lucy if Edward had remained a self-centered, jealous, decietful, little twit? Is Saruman deeper and more interesting than Frodo? Is Wormtongue more fascinating than Sam? As Tolkien fan, I often get absolutely boggled by people who are fascinated by The Mouth of Sauron as a character. Going a bit further afield, is Elinor Dashwood less interesting and less fascinating than John Willoughby? Why?

"I don't want to use the "authority" card in this, but I'm a graduate student and I've been a Teaching Assistant in Women and Gender studies classes and my thesis focuses on gender etc..."

Tolkien would say that when you start a sentence like that, you are lying to yourself (see my review of The Hobbit). In the future restrain yourself, because what counts as an authority card to you might not count as an authority card to everyone else. Much like name dropping Said except as a punch line to a joke, you are actually reducing your authority. I respect your opinion as a person far more than I respect your cultivated opinion as a graduate student in gender and women's studies who name drops Said as if everyone that is acquainted with just knows he is right. Like for example, my opinion is that Said is a blithering idiot respected in circles that practice drumming the critical thinking skills out of people.


message 27: by Matt (new)

Matt While I was reading this thread and responding to it, I couldn't get the following lyrics out of my head:

"So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from hell?
Blue skies from pain?
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cold breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
What have we found?
The same old fears
Wish you were here"


message 28: by Sarah (last edited Nov 22, 2011 10:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sarah Suffering from personal drama doesn't make a character complicated. There is nothing enherently deeper and more interesting about characters who are shallow, self-absorbed, hedonistic, petty, and foolish than characters who are none of these things

I didn't say they were "inherently" deeper. But it does make me interested in their motivations. They're more difficult to decipher. You know why Frodo's trying to destroy the ring, but why the hell is Wormtongue sleazy? I'm not going to only be interested in "pure" characters. I don't plan on limiting myself that way. I'm fascinated by all aspects of humanity--and part of our humanity is petty and shallow. These are things I think are worth exploring.

It's like suggesting that the height of human depth is a bratty seventh grader. I mean the one great lesson of high school I learned was how ultimately uninteresting everything people in high school were interested in actually was.

No, it's more like saying that bratty seventh graders are fascinating and are worth considering. I reject the idea that high school students are interested only in "uninteresting" things. They're all human and at different stages of development. These different stages are worth analyzing. I'm not going to pretend that because I'm older and allegedly wiser than a 7th grader that that makes my own personal journey more worthwhile. There's a reason why there's so much fantastic YA literature.

Indeed, I might as well admit my biases say that I think all the more complex characters of literature tend to be mostly above these childish shallow matter

You've also just admitted to your bias about children, when you automatically associate childish with shallow.

Tolkien would say that when you start a sentence like that, you are lying to yourself (see my review of The Hobbit). In the future restrain yourself, because what counts as an authority card to you might not count as an authority card to everyone else. Much like name dropping Said except as a punch line to a joke, you are actually reducing your authority.

I think you misunderstand my intention. I was trying to be polite and express the fact that while I'm normally on guard for misogynistic literature, which is due in part to my training, that I couldn't see it in this book. It wasn't trying to be authoritative. I was expressing ambiguity.

It doesn't matter to me if you respect my opinion more as an academic or not, because that wasn't the point. If you think I'm reducing my authority by expressing ambiguity then that's your problem. I don't pretend to be authoritative, disembodied or unbiased. I think expressing ambiguity can actually lead to greater discussion. So no, I won't "restrain" myself, which is, by the way, a highly patronizing thing to say.

I respect your opinion as a person far more than I respect your cultivated opinion as a graduate student in gender and women's studies who name drops Said as if everyone that is acquainted with just knows he is right. Like for example, my opinion is that Said is a blithering idiot respected in circles that practice drumming the critical thinking skills out of people.

Well then, if that's your opinion about Said (one that I obviously don't share) then don't assume I care about Tolkien. If you're going to try and tell me to not "name drop" Said and that somehow this magically reduces my authority(because you don't like him? If my authority is reduced by associating with people you don't like, then that's fine by me.) then don't try and borrow Tolkien's authority, as though I care about what he would say about how I introduced the sentence. And surely that name-dropping must reduce your authority too? I don't view Tolkien as infallible, and I think a lot of his literature is problematic (misogynistic, ethnocentric, racist...you name it.)I can't exactly say I admire the man.

But the thing is, I'm going to bring in other authors that I admire...and you will too. And there's nothing wrong that. If you want to respect my opinion more as a "person" rather than a grad student (as though I'm not a person when I'm a student) then go for it. But I assure you that my identity is so intertwined with what I study that it really makes no difference.


Emilie I don't want to use the "authority" card in this, but I'm a graduate student and I've been a Teaching Assistant in Women and Gender studies classes and my thesis focuses on gender etc., and so I figure when I read these books I'm going to know what to look for. I've read plenty of misogynist books, but in this case, I just don't see it, and I'd be really interested if you could pinpoint how he engages in the things he criticizes? I know that the characters are misogynists, but I would never assume that what the character believes is what the author believes.

this is a review of the book, not the author. it sounds like you are agreeing that all the characters, including the narrator, are misogynistic. to me, i don't think that just because something is engaging in meta commentary (or is claiming to be commentary or attempting to be) on sexism (or commentary on anything) in other people's books or anywhere outside of itself it gets a free pass for what goes on inside of itself. this book mimics the very things it claims to critique on a deep level. i don't find over 300 pages of mimesis an effective form of criticism.

i think we are using the word unlikable very differently. you are using the word unlikable as synonymous with complicated and suffering.
personally, i don't find these characters to be likable or complicated or suffering from anything other than boredom. i don't consider boredom a deep personal drama. i'm not interested in their boredom.
i agree with matt that suffering doesn't make a character inherently complicated. i also think that suffering and being complicated don't make a character inherently unlikable. i think that people and characters are much more complex than that.


message 30: by Sarah (last edited Nov 23, 2011 04:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sarah Thanks for responding again.

Well, I'm using the world unlikable also to mean that I would never want to associate with these people. But I did find them complicated, in the sense that they're suffering from something that's difficult to pin-point--and it's more than boredom. It's realizing that magic doesn't solve all your problems and that going to a magic school doesn't give life a sense of purpose. They're suffering from something that a lot of people would be unsympathetic with (they get to go to a magic school and have everything? Why are they constantly complaining?) So that makes them unlikable because they're spoiled and elusive, which means that I find them complex because their motivations are hidden behind a guise of snobbery and liquor. If you don't find that makes characters complicated than that's fine. To be honest, I think this comes down to reader preference.

this is a review of the book, not the author. it sounds like you are agreeing that all the characters, including the narrator, are misogynistic. to me, i don't think that just because something is engaging in meta commentary (or is claiming to be commentary or attempting to be) on sexism (or commentary on anything) in other people's books or anywhere outside of itself it gets a free pass for what goes on inside of itself. this book mimics the very things it claims to critique on a deep level. i don't find over 300 pages of mimesis an effective form of criticism.

I guess we disagree on the concept of mimicking. Because even though the main character's a pig, his arrogance destroys him by the end of it. He's horrible and gets his comeuppance, which really makes me hesitate to say that these are oppressive structures that are being replicated and glorified. He's sexist, arrogant and constantly looking for something more. He gets all of what he wants by the end of it, and it destroys him because he romanticizes adventure and far-off "exotic" places.

When I ask how the author is replicating oppressive structures...well, I thought you meant something other than the characters act in misogynistic ways. Characters act in misogynistic ways in novels by Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath (not that I'm saying that Grossman's on their level.) Is it because he's not engaging in specifically feminist commentary when he illustrates how many of our daily relationships are enacted? I can see how that can be frustrating, and might be interpreted as a tacit approval of the status quo. But I'm not sure I'm ready to take that away as the novel's message. Quentin is condemned by the end of it. I'm one of those people that does separate character personality from what the book is actually about. If I thought that the author was actually replicating gendered relationships because they're fun and he likes it that way, I would have tossed it aside. Really, the reason this book spoke to me was because Quentin is an ass, and he gets burned for it.

I'm not sure I buy that the book's "message" is misogynistic. I think that the relationships within the book are gendered and can be analyzed that way, and that these gendered relationships are part of Quentin's downfall.


message 31: by Shane (new)

Shane Sarah said I don't want to use the "authority" card in this, but I'm a graduate student and I've been a Teaching Assistant in Women and Gender studies classes and my thesis focuses on gender etc., and so I figure when I read these books I'm going to know what to look for. I've read plenty of misogynist books, but in this case, I just don't see it, and I'd be really interested if you could pinpoint how he engages in the things he criticizes? I know that the characters are misogynists, but I would never assume that what the character believes is what the author believes.

Hmmmm….Well, I have not read this book (yet), and I almost wish I had, so I could understand the conversation better-at least the parts that seem more relevant to the book itself…
The above comment is, well, I don’t really understand why You need to tell everyone that you have some greater authority to know what to look for than any other Goodreads reader/reviewer…This comment itself, the way it is written, if not the actual intent of your question that follows, seems to fly in the face of feminism…
I am saddened that as a graduate student, who is assisting in the teaching of students of feminism, that you are replicating the oppressive authority structure that is one of the goals and tenets of feminism. Your credentials do not earn you more ownership of how to read for feminist themes, than the credentials, of lack thereof, of another.
(and frankly, you appear to be making some huge assumptions, here, when you assume that perhaps the reviewer, and others here on this thread have not studied feminism at the graduate level…)

Sarah said I think you misunderstand my intention. I was trying to be polite and express the fact that while I'm normally on guard for misogynistic literature, which is due in part to my training, that I couldn't see it in this book. It wasn't trying to be authoritative. I was expressing ambiguity.

Sarah, I am confused by this comment… In what way were you expressing ambiguity, and what were you expressing ambiguity about?
Also, what do you mean by, you were trying to be polite ? What were you trying to be polite about?


Sarah said To be honest, I've met a lot of nerds like this. And maybe he wouldn't last a week at your university, but I don't go to half-bad institution, and if he's memorizing 25 languages and is brilliant at Math and could get into an ivy-league university, then I think he'd do fairly well...

Sarah, I think you missed emilie’s point…she is not saying that claiming to have these skills is not indicative of an intelligent person, or one who could have succeeded at Swarthmore (or an Ivy League); but, she is stating that the character continues to tell us how smart he is, rather than show us. She seems to find this irritating…and seems to prefer when authors use the “show don’t tell” approach. I imagine one reader’s dislike of this method, versus another’s is merely a matter of taste and choice. I think one of the very interesting things about novels is how each reader reads them differently, and how one reader finds certain elements to be very enjoyable, whereas the next is completely put off…I didn’t read her comment as not liking the nerds; I read it as she prefers her nerds to show her how ridiculously smart they are, versus telling her. My guess is the difference is they sound arrogant when telling, instead of being interesting, when showing.


message 32: by Sarah (last edited Nov 25, 2011 07:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sarah Hmmmm….Well, I have not read this book (yet), and I almost wish I had, so I could understand the conversation better-at least the parts that seem more relevant to the book itself…
The above comment is, well, I don’t really understand why You need to tell everyone that you have some greater authority to know what to look for than any other Goodreads reader/reviewer…This comment itself, the way it is written, if not the actual intent of your question that follows, seems to fly in the face of feminism…
I am saddened that as a graduate student, who is assisting in the teaching of students of feminism, that you are replicating the oppressive authority structure that is one of the goals and tenets of feminism. Your credentials do not earn you more ownership of how to read for feminist themes, than the credentials, of lack thereof, of another.
(and frankly, you appear to be making some huge assumptions, here, when you assume that perhaps the reviewer, and others here on this thread have not studied feminism at the graduate level…)


You need to re-read my comments. In no way have I assumed or stated (explicitly or implicitly) that I have greater authority than anyone else. In fact, I explicitly mentioned that I didn't pretend to have authority to Matt (and in my original post)--something you seem to have overlooked. I mentioned my studies because I was SURPRISED that I hadn't read it like she had. It was a comment about MYSELF, not about anyone else. I'm entertaining Emilie's comments because I'm genuinely interested in understanding her point of view. That's why I'm taking the time to speak to her. If I thought I was better/had more authority than her I wouldn't bother writing or commenting on this thread--something I would have thought obvious.

Furthermore, to say that I'm "replicating oppressive structures" by daring to mention my background is a load of crap. A basic tenant of feminism is that experiential learning is highly valued, and that people can't separate themselves from their own personal backgrounds. Your statement is inflammatory. You accuse me of replicating structures of oppression when you're telling me it's wrong to bring my own experiences into play--I can easily turn your accusation back on you, but I'm not going to because accusing someone you don't know of "replicating" anything, especially over a single paragraph that has apparently been interpreted many different ways is presumptuous and arrogant. You've decided to deride me without fully understanding what I've even written (you mention you're confused a couple of times--but still go one to make accusations before I clarify them for you), and worse, you've accused me of "replicating structures of oppression"--an accusation any feminist would find highly offensive.

Also, what do you mean by, you were trying to be polite ? What were you trying to be polite about?

Easy. I was being polite about my own ambiguity on the topic. I was expressing that, as a grad student, I was surprised that I didn't see what she was mentioning, when I expected to. I mentioned that I didn't want to use the "authority card" because I legitimately didn't want people thinking I was using authority to override them, but that this was my background and that I was surprised. I was being sincere when I said I didn't want to use "the authority card." Yes, someone on the internet was being sincere. The sentence was framed in a very passive way ("I suppose, could you?" etc. etc.) in an effort that people wouldn't get the wrong idea. It was an invitation to keep discussing and point out things that I might have missed. Unfortunately,some people seem to assume that as soon as anyone mentions education then that this is a form of elitism meant to dominate another person's "uneducated" views. That's crap. I don't subscribe to that, and the fact that you've accused me of doing this is a major assumption on your part.You see, I am not worried about presenting myself as infallible. I am willing to admit that I may not have considered all view points. You, on the other hand, have come in with guns blazing, accusing me that I'm "replicating structures of oppression" even though I've explicitly denied, multiple times, that I consider myself more authoritative than anyone.

Sarah, I think you missed emilie’s point…she is not saying that claiming to have these skills is not indicative of an intelligent person, or one who could have succeeded at Swarthmore (or an Ivy League); but, she is stating that the character continues to tell us how smart he is, rather than show us. She seems to find this irritating

No, I haven't missed her point--not the particular one I was addressing anyway. If she had found him annoying simply because he professed to be intelligent she would have said so (and she does, in her first post, but that's not what I'm responding to.) She said that "he wouldn't last a week" at her college (WHICH, I don't hesitate to add, is a way of using her educational background to form an opinion on the book. I didn't mention it, because I don't care and I wouldn't hold it against anyone. But apparently you've decided to only criticize me for some reason.) That means that not only does she find him annoying because the narrator keeps blathering on about how intelligent Quentin is, but that she doesn't find these claims true. I am addressing her claim that she doesn't think he's intelligent. Period.

However, I do agree that reading about how intelligent a person is versus showing it is a matter of reader opinion, but I was addressing a different point than this.


Emilie Anmras wrote: "I'm disinclined to listen to a review critiquing grammar that doesn't even bother to capitalize it's own sentences."

ahaha.
i'm pretty sure reviews can't capitalise their own sentences.


Emilie You need to re-read my comments. In no way have I assumed or stated (explicitly or implicitly) that I have greater authority than anyone else.

when you say "I don't want to use the "authority" card, but..." you are implying that you think that you have greater authority than others in the discussion. it's like saying, "i don't want to offend you, but..."

In fact, I explicitly mentioned that I didn't pretend to have authority to Matt (and in my original post)--something you seem to have overlooked. I mentioned my studies because I was SURPRISED that I hadn't read it like she had. It was a comment about MYSELF, not about anyone else.

you did not simply make a direct statement about your background.
if your comments were only about yourself, there would be no need to invoke a perceived "authority card". you'd just speak directly about your thoughts on the book.

you keep accusing other people of doing what you are doing. i am not surprised that you liked this book.


[Name Redacted] It's also possible to criticize/analyze something from a particular stance or perspective (literary, form, etc.) without presenting that stance as the objective standard by which all things SHOULD or MUST be judged.


message 36: by Sarah (last edited Nov 27, 2011 01:00PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sarah when you say "I don't want to use the "authority" card, but..." you are implying that you think that you have greater authority than others in the discussion. it's like saying, "i don't want to offend you, but..."


No, I'm not. If you're not even going to bother reading my words, especially when I explicitly stated and clarified something, then I'm not even sure why you're bothering to speak to me. Obviously you've made up your mind, completely independent of what I've said. If there is a misunderstanding and the original person has clarified what she originally meant, and then you say, "no", that's not what you meant, obviously I know what you mean, well, then that's called putting words in someone else's mouth. I decide what I mean. Not you. If you want to decide what I mean and totally disembody my words from their actual source, then go for it. If you want to focus on a short paragraph, and ignore the full responses clarifying that paragraph, then go for it. But understand that will, in turn, raise serious questions about how you approach discussions to anyone who might venture and find this review.

you did not simply make a direct statement about your background.
if your comments were only about yourself, there would be no need to invoke a perceived "authority card". you'd just speak directly about your thoughts on the book.


No. When I discuss topics I admit to my fallibility. This is how serious conversations occur. When I have a conversation with a self-professed feminist, I assume that person understands that opinions and experiences are situationally located. So I don't have a problem speaking about myself (and you don't either, as witnessed by when you brought up your college.)

you keep accusing other people of doing what you are doing.

That doesn't even make sense.

i am not surprised that you liked this book.

Now you're conferring moral judgement on me based on the books I like? Very mature. This is an ad hominum attack. Instead of trying to discredit my arguments, you're trying to discredit me by associating me with a book you don't like. That's makes about as much sense as me saying that I think you're wrong on this subject because you wear yoga pants. I am actually surprised that you'd stoop so low.

I don't know why you and your friends are obsessing over this, if you're trying to be trolls, or whatever. But you really need to get over it. It was a short paragraph, but for some reason, even after I clarified my position, you're refusing to take me at my word. If it doesn't matter what I say then why are you bothering to address me?

I wanted to have a serious conversation with you, but you're doing a very good job at refusing.


Emilie Ian wrote: "It's also possible to criticize/analyze something from a particular stance or perspective (literary, form, etc.) without presenting that stance as the objective standard by which all things SHOULD ..."

yes.


Emilie Sarah wrote: "when you say "I don't want to use the "authority" card, but..." you are implying that you think that you have greater authority than others in the discussion. it's like saying, "i don't want to off..."

"i am not surprised that you liked this book."
yeah, this was a silly thing for me to say.

...
in spite of the way you introduced yourself, i did think that you had a genuine interest in my thoughts on the book. i have answered your questions about my thoughts on the book. it is my take on the book. i didn't think we were having an argument about the book.

i am not interested in changing your mind (or anyone's) about this book. this book doesn't interest me that much. i don't see how you can say i have refused serious discussion.

But understand that will, in turn, raise serious questions about how you approach discussions to anyone who might venture and find this review.
is this intended as some kind of threat?


No. When I discuss topics I admit to my fallibility. This is how serious conversations occur. When I have a conversation with a self-professed feminist, I assume that person understands that opinions and experiences are situationally located. So I don't have a problem speaking about myself (and you don't either, as witnessed by when you brought up your college.)


i'm not a "self-professed feminist". i am a person who called a book sexist.
and i think that you keep on missing the point about the experience and the education. it's not that you brought your experience and education into the conversation, it's the way that you did it. and continue to do it.


message 39: by Sarah (last edited Nov 27, 2011 01:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sarah is this intended as some kind of threat?

How can I threaten you over the internet?? It's an observation. Everything we say is open for public viewing, and so I'm saying that fairness is probably a good investment.

i am not interested in changing your mind (or anyone's) about this book. this book doesn't interest me that much. i don't see how you can say i have refused serious discussion.

I thought we initially were having a good discussion before the serious tangent about "authority." I'm not looking to change your mind either. I was way more curious about WHY you thought that. It was a matter of curiosity.

i'm not a "self-professed feminist". i am a person who called a book sexist.

My apologies if you don't view yourself as a feminist. I just thought someone who say something so forward would identity herself as a feminist. That was an assumption on my part.

nd i think that you keep on missing the point about the experience and the education. it's not that you brought your experience and education into the conversation, it's the way that you did it. and continue to do it.

And I'm telling you there's nothing wrong with how I did it, and that I think it was misconstrued by you and your friends because of its negative connotations (connotations that I reject.) At this point, I think we have to agree to disagree.


Emilie thank you, elizabeth.


message 41: by Miriam (new) - added it

Miriam Sarah said I don't know why you and your friends are obsessing over this, if you're trying to be trolls, or whatever.

Maybe you are confused... this is in fact Emilie's review. That means if someone were being a troll, it would be you.


Sarah Maybe you are confused... this is in fact Emilie's review. That means if someone were being a troll, it would be you.

A person who is rude in his own house is still rude. Where the rudeness is said is irrelevant. Regardless, The obsession over this one paragraph is astonishing to me.

I haven't even spoken with you on this subject or book, and frankly, I'm not interested in perpetuating the tangent. If you need any clarification or have any questions you can read my previous posts.


message 43: by Adam (last edited Nov 27, 2011 04:03PM) (new)

Adam "Maybe you are confused... this is in fact Emilie's review. That means if someone were being a troll, it would be you."

Obvious troll is obvious.

edit: Cancel that. Upon further review it is obvious to me that this comment is actually brilliant. It has given me the final piece that proves my personal theory that god is dead. And the internet killed him/it/she. Congratulations. I'm going to make a million dollars.

Best Wishes to you all,

The Yellow Dart.


message 44: by Shane (new)

Shane I am feeling pretty ridiculous given that I am really starting to want to read this book, now, in order to have some better context for why/how some people have clearly so identified with it, that they have become so impassioned by it, so as not to be able to more calmly engage in discourse about it. (of course, I admit, that sounded very sexist…the truth is, I enjoy the passionate discussions; I just find it distasteful when the conversation moves from discourse about a book or an idea, to that of attacking people and name calling).

Sarah, if you are still reading the thread, I apologize for hurting your feelings; that was not my intent. I did not realize you would take my comments as a personal attack. (yes, this is another assumption of mine…perhaps you did not…but, either way, I am sorry, if indeed I did hurt your feelings).
To clarify, I continued to question your words (after your odd discussion with Matt), because I think words, and the way in which they are used, is very important, (which is likely part of the reason I am drawn to the books)
even if that is not your intent, that you continue to deny the impact of your words, as written, I continue to find very interesting...especially when your intent is not what is being discussed here, but rather the words themselves...
Personally, I like feedback on how my words are interpreted, because it is important to me that I continue to learn how I am perceived in the world.

As a side note, with regards to the ways in which we ALL continue to replicate oppressive patriarchal structures, I feel compelled to add that
I was not accusing you, in that to accuse means that I was finding fault with you, and blaming you, as of committing a crime…
I most certainly was not blaming you or suggesting that you had committed any sort of crime.
I do not hold you to higher standards than I do myself, or any other person, and we all (and by we all, I really am only referring to those people who have been raised in and live in the Western world) continue to replicate the patriarchal structures on a daily basis.
So, you, by virtue of your words (or, if you prefer to hear it this way then, by virtue of the title you hold within your university) engaged in a behavior that Does replicate an oppressive, patriarchal structure. Whenever we engage in the patriarchal dynamics of higher education (whether as an undergraduate student, graduate student, or professor), for example, we are continuing to replicate this oppressive structure. -We don't call it the ivory tower for nothing ☺
We can work towards ameliorating the oppressive nature of the system, but if we do so from within, we are still replicating the structure itself while we are engaged within it.

I do not know how any of us can honestly deny, given honest self-reflection, they do not engage in any such behaviors. Just because we are against something, does not mean that we don’t perpetuate it. If we were to look at the literature on racial inequality, we need only look at the evidence of microaggressions (see Sue 2010) to see that one’s intent, and what one disagrees with, does not necessarily prevent ones behavior form reflecting those ideas that one disagrees with…


message 45: by Shane (new)

Shane Okay, so now i am really confused...
is adam behaving as a troll, by making an inflammatory post on emilie's review?
or is emilie behaving as a troll, because her friends are apparently rude?
someone out there, please explain this to me, as I clearly do not understand how one acts as such


Eh?Eh! Or is Sarah being a troll for aggressive posting and taking offense when asked for clarification on her intent?

Or is no one being a troll since there's a specific definition, that I'm not sure is fully being met here?

Or am I a troll for posting this?



message 47: by Miriam (new) - added it

Miriam Dammit! I tried to find a good troll lolcat and failed. I do not have the google skillz of the Eh!


Emilie cool cat! love the buttons. i want a Bauer of a troll lady having tea in her own house (spilling it on her dress, i'm sure).


message 49: by Miriam (last edited Nov 27, 2011 07:32PM) (new) - added it

Miriam Did you by chance read D'Aulaires' Book of Trolls as a kid? I'm picturing the illustration of a troll lady stirring a pot with her long nose...


Emilie i haven't read that yet. i want to read the d'aulaires' books. they illustrated their own books, right? i am picturing....oh, i don't know how to link the images. do you know John Bauer's trolls? i can't find the exact one i want, but one of these, daintily sipping & not so daintily spilling tea.

http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lf4...
or
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia...


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