Books I Loathed discussion

Loathed Titles > The Red Tent

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

We read this for our reading group several years ago. The others loooooved it. It struck ME as quasi-porn chick lit trying to sneak by as historical fiction. All that moaning about how wonderful Joseph or Jacob or whatever his name was, was in bed. All the battling and jealousy amongst the women over this guy. Then, to make it a "serious work of fiction" detailed explanations of why it's called the red tent (wouldn't want to waste any of that research). Okay, I admit, I quit reading after 90 pages, but please, there are thousands genuinely good books out there, why would I waste hours of my precious life finishing this thing.

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm glad that helped. After posting it I thought it sounded a bit harsh - I try not to be TOO critical of books - but darn, this one brought out the irate reader in me.

message 3: by Xysea (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:41AM) (new)

Xysea  (xysea) i'd never even heard of

which is probably a good thing. from your description, it's bound to irritate me, too.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

If you've never heard of it just keep walking past it at the bookstore. You're not missing a thing... IMHO :-)

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Sherri - You're right, there's nothing wrong with expressing an honest opinion. I don't always trust my judgment, especially when so many other people rave about a book. Which is ironic since I hate being a sheep! Hmmm, perhaps I too a need to set up a used book box near a wall...

By the way, which book did you toss in the recycling bin?

message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 25, 2007 07:32PM) (new)

Poor Jane Austen. Does anyone try to copy Shakespeare... on purpose? Without intending to be funny? Probably not. So why poor Jane? Anyway.

My excuse for reading A&D to the end is that I love Italy. Beyond that I've got nothin'. The premise of the book was flawed from the beginning so there was no reason to keep reading. But I did. Sigh.

I've read only one book by Ursula Le Guin - the first in the Wizard of Earthsea (is that right?) series. Unfortunately I didn't like it much. Seemed very rushed to me, like everything was on fast-forward. The characters felt undeveloped and the action jumped from one moment to another with no connection. It struck me as a bit odd. The only explanation I have is that it's a young adult book and she didn't want the story to bog down. On the bright side, of all the replies my review got, ONE said it was helpful.

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Ah yes, I've heard of The Left Hand of Darkness. A classic. Is this considered science fiction or fantasy?

So tell me, Sherri, what did you think of The Beginning Place? ;-) I don't suppose there's anyway to explain the ending that got you to WRITE IN CAPS.

Going porno? Do you meant that literally, as in her books are became more sexual? The reason I'm asking is because I read a couple of her short stories and both centered around sexual themes and both were, as I recall, rather graphic. I think it's part of the reason why I've been avoiding her books. I thought they'd be similar. (Side note: the same reason why I quit reading Laura K. Hamilton's vampire series. It started out great. It had a great premise and fun characters, then it de-evolved into porn, pure and simple. Too bad. The series could've been good.)

Anyway, the next time I head to the library, I'll see if they have TLHOD.

message 8: by Christine (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Christine Man, I am happy that I stumbled across this discussion of "The Red Tent" when I did, because I was just about to read it. I have been looking for a good novel, and surfing around on GoodREads showed me that "The Red Tent" seems to be a favorite, I like historical fiction, so I figured, why not? But after poking around this group and finding that I agreed with all the negative opinions about books I HAD read, that your pooh-poohing of the Red Tent was probably totally valid. That and I saw it on sale at Target, which is never really a good sign for a piece of literature.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Oh, PoMo!! Big difference :-) Now it makes sense. I kept looking at it and wondering "how does porno tie into the rest of the post? maybe it's not supposed to, maybe it's a stand-alone comment." Turns out it's not. Heh.

Anyway, I see what you're saying. That seems to be the problem with a lot of fiction today, especially literary fiction. I read, several times, a little book called The Reader's Manifesto by B.R. Myers. He makes excellent points about why so much of today's literary fiction is crap and why readers are browbeaten into believing by critics that this stuff is good. We're lead to believe that we're unable to make intelligent decisions about what is good fiction and what isn't. Perhaps to a certain degree they're right but that doesn't mean that what THEY'RE trying to sell us is any better. It's a good little book that I refer to every once in a while when another "literary masterpiece" hits the shelves and I want to remind myself how to determine if it really is good.

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

You're very welcome! :-)

message 11: by Vanessa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:44AM) (new)

Vanessa | 42 comments I'm probably a bit late for the party on this one, but I just joined the group and thought I'd add my two cents.

I had to read "The Red Tent" for a book club I was in a few years ago. I agree with an earlier post that decribes it as chick-lit masquerading as historical fiction. It also seemed to be two different books - one set in the desert with Jacob, biblical super-stud, and his wives; and the other one set in ancient Egypt. There were all sorts of things I hated about this book, including:

1. Descriptions like how everyone loves Rachel because she smells like water. What kind of water - pond water? Dishwater? Bilgewater - like this book?
2. The ritual stuff with the onset of menstruation - perhaps my memory is playing tricks with me, but I seem to recall a weird segment with a dildo carved out of stone that sounded like some Tantric-drumming-circle workshop in the mountains that a co-worker described to me years ago. If this segment was historically accurate, well then all I can say is "them was the bad ol' days."
3. The episiotomy scene.
4. The latter portion of the book, where the main character (Dinah?) has gone to Egypt, gets a job working for the Pharoah, gives her baby to him and his wife to raise as their own - then all of a sudden we gallop forward and her kid is grown up and she's only vaguely regretful that he never knew she was his mother then marries some Egyptian dude and is the local midwife, using all that great knowledge gained in the red tent - the rest was so boring and unmemorable that I confess I have indeed forgotten it.

Overall, this book felt a bit like "Daughter of Fortune", set in some historial period where the women suffer, suffer, and suffer some more until the end, when tempered by their miserable experiences, they live happily ever after dilivering babies or healing people with Chinese medicine. I suppose real life is sometimes like that, but (in the case of this novel) it is also more interesting.

message 12: by Bronwyn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Bronwyn | 29 comments Call me lame but I loved The Red Tent. I thought Diamant had a beautiful voice. I also loved Daughter of Fortune. Isabelle Allende is an amazing author. Yeah...

message 13: by Summer Rae (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Summer Rae Garcia | 45 comments I liked it too.

message 14: by Esther (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:16PM) (new)

Esther (eshchory) Sherri I love your definition of PoMo.

I encounter these literary type who rave about the latest novel and when I read it I'm left feeling 'So what'
Often the writing style can be good, at least for short bursts, but they have little plot and the characterizations leave you disliking most of the protagonists.
I think PoMo should be restricted to short stories by law. It is a style much more suited to that format and then decent people, like you and me, would only have to suffer for 50 rather than 350 pages.

message 15: by Esther (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:16PM) (new)

Esther (eshchory) The Red Tent is on my 'Books against the wall' list.

Why is it empowering if the women are subjugated but enjoying it? Why does the only truly strong women in the book, Rebbecca, have to be such a b*tch? Why when women rape a minor during an initiation ceremony does it suddenly become acceptable because it's 'ethnic'?

I detested this book and apart from the bad writing and storytelling objected to the way it represented women as a sex.

Worst of all I read this book because I was going to a lecture about 'Feminism in the Bible' based on it and was the only one out of about 2 dozen women who didn't think it was inspiring!!!

message 16: by Skylar (new)

Skylar Burris (skylarburris) | 32 comments Didn't like it much at all.

Her male characters are largely flat, stereotypical, and unnecessarily negative. In the Bible, the characters of Jacob and Joseph are more well-rounded; they are humans with both faults and virtues, moments of greatness and of pettiness. In Diamant’s novel, we largely see only one side to these men--the downside. We never get any sense that they are worth caring about, that there is any emotion within in them that we, as readers, can relate to. The narrator states that Jacob was devastated by Joseph's reported death, but we have no reason to believe it, since the author has neither developed nor depicted any love or affection between them. Although Diamant seems to be developing something interesting in the nature of Judah, she quickly drops the matter.

The author unnecessarily, I believe, alters some segments of the Biblical narrative. She even suggests that the significant, divine naming of Israel (a true milestone in the Jewish story) was nothing more than Jacob's cowardly choice to change his name so as not to be associated with the slaughter in Schechem. When Rachel steals her father's household idol in the novel, Jacob seems both to know and yet not to care (at least for a long time). In the Bible, however, he thinks no one among him has taken it, and he basically says, "If anyone took it, let him die," in effect unknowingly cursing his beloved wife, who does die later in childbirth. Had Diamant not altered this point, it might have made for some wonderful pathos in the novel.

Despite being written by a Jewish author, The Red Tent is in many ways an expression of a growingly popular modern neo-paganism, which incorporates the myth of the universal, goddess/Mother, feminist ideology, and a sort of body/self worship. I don't complain that Anita Diamant made some of the characters pagan; it is clear from the Bible that many early pre Israelites were, and of course, the Israelites themselves were always sliding back to idol worship. But in The Red Tent, Jacob appears to be the only monotheist in the world (and even his monotheism is on shaky grounds). What is more, polytheism almost seems to be portrayed as a healthy, feminine alternative to the somewhat deranged patriarchal religion of Jacob's fathers (an idea that does not comport too well with the actual historical treatment of women in cultures that embrace polytheism and goddess worship).

message 17: by Liz (new)

Liz (liosaidh) | 9 comments I'm with Bronwyn. I loved the book.

But, I guess that's why it's posted in "Books I Loathed." :-)

This may seem like a random question, but how many of you who hated the book have sisters?

message 18: by Emily (new)

Emily (cosmicvagabond) Lots of women told me to read this book and I was expecting some mind-blowing hit, but instead I got a book that was a little more than luke warm. Perhaps if the expectation had not been there, I might have enjoyed it more. It certainly wasn't a bad book at all. The height of the story was probably the slaughter, but it contained a lot of elements still relevant to today's society and the differences between men and women. It's worth the read, though disjointed at times.

message 19: by Marsha (new)

Marsha | 4 comments I read this book a long time ago and mostly only remember I really didn't like it. Lianna, I have two sisters, one six years younger and one twelve years younger--four brothers are scattered in there. I have always loved them and gotten along with them very well. They even lived with me after I was married--one for many years. I am only mentioning this because I am wondering where Lianna is going with her question and I thought a little background would help.

message 20: by Lena (new)

Lena I also had expectation problems with this book. I'm not a huge historical fiction fan to begin with, but I was sucked in by the prologue. Diamant's voice was so very compelling in that section; it was written with a depth and clarity that promised real wisdom. But the book devolved almost immediately into a story that was passably interesting but lacked that rich, powerful voice. Oh, well.

message 21: by Skylar (last edited Feb 11, 2008 08:07AM) (new)

Skylar Burris (skylarburris) | 32 comments "This may seem like a random question, but how many of you who hated the book have sisters?"

I don't, and I've generally found men to be interesting conversation partners and company, on average, than women. That could be partly why I loathed the book; I'm just not the type of woman who's cut out for all this ya ya sisterhood of the bloody rag stuff.

message 22: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) Okay, I haven't read the book so perhaps I shouldn't weigh in, but I do have 2 sisters and it sounds like a book I'd hate...or at least not like...because all this ya ya sisterhood stuff does not speak to me in the least ...even though I find my women friends as interesting in conversation as my men friends (but maybe I choose friends --male or female--based on their conversational skills?)

message 23: by Letitia (new)

Letitia Wow...Ya ya sisterhood of the bloody rag? It is no wonder that women were able to let centuries of patriarchy go by if this is really the kind of attitude we take.

I am offended by your reference to what was, very true, a sisterhood, but one founded on the experience of mutual repression. You have the blessing to live in an age where we can have both male and female friends, and I have several close friends of both sexes, but such has not always been the case.

This book was a lovely illustration to me - whatever criticism you may have about the narrative quality - of a woman's eventual realization that she did not need the disinterested approval of her male superiors, but that she had become who she was because of this "sisterhood of the bloody rag," which celebrated womanhood rather than debasing it and apologizing for it.

message 24: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) Well I will read the book--eventually--just to see what I think of it (and try not to post any more on books I haven't actually read...)

message 25: by Victoria (last edited Feb 12, 2008 09:18AM) (new)

Victoria (athenanike01) | 5 comments I read a bit of the novel and intensely disliked it.

I realized that just having menses didn't make me a woman. And those menses are not my justification, nor are they my sole point of relationship to other women. I have often found that conversation in a larger group of women is deadly boring - no, I don't want to talk about child-rearing or how brilliant by 2 wonderful step-children are (I know they are, I don't need to advertise it), or how terrible/wonderful/etc my husband is, or about incipient menopause.

I want to talk about books, and ideas, and politics, and travel, and the world. I find that so often women seem to limit themselves to the red tent, as it were, and don't look up and beyond the door-flap. We and our children and husbands/partners would benefit so much from us looking beyond the tent.

Guess you can tell that I'm not much for chick-lit


(PS - I do have a wonderful sister!)

message 26: by Andi (new)

Andi I have to say I liked it, too. I was had fun with an account - ANY account - of the life & times of the bible from the woman characters' perspective. I didn't even really care how historical it was. It was just kind of fun being on the other side of the curtain - like Mirror Mirror or Wicked.

message 27: by Andi (new)

Andi Victoria - oooh! I like that: "limit themselves to the red tent."

As to the question of sisters, I have sisters but no sisterhood. I was born much later than they; but they have a definite bond And so do a lot of sisters I know. It seems to be a different kind of bond with brothers. So I guess there is something to that.

Maybe that's another reason why I liked the book, because the portayal of the bond/sisterly competition was fascinating, also.

message 28: by Skylar (last edited Feb 12, 2008 03:56PM) (new)

Skylar Burris (skylarburris) | 32 comments Letitita, please do not take it as a personal offense that this book, with its stereotypical characters and uninspiring writing style, failed to move me personally. In referring to the ya ya sisterhood, I was saying, in a flippant and shorthanded way, something I probably should have drawn out:

I do not relate well to the entire concept of sisterhood feminism. Perhaps the women in this book escape defining themselves by the "approval of male superiors," but they do so only by defining themselves almost exclusively by their femininity, by defining themselves as part of a collective ("the sisterhood") instead of as real individuals. They do not relate to men as human beings; indeed, the men in this book are barely human beings at all; they are, as seen through the lens of the "sisterhood," flat male stereotypes.

If women are somehow fulfilled by having domestic conversations and sharing one another's pain while segregated behind the flap of the red tent as the men outside continue to rule the world, then good for them. It is something, I suppose, in a time when they had nothing. But I cannot relate to it.

Yes, I am lucky not to have lived in such a time, but I doubt that the time was quite like the author has portrayed it to be either. I doubt that the "sisterhood" existed in quite the way she imagines it or that the red tent somehow "empowered" women in the midst of their oppression. I think the Red Tent is largely a modern feminist view of what ancient polytheism and henotheism entailed as well as something of a neo-pagan fantasy, that looks back on paganism wistfully and romantically, that imagines that goddess worship somehow made women better off than monotheism.

As an aside, I did not mean to imply that my female friends aren't good conversation partners: they all are, but that's how I pick them, I suppose. When it comes to a large gathering with people I don't know well, I naturally find myself gravitating to the men, who, for whatever reason, are more likely to be dicussing politics, literature, and religion than shopping, home decor, and cooking.

message 29: by Liz (new)

Liz (liosaidh) | 9 comments Okay, I was the one who brought up the sisters thing. My reason for doing so was because of the group of friends who read this book, three of us who happen to have older brothers but no sisters all loved it. I don't think that's the only factor, but I thought it was an interesting point and worth mentioning.

message 30: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl | 7 comments I despise this book, and have no sisters - only older brothers. My two friends who read it (and LOVED it) both have sisters. Anyway....

I think I got about 60 pages in and had already been bombarded with periods, beastiality, and erections. In a book about women in the Bible. Sure, it's possible that's the way it was then, but that doesn't mean I want to read about it. It became the first book I've ever hated so much that it had to be removed from my house.

message 31: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 4 comments Cheryl-I felt the EXACT same way that you do. I have kept other books I didn't really like, but booted this one right out the door. I have 5 sisters...didn't change a thing.

message 32: by Ketutar (new)

Ketutar Jensen | 40 comments I liked this book a lot. I don't remember any sex scenes. I got a very positive and strong idea of the Biblical women with their red tent and culture of their own totally ignoring what the men did or did not. Funny how people read differently :-D
Considering that a lot of people looooove books I hate and vice versa - some of these people are people I "normally" appreciate and don't consider sheep - I wouldn't decide whether to read a book or not by what others think about it.
But I can say, that if I hated a book in the beginning, I will regret finishing reading it - 9 times of 10. Besides, there's so many books out there, I doubt anyone will miss anything simply by not finishing a book or two ;-)

message 33: by Starling (new)

Starling I lost my ability to control my disbelief because of two things the author did.

DO NOT take a real place and move it 1000 years into the past.

DO NOT take it for granted that everyone was illiterate or that middle class and above people got married without paper in a society where you couldn't be the master of a workshop supplying royal tombs without being able to read and write.

Drove me nuts!

message 34: by Helena (new)

Helena | 2 comments Personally, I really liked this book. No, it didn't blow me away, but it was an entertaining read. Mainly, I enjoyed it because I am reading the Tanakh for school, and I read the Red Tent shortly after reading the segments of Genesis it is based on. I was impressed by how elaborate and interesting the story was, considering its basis is a dry book that provides little insight into the lives of women (just my opinion, sorry if I offend). The sex scenes were bizarre though, to be honest.

message 35: by Peridot (new)

Peridot | 16 comments I liked it for about two thirds of the book. It should have ended there. But no, it went on, and on, and on, and on.

message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

oh dear! I wish I'd seen this topic a looooong time ago--this is one of my favorite books, the writing is poetic and beautiful. (plus I love biblical/bible-times novels--some of them at least lol) I didn't find it to be sexually graphic at all (not that there's anything wrong with that lol) but it's got NOTHING on some books that still wouldn't be considered erotica. Moaning is pretty tame if u ask me. and jealousy/catfights are just part of being a dumbass human lo. I agree about bizarre tho--but between creepy ol' Laban molesting his daughters and Jacob screwing the animals when he didn't have a woman--I spose that was prolly the intention ;)

the ending made me cry. the book was awesome and sad and took me to another place. (scuse my corniness but it did) I can't believe i didn't see this (very old) topic sooner, waaahhhhhh!

message 37: by Megan (new)

Megan (crazymeg531) | 1 comments Mello, I agree with you. The book is an interesting look in a totally different world. I also don't think the author was trying to make any grand statements about women as a whole some readers seem to suggest. A few people act like the characters are and author are just totally brainless just because they don't want to venture out of their tent and it's ideals and are content to have "girl talk". Umm, hello, I doubt the thought of something different would have even occured to them. That's where they were told they belonged. It's a lot easier said than done to stand up to certain ideals.

I don't know why everyone people are getting their panties in a wad about things they percieve to be inaccuracies. Omg, back then, there was sooo not the feeling of sisterhood back then Diamant portrays or Jacob and Joseph were not like that all. People! None of us know what they were like. This was thousands of years ago. I find it almost arrogant to project your ideas of how it was from a few bible passages or your own feminine ideals of how they would've acted. From what I remember reading a long time ago, Diament did some research. But the whole point is this is FICTION. She imagined the characters and their personalities as she wanted. This book never claimed to be strictly non-fiction.

message 38: by Leigh (new)

Leigh (leighb) I liked the book at first but didn't finish it-it was really starting to drag....

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