**spoiler alert** I realise how unpopular this opinion is but it has to be said. Y'all are sick. Sick sick puppies. SICK I TELL YOU. I do not love the**spoiler alert** I realise how unpopular this opinion is but it has to be said. Y'all are sick. Sick sick puppies. SICK I TELL YOU. I do not love thee, little sick murdering Mary Katherine. I hate you. I really hate you, just like those low class villagers you hate so much (really, y'all, do you not SEE the class discourse in this book?) For those of you who find the vile psychopath Mary Katherine - no I'm not going to give her the cutesy name Merricat - charming and delightful and the book 'delicious' - YOU ARE SICK. You need to have a good hard look at yourselves.
Now don't get me wrong. Shirley Jackson is a terrific writer. I love The Haunting of Hill House - there's an unreliable narrator who works brilliantly. And We Have Always Lived in the Castle is beautifully written. But I'd never read it again and those who love it should find it WAY more disturbing than you do. This is not a comfort read, JFC, what is wrong with you people? Let's go over this. Mary Katherine is a vile class-obsessed psychopath who hates the local villagers because they're low-class and vulgar enough to object to living near a family that contains a MASS MURDERER who has gone unpunished. Yeah, I'm with the villagers on this. I wouldn't feel comfortable being around these criminal nutters either. The Blackwoods are psychopathic local gentry who despise the unlanded grubby hard-working locals, who slightly redeem themselves at the end by humbly supplying food to the parasitic sisters who now 'live on the moon.' Dear Gods.
Let's look at this, shall we? Mary Katherine poisons her entire family except for older sister Constance, who waits on MK hand and foot like a parody of a down-trodden 1950s housewife - this relationship shows some real subtlety in Jackson's writing - I think she knows what she's doing here - and by the end of the book Constance's absurd indulgence of her demon-seed sister is starting to look like captive terror - as it should. Poor enabling sick little Constance, who doesn't seem to spare a thought for her dead little brother, dead aunt, dead mother and father, though she clearly feels a little guilty about poor Uncle Julian who got a bit of the arsenic and has been suffering ever since. MK poisons her mother and father. She poisons her aunt. AND SHE POISONS HER TEN YEAR OLD BROTHER. He's TEN. And that's fine somehow with all of you people who love this book. A ten-year old child.
Now here is where I blame Jackson as the writer of this book - she's stacked the deck by giving us nothing of those who died. We have some possible sense that the father is very controlling, especially around food and is not a nice man. The mother retreats into her beautiful drawing room but aside from that...nothing. But of the surely innocent aunt and the ten year old brother, nothing, no memories, no images, not a one. Because then the game would be up and the novel would fall apart. Just one image of a ten year old child and MK would be revealed as the horror she is.
What really gets me about this is how sentimental readers are about, say, dogs. If a dog is killed in a book people carry on and throw the book across the room. Oh no, I will not have dog abuse they screech. But to murder a ten year old kid, that's just fine and dandy by everyone. SMH. I think there's quite an interesting possible reason for why my experience of reading this is so out-of-kilter with most other reviewers though and it was raised over at the Misandrist Book Club by Maddie Howard - http://www.xojane.com/entertainment/s... and that is that so many people read this as adolescents themselves. They naturally take on the self-obsessed and self-justifying POV of the adolescent, with all the lack of empathy that entails. They identify with the 'special' MK because all adolescents think they're special and misunderstood by vulgarians. This book is a more Gothic version of Catcher in the Rye, really, and if you read it in middle age and as a parent, you can't just set your horror aside and find MK charming. She's not. She's horrid.
This review at Tor by Emily Nordling puts it in an interesting perspective: 'Unsettling and funny as Merricat Blackwood can be, though, readers shouldn’t let her unique voice distract them from her position. Wealthy and from an old, established family, Merricat’s hatred of the villagers is in huge part class-based. She describes them as gray and colorless, as a faceless mob, as dirty and undignified. Then there’s cousin Charles, a character who is comically deplorable in his greed and obsession with the Blackwood fortune. Charles is the very caricature of a modern capitalist, compared to the out-dated, “un-materialistic” family prestige the Blackwoods hold.' http://www.tor.com/2016/12/13/poor-st...
I'll just conclude by saying I really object to seeing this book as feminist in any way. Just, no. MK exploits her sister ruthlessly. It's a good book and Jackson's writing has some subtlety to it but I did not find this enjoyable. I still love The Haunting of Hill House and will seek out her other novels though....more
I should give this book five stars for the poems I really loved, such as Lucretius the Diver. Wonderful poem. But there were quite a few poems I loathI should give this book five stars for the poems I really loved, such as Lucretius the Diver. Wonderful poem. But there were quite a few poems I loathed, mostly his ones to do with women - Bring me the Sweat of Gabriela Sabatini being one of the most egregious examples, in which he drools over the female tennis players he finds hawt and dismisses those he doesn't such as Martina Navratilova. He seems to have zero awareness that women might have any value beyond whether he finds them sexaay despite the fact he is no Chris Hemsworth himself and most if not all the women appearing in the book except his wife are much younger and evaluated solely on their looks. Even thirteen year old girls are not spared an evaluation of their breast development while he's musing on the safety or otherwise of his daughters from serial killers. Jesus H, Clive. On the other hand I quite like his poems about the passion of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. His egotistic self-flagellation over his cruelty to his wife is, frankly, nauseating. But his good poems are so very good; they are worth sifting through the dross for....more
I ended up really enjoying this book. I do not agree with reviewers who label this book as stream-of-consciousness, using that term as if it meant pouI ended up really enjoying this book. I do not agree with reviewers who label this book as stream-of-consciousness, using that term as if it meant pouring words artlessly onto the page which is not what Panthers does at all; rather I think the book performs stream-of-consciousness but reveals itself to be highly structured, spiralling through its themes and deepening them as it goes. I did struggle a bit with the first twenty pages; the seeming lack of structure made it hard for me to remember where I was and I often re-read passages. I like the long sentences; it was the long paragraphs that made it hard for me to grasp. This is not, however, a criticism, more just a recognition of the work I had to do to follow the book's method. Every novel teaches you how to read it, as James Wood says, and I think it's a shame some readers abandoned it at the moment the style would have taken hold, into what another reader described as a walking meditation, a thought I also had. We don't give novels very long these days to set out their wares, to teach us how to read them; instead we expect to come to them already knowing how to read them which will lead to the endless flow of formulaic work we are seeing on the market now. I don't think twenty pages is enough of a fair go.
Once things started falling into place I flowed through the book like the boat sailing over water that the author uses as a metaphor for writing at one point. Suddenly I was able to keep everything in my head and I fell into the rhythm of the prose. It was especially enjoyable for me as there was so much I could relate to, living the writerly life in the writerly place that the narrator yearns for - the Blue Mountains - and knowing every step the character takes in that part of the city and sharing so many of the experiences. How this novel would affect a reader who has not shared any of that experience I do not know but I don't see why it wouldn't work in some of the same way that Knausgaard does; after all I haven't shared any of the experiences of his narrator.
I loved the reflections on writing and also loved the reflections on books and reading, the peculiar despair of the book lover who can never read all the good books and is disappointed by so many books and oppressed by the enthusiasms and recommendations of others - this reminded me both of Orwell's thoughts on the pleasures of buying second-hand books and of course the wonderful passage near the beginning of Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveller about the serried ranks of books lying in wait for us in every place and around every corner.
Thank you, Jen Craig. I found this book inspiring to the writer in me, just as your narrator found the eponymous manuscript inspiring to her self as a writer....more
Wonderfully passionate, engaged, lucid and knowledgeable book. Australian literature is lucky to have such a supportive and incisive critical presenceWonderfully passionate, engaged, lucid and knowledgeable book. Australian literature is lucky to have such a supportive and incisive critical presence....more