It has been awhile since I wrote a book review. Writing reviews was my escape from course work and the slog of writing my dissertation. Well, dissertaIt has been awhile since I wrote a book review. Writing reviews was my escape from course work and the slog of writing my dissertation. Well, dissertation complete, properly hooded, and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life (for now, I chose not to enter academia), I found creating a new life takes a tremendous amount of time, worry, fear, and instability. I often felt like I was fast approaching the edge of a cliff, and, no matter how hard I fought to turn and run the other direction, the edge kept coming closer and closer. I continued to read but with no stomach for pushing myself to use my voice - to exercise it and make it stronger. Instead, I developed an uncertain voice that kept squeaking with frustration and potential failure. Then to my profound surprise, once I peeked over the edge of the cliff I discovered the drop was only a few, manageable feet. I believe I scrambled safely down the side of the unknown finding solid footing within a pleasant valley.
What has any of my story have to do with a review of The Amateur Marriage? Well, having never been married I feel my approach and subsequent scramble down the cliff was as close as I come to relating to Michael and Pauline, the protagonists of Anne Tyler's The Amateur Marriage- two WWII era kids who jump off a cliff into marriage and spend a great deal of time, worry, fear, and instability in an effort to come to a feeling of solid footing. And that search for reliability is the best I can do in terms of a fair and supportive review for this book.
I realize I've no idea what I am talking about when I talk about a good marriage never having been married. Yet, I feel I have been around enough people to get an idea of what a good, mediocre, or bad relationship looks like. The relationship of Michael and Pauline Anton is (was?) a bad relationship. I found myself getting incredibly mad at the characters for simply not learning to be friends, blinded by their enormous striving to "be married" within ideas of what a marriage should be (both individuals holding different ideas of marriage, ideas they never shared with each other, choosing to push each other to frustration and anger). And, do not get me started on the topic of the daughter, Lindy! The result was an aggravating story that brought me much too much discomfort for empathy.
And yet, the lack of empathy I felt, the overwhelming sense of frustration at the story, is perhaps the best compliment I offer to the author, Anne Tyler. Taking a step out of the story, I realize Tyler brought me into the story completely - solid footing, however discomforting, within the pleasant literary valley. I do not know if there is a better compliment to an author. Is there one? I lost myself in the frustrated lives of Michael and Pauline. That is good storytelling and why Tyler is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning author....more
Reading 'Hillbilly Elegy' (Vance, 2016), based on Vance's theoretical perspective, I see why working class, White Trumpians worship a juvenile, hyper-Reading 'Hillbilly Elegy' (Vance, 2016), based on Vance's theoretical perspective, I see why working class, White Trumpians worship a juvenile, hyper-masculine, junk-food-consuming, tv character who takes, never gives his all to anything, and plays victim. And, probably most telling in my point of view, I see why he represents the Middletown, Ohio, ideal that one does not have to work hard or take responsibility for one's own choices to achieve everything. I feel Vance's reason may extend an explanation for upper-class, White Trumpian devotion (though Vance does not himself extend such an explanation): that there is the ideal that at a certain socio-econmic level, everything should just be handed to one and fiercely protected for privileged consumption whether or not consumption is deserved or earned.
I do not know if I agree with all of Vance's thesis. He is admittedly a conservative strongly promoting boot-strap mentality positing if he made it with hard work so should everyone else -- a perspective my bleeding, liberal heart rails against. Still, I find myself agreeing with him that policy can only help so much if there is no communal structure willing to help itself. I also find myself shaking my head in agreement that there exists a certain reasoning among some working class that preaches a good sermon on hard work but expects everything handed to them. (To be fair, I also scowl at the secure class who espouse the beauty of liberal meritocracy but establish, maintain, and protect classist socio-economic systems doing nothing to advance anyone based solely on merit.) Vance speculates some of this comes from hopelessness. I am only willing to extend that speculation as far as the outcome of the 2016 election that brought an idol into the White House that defies common sense. They elected someone who will do nothing to help anyone but himself hoping their idol will certainly do something in their favor. I think the question is what is that favorable something? I remain perplexed by a lack of plan I find in the Trump cause beyond inflicting chaos. Still, chaos may also explain what we witness today. Chaos plays a prominent role in Vance's thesis explaining the struggle of people living in chaos is they do not have the ability to make choices to escape the chaos....more
This young reader book is profound in its message toward youth as well as adults. From the outset, the book drives"Hello? How about the women?"(p.6).
This young reader book is profound in its message toward youth as well as adults. From the outset, the book drives the point that women are not mentioned in the history of the making of the United States, not because they did not act, but because they simply were not written about. Black, Native American, and White, women rode farther than Paul Revere; were the impetus for the strength of the boycott against English tea and merchandise (not afraid to tar and feather traitors to the cause); wrote pamphlets, newspapers, and inspirational lyrics; and followed men to the front lines and dressed in men's clothing to take up arms fighting bravely, suffering injury, freeing prisoners of war, nursing the wounded, burying the dead, and carrying secrets. And, their service was once acknowledged! George Washington recognized African slave Phillis Wheatley for her famous poems of the Revolution, and called the women who cooked and cleaned for soldiers "Women of the Army." Women earned military pay and military pensions, and were renowned for fighting off enemy troops. Yet, only the great men of the Revolution earned their names in print. Anderson knows the way to rectify this is to start digging through our own family histories for the truth. The dedication of the book leads the charge. It reads, "Dedicated to my Revolutionary grandmothers," listing the author's own 22 mothers of the Revolution....more