A clunker. A very overwrought, YA-type story. All about a family that gets punctured by World War II; a wounded mother, a ruined father, and their misA clunker. A very overwrought, YA-type story. All about a family that gets punctured by World War II; a wounded mother, a ruined father, and their miserable son. Miserable son (Gustav) has a best friend, there's some light class tension and then a whole multi-decade jump thing.
My problem with it was that none of the characters seemed to have much of an inner life, at least no more than absolutely required to move the story together in the most dramatic way. Everything was too pat, fit together in a predictable way, all mysteries were eventually revealed. The book was bloodless and sterile and stuck on the page....more
This book is about the ways Ginzburg and her family talked growing up, highlighting and explaining the shorthand phrases that are co-opted into the shThis book is about the ways Ginzburg and her family talked growing up, highlighting and explaining the shorthand phrases that are co-opted into the shared vocabulary of a family. This simple concept is so unbelievably fruitful, as the phrases the (some of my favorites include her father dismissing innumerable things as 'nitwitteries,' or the shared joke among their family of saying 'lend me your gear,' rather than ear). These phrases have obscure origins - a childhood friend of her mother's cast-off utterance, something misheard, something an old boyfriend once said to a friend of hers. These little phrases take on shared valence as they become stories and connections shared among a family. In this way we learn the texture of her family and how they relate to each other with closeness and a fair measure of judgment.
Working around this concept, a fascinatingly light but grounded tone emerges to the narrative as it goes through the decades. The narrative tracks family and friends through a span of time that happened to include the rise of fascism in Italy, the exile of close family and friends, the death in concentration camps of many people including the author's husband, but by focusing on language and conversation, Ginzburg emphasizes the family unit as a whole, as it grows, fractures, is wounded, heals. This book ends up saying quite a bit about adaptation and what it actually felt like to live through those events as the author never describes hidden feelings or decision-making processes, but instead goes right to the way decisions were discussed, the angry or resigned reactions of her father, mother, or brothers.
One of my favorite books of all time, one I will reread and continue to think with. Highest recommendation....more
I mean, the reviews are right. The unevenness of this collection comes from its very nature - a set of daily ruminations on mundane topics - but it isI mean, the reviews are right. The unevenness of this collection comes from its very nature - a set of daily ruminations on mundane topics - but it is satisfying. As we learn about the world, we organize our knowledge around certain topics. Knausgaard excavates these categories, connecting physical description, instructions for use, and personal history. This is a personal project, and while some of the reflections skim the surface, some chapters, such as the ones on adders and gum, bring together those three aspects in a really affecting way.
If you love Knausgaard, you'll like this. If you sort of like Knausgaard, you'll dislike this. If you don't know Knausgaard, read My Struggle: Book 1....more
Wills' politics are totally on point in this remarkably readable representation of the tremendous variety of experience of immigrating to Britain in tWills' politics are totally on point in this remarkably readable representation of the tremendous variety of experience of immigrating to Britain in the third quarter of the 20th century. Rather than boil down to abstraction or statistics, which in the case of immigration can be laughably meaningless, Wills foregrounds with extensive stories and anecdotes taken from archival sources, which gives a robust picture of these processes as they were lived.
Wills emphasizes the subjective experiences of immigration, showing us their vantages; their hopes, aspirations, fears, disappointments. She also takes care not to normalize rootedness, she doesn't take the tempting assumption that Britain is a settled place and immigrants are being somehow added in, or on. Rather she takes these accounts at their word, showing us the true dynamism of racial formation and adaptive resettlement strategies....more