karen's Reviews > The Lover

The Lover by Marguerite Duras
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's review
Jan 03, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: i-joined-a-bookclub, littry-fiction

i found myself utterly muted by this book, which is problematic because the book club meets this friday, and they aren't going to be so dazzled by my bruschetta that i can get away with just hiding behind the tiny jewess and drinking their wine. so i have to think of something.

consulting the "reading group handbook" by rachel w. jacobsohn, bought for my final school assignment, i learn how to think about literature:

characters and story line: young french girl, older chinese man falling into bed and clinical love without names in indochina.

character's actions: she has poor unsatisfying home life, he has rich traditional home life. they bang. everything seems muffled by gauze.

reader's emotional response: unmoved. if the author's voice is going to be so removed, and the characters aren't going to feel anything particularly deep, why should i be expected to have emotions? it's like watching people fucking with a wall in between them, masturbating at each other. resentfully.

narrative: fragmentary, past/present conflation, surface-emotions only. short, poetic musings which are occasionally quite lyrical, but never caught at me.

oh, man, i have zero to say about it. i don't know - people love this book, but i am not one of them. wish me luck.

readers, thinkers and drinkers jan 2010.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 94) (94 new)


Okay. Not really. Me loves some brissette, but you're wrong. This is a good book.

karen no, i know. you love it, jewess loves it, i want to at least "like it" like it. it's just too... spare. but i liked some of her phrasings. does that bring it down to one middle finger at least?

remember there is a felty in the mail as we speak...

David I am waiting anxiously for yon felty. I shall tolerate your opinion in exchange for your friendship and kindness.

Fingers rescinded.

message 4: by Dave (new)

Dave Russell I wonder if she tolerates your friendship and kindness in exchange for your opinions.

message 5: by David (last edited Jan 04, 2010 11:37AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

David Awwww. Look, brissette. Your watchdog is marking his territory. That's sweet. Just watch where you step though.

Bram I agree with Karen about this book. I found it interesting in form and (to a lesser extent) in content, but I remained mostly unmoved.

message 7: by David (last edited Jan 04, 2010 11:59AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

David That's because you're a shell of a man, Wispelwey. (The Master wouldn't approve.)

But seriously... I don't think this is a particularly 'moving' novel... but then not every novel is moving. (Some are just bowel-moving, like John Williams' Stoner.)

message 8: by Bram (last edited Jan 04, 2010 01:30PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Haha, it's probably impossible for someone to love both Avatar and The Lover so I think it was a lost cause.

But I agree that books don't have to be moving to be good or even great. This one hasn't really stuck with me in any capacity though.

message 9: by Tenderine (last edited Jan 04, 2010 01:27PM) (new)

Tenderine My friend recommended this book for a great evening read... Now that I've read your review I have some doubts about the book. I hate to choose like that, still thanks for your review :)

karen if only david's review was still here for comparison...

Jessica Have any of you read 'The Sea Wall'? I liked The Lover, which I read first, but when I read The Sea Wall, which deals with the same material (and written earlier I think), I thought it much more moving.

Still, The Lover is like a poem.

Jessica It's one of the few books I've read in French and maybe that helps too. (The Lover)

karen hmm - that is not in print. here, anyway. i will ask my canadian book-grabber, bill thompson, to peel his eyes.

Jessica books by Marguerite Duras should stay in print. forever.

karen that makes me so jealous. i would love to feel the same. maybe the book club discussion and friendly-wine-feelings will turn me 'round.

Jessica So, Elizabeth: The Sea Wall? Did you read it?
(see 11)

Jessica Do you like Annie Ernaux?
Her first books were very good, I think I didn't like the later ones as much.

I once read nearly everything Duras wrote. It's been awhile.

message 18: by Jessica (last edited Jan 04, 2010 06:44PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jessica Don't know Assia Djebar's work, I'll look for her.
I liked 'Cleaned Out' a lot.
I also liked the story about her parents, I guess she did one book for each. (somewhere, pre-Goodreads, I have the titles written down).
Were the works in your class in French or in translation?
What else did you like?

message 19: by Jessica (last edited Jan 04, 2010 05:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jessica p.s. I'm glad my intuition vis-a-vis Ernaux proved right!

Jessica Djebar has written so many--what do you recommend?

Jessica merci, vous etes tres gentille

I'll look for Women of Algiers

what a syllabus! fantastique.

message 22: by Trish (new)

Trish Karen, you might try to rent the film The Lover. It was really sexy and beautiful.

message 23: by Trish (new)

Trish Just thought that since Karen didn't like the book, she may like the film. ? What didn't you like about the film?

karen i will pop it on my netflix - it is worth a shot.

message 25: by Trish (new)

Trish Okay. I thought that the film translated the book in a way that made it accessible to me. I thought the cinematography was exceptional. I also had trouble with the book, perhaps beacause of the premise--young girl old man, which, truth to tell, has always been a horror for me. I thought the film made it more understandable and palatable, and that sex scene with them in the doorway and on the floor was one that I will never forget. I will also admit it's been years and years since I've seen it, so I can barely remember. I just remember the visuals more than anything.

karen http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58...


for variations on the theme that might be less of a horror for you...

both good books, sez me, both utterly different in tone and import. ekaterina is truly wonderful and great pursuit is just a lot of fun.

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio karen wrote: "if only david's review was still here for comparison..."

You just don't understand the beauty of the sand mandala.

karen ha!

message 29: by Trish (new)

Trish Elizabeth wrote: "I think it's a matter of perspective on the film's ability to interpret the book. :-) "

Right. I think you are spot-on about Duras writing in the 'voice' of a sexually-awakening teen. I believe at the time it made my stomach roil to think of innocence surrendering to aged experience...bad memories, perhaps. But because the book was so well respected, when I saw there was a film, I thought I would try it again. I didn't care if the book was faithful to the book. I didn't even like the book.

karen but she seemed more detached from the intimacy than he did. she had more of the "power", if we have to discuss it in those terms. he wasn't the experienced elder seducing the wide-eyed girl. it was more like two damaged people finding each other regardless of age/race/class/appropriateness

message 31: by Trish (new)

Trish Yes, I think she did have power and control. But youth thinks they know things that they can't know...and so get into trouble. Yes, both damaged, and he perhaps even a little reluctant...believe me, the film wasn't "it's like watching people fucking with a wall in between them, masturbating at each other. resentfully."

message 32: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jan 05, 2010 10:20AM) (new)

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Trish wrote: "believe me, the film wasn't "it's like watching people fucking with a wall in between them, masturbating at each other. resentfully.""

Though what a film that would be...

I think I'd call that a terrifying film. Though in the right directorial hands it could be funny...

message 33: by Martha (new)

Martha A very entertaining review, and discussion. I was also impressed you actually used Rachel Jacobsohn's book. Very conscientious.

karen hahahhaa i'm a little nerdling.

message 35: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "I love Women of Algiers in Their Apartment! It is one of my favorite books of all time. It has the most wonderful opening."

OMG and me not able to buy any more books for the whole rest of the month.... //whimpers

message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

David, did we ever see a picture of the felty that karen sent you?

message 37: by C. (new) - rated it 3 stars

C. I had exactly the same problems. Book club and all.

David Montambo wrote: "David, did we ever see a picture of the felty that karen sent you?"

The disgruntled postal workers haven't delivered it yet.

karen i only mailed it on saturday. should get there soon though.

David I think those idiot mail carriers opened up my package and are playing with my felty! That sounds insanely euphemistic, I know...

Jessica it sure does. especially since I don't know what a felty is.

Jessica ah, it's that thing Deleted Member wanted so badly!!!

(she not only cooks, reads, writes top reviews, she makes felties! wow...)

message 44: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jan 06, 2010 06:05AM) (new)

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio David wrote: "I think those idiot mail carriers opened up my package and are playing with my felty! That sounds insanely euphemistic, I know..."

"Open ya up like a Christmas present!" (@ 2:27)

message 45: by Greg (new)

Greg Karen, discussing the book at a book group:

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Karen the Mighty Gesticulator!

karen that's why i got in trouble during my oral presentation... my hands do that when i talk... and have been drinking wine...

message 48: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jan 12, 2010 09:35PM) (new)

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio That's why quitting smoking is the devil's business. It makes for idle hands, which makes for more time to gesticulate.

karen oh man, even when i was smoking... i blinded so many people with lit cigarettes. all my friends wear eyepatches.

David Wow. Those pics look like stills from a Bergman film. I imagine that you were saying... 'Ingenting.'

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