Join LibraryThing to post.
This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.
I am currently reading Their Eyes Were Watching God. I am relishing the lush use of language and natural imagery, and I really love Janie's character so far.
Personally, I prefer Nella Larsen over Hurston, but in fairness I think Their Eyes Were Watching God is the kind of book that requires at least two readings.
And yeah, much as I love Larsen, I think the plagiarism is obvious (aside from the change in the ending). If you put the two stories side-by-side, you'll see that even the dialogue is copied, except that Larsen "translated" it into Southern Black dialect. More's the pity, because with her change in ending Larsen's is definitely the better story – in contrast with Quicksand and Passing (stories of racial identity), "Sanctuary" is a story of racial solidarity and represented an apparent change in Larsen's thematic interests.
I previously read Huston's autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, as well as Tell My Horse, due to an interest in Caribbean religion, but never any of her fiction. She's a terrific writer. She just blows everything else I've been reading lately out of the water. I find myself wanting to highlight passage after passage.
just finished a mystery/thriller by cara black for book group, the first in her series - murder in the marais. not without mistakes but a good first novel and a good writer.
tomorrow will start the turtle warrior which i think is supposed to be very serious and moving but the cover of which i keep glancing at and thinking is a little boy peeing, which i suspect is not the effect they were going for...
I just finished The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke. I thought it was well-written and engaging, and I loved the way the setting of Northern Ireland impacted the characters. But then the book had a twist ending that basically made the whole thing pointless. It went from a four-star read in my mind to a two-star at best. Sigh.
pentecostals sounds right for oranges. when i learned that that book is quite true to her experience i couldn't believe it, because of the fundamentalist stuff. i think this book was my first exposure to that sort of thing and it kind of blew me away.
Yes, they are Pentecostal. Like most books about growing up in fundamentalist religious environments, Oranges provides a fascinating glimpse into this life. I read lots of books, fiction and non, about insular communities like these; they're my catharsis the way some people read/watch horror. I thought this one was especially well done in the way that it juxtaposed pretty abnormal beliefs and actions with a child's desire for parental love.
i've been wondering how similar the two books are since oranges draws so much from her life. i'm wondering why you liked this one so much more?
They are very similar. I liked Oranges more because Normal is highly self-referential. I might like it just as much if I read it now, after reading Oranges; I probably would like it a lot if I read it after all of her other books. But it is not a good introduction to Winterson in the slightest.
I specifically remember a long passage in Normal in which she talks about a character in one of her semi-autobiographical novels who is complete fiction. The point she was making was a good one -- that in fiction we expect tropes, such as a kindly ray of light character who sees the abused narrator for who she is and provides a small amount of emotional sustenance, even though in real life most abused children do not have such a person -- but there was so much discussion of this character specifically that because I had not read what she was referencing, I didn't get as much out of it as I could have.
I also thought Oranges had a more poetic and engrossing writing style, though I don't recall much about the writing style of Normal. It may also be well-written.
In print, I'm about half way through Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro, which I'm enjoying but haven't had a lot of quiet time to sit down with so far.
thanks for the explanation. as to writing style, i suspect that she had to write quite differently when she was writing her memoir; i don't see a memoir working really well in the style she uses for her novels.
Next up for me is a nonfiction book recommended by my aunt, Unthinkable: Who survives when disaster strikes. Not my normal taste in nonfiction, but I'll be interested to see if it is useful or just crackpottery.
La fabbricante di vedove (The Widowmaker) is a great quick read if you have a taste (or tolerance) for the macabre--based on true events in 1920s Hungarian village, it's a zesty fictionalised account of a slew of suspicious deaths, mostly male, mostly by arsenic poisoning.
I don't know how accurate the Wiki entry might be, but here it is, about the actual events:
Angel Makers of Nagyrév
Fagyas is very good at intertwining social commentary with the incredible proceedings, and manages to make the assassins understandable and even sympathetic, in some cases. The life of these peasant women is probably the worst on earth. Treated as literally nothing but beasts of burden and brood mares, forced into marriages more often than not, abused every which way, beaten to pulp by familiars, condescended to and ordered about by everyone else from the priest to the squire, they are as low as mud. When war gives them respite from their typically brutal husbands and, significantly, let's them experience not only independence but success in being heads of households, some find it difficult to reconcile themselves to losing it all again on husbands' return--many of whom are now sick and invalids, doing nothing but increasing the already horrendous burden on these women.
There's a monograph on the case: Tiszazug: A Social History of a Murder Epidemic; I think I'll get it. Interestingly, there seems to be at least one previous case of mass poisonings with a similar, if not exactly alike social framework, in pre-WWI Samara (then Russia), where one A. Popova poisoned or helped poison some 300 (by her own admission) abusive men, before getting executed by a firing squad.
Same goes for the finale, which is of truly unbelievable stupidity. Yep, nothing snaps us out of depression and motivates to live as the death of rare dear friends, especially when we've barely just met them.
But, enough, I could snark about that book all day. Oooh, Kant is the greatest philosopher! That's it, that's ALL I have to tell you about Kant. Oooh, reading The German ideology will show you that Marx was wrong! No word about which exactly of the million things Marx wrote is wrong--all of them?--it's just a name dropped to resound on the blank-minded pages. Husserl gets a treatment, though. Phenomenology is deconstructed and tossed out the window with the help of a fat cat, in one paragraph, as we are triumphantly invited to perceive that, when all is said and done, we perceive said cat.
Oh, look, all day!
It seems popular (I haven't read anything about it and sure will not now) but fwiw... the more I think about it, the more it enrages me--the book, AND its success (whatever it is). There is such an infernal smugness about it, such an air of self-congratulation... and it's actually so shallow as to seem cynical.
this is probably neither here nor there, but you also read it in french, which is the language it was originally written in, right? i always wonder what gets lost in translation, so there can't even be that excuse in this case.
In this case, anything lost in translation could only result in an improvement... >:)
It pains me to say this; I love French literature. The language is lovely, the tradition is rich, the varied inclinations toward both frivolity and philosophy, frequently commingled, created many nonpareil masterpieces. But I suppose that also inevitably resulted in an army of lesser talents who fall flat on their noses when they try to be "lightly profound" à la française. I don't read much contemporary lit but when I do, it alarms me how frequently the hot French book is half a cup of insipid froth, a gimmick or two (the protagonist is being followed by a talking cloud. The protagonist is deaf on Thursdays. The protagonist has sex only in elevators, at work. It was all a dream.), some name dropping and one or two shopping trips, either in support or in protest of capitalism. And the tone! The arch, clipped, knowing style! The flat affect--like a bleeding chorus of "Mom died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know.", it's been decades and they are still writing in that mood, as if the freaking existentialists made it illegal to have feelings and show them.
But then they go overboard in the other direction and up the Amélie-type zany till you want to throttle the first whimsical manic pixie dream girl that crosses your path.
Oooh, am I cranky this ugly Wednesday or what!
I just finished Life After Life, which I thought was OK. It was my first Atkinson, and I think my expectations were too high having read such high praise for the book when it came out (last year, I think). I would read more Atkinson, but I don't know that I could recommend Life After Life.
I did think it did a beautiful job of showing how much bullshit women had to go through in the early 20th century! Sadly, some of the topics (being blamed for sexual assault, being hushed up about domestic violence) are not as "fixed" as we might hope, in the 21st century.
and it pains me to say this: i think i don't know almost anything about french literature. my lt stats tell me that most of the books i read were originally written in english. i need to work on that. (hope your day improved today!)
so it's nice timing that i'm just starting don't move by margaret mazzantini, translated from the italian. i'm only about 5 pages in but am totally gripped already, even as it's a bit off-putting and unusual in its style.
Ha, do you remember what ticked you off?
I tend to stay with a book more often than not--then again, I don't frequently pick up stuff I've no reason to think I'll like, or at least like "encountering". Especially for the very popular books, if I start hating on them, I feel it's my duty to finish the whole thing in order to justify my hatering or, less likely, let it redeem itself. (Applies only to contemporary stuff, not well-known classics. The latter I can ditch without mercy because I feel they are safe enough.)
I didn't mention the two WORST things about the book either. One is the reverse snobbery with which she endows the concierge (and partly gives to the little girl too) and what I perceive as Barbery's own snobbery toward the concierge. I get the sense of someone belonging to the comfortable classes--someone who no doubt lives in and visits rich apartment buildings such as she describes, with the concierge (porter-woman? doorwoman?) in a little booth on the ground, controlling the traffic and running errands for the tenants--who one day looked at some nondescript specimen of the class and thought, 'Tiens! but isn't she human too? What if this ridiculously base-looking character had a SECRET--that she is INTELLIGENT! and READS BOOKS! watches JAPANESE MOVIES! drinks JASMINE TEA!'--you get the picture.
As if this were some unheard of, startling twist! The lower classes reading Tolstoy! And then putting up a front to throw off the rich (why exactly? What's the point? Who'd give a damn whether the concierge spends her days picking her nose, reading the prayer book, or Barthes? Oh, by the way, she probably did NOT read Barthes--Barbery has her "discovering" what's basically in his Mythologies on her own. In fact, I can't remember whether she name-checked any French thinker or modern writer--she just plagiarised them to use as "the concierge's own" thoughts.)
The second worst thing is the absolutely worst thing, which is the little girl, and her problem. Perhaps *I'*ve got a problem here: losing all sense of humour or something. But, hell, so it is: I will not have the topic of suicidal children treated lightly. (For that matter, the death at the end I thought was an obscenely shallow manipulation, but such a weak trick and such a cliché, that I was more bothered by its nature of a technical failure than as an event. That's some terrible, hackneyed plotting.) Yes, children can be suicidal. And yes, children, as young as five, have been known to commit suicide. It is tragic, not silly, not funny, not cute, not whimsical, not something to be wrapped up in Elle-magazine type bullshit.
yikes. that last sounds particularly inexcusable. why have i only heard good things about this book before?
anyone here read this one?
Ah yes. That is my approach as well.
or i wish i'd read it for a book group because it really bears a discussion.
and >47 LolaWalser:, >52 Nickelini:
my m.o. as well, except for books like twilight, which i feel able to hate upon without actually reading.
i read it in 2.5 days and i'm a pretty slow reader (although i do dedicate a lot of time to the endeavor).
i'd love to discuss!
I picked up Don't Move at the library today and will begin it on my commute home. Would you like to start a discussion thread?
Also reading She Wolves by Helen Castor which looks at English queens before Elizabeth I. None of them had the power Liz did, but their efforts over the centuries leading up to her reign definitely created precedent and legitimacy for taking the crown and keeping it despite the no penis thing.
eta: also as heartbreaking.
That book is on my list. Glad to hear it is as thought-provoking as it's billed.
It's a very thought-provoking book, combining her personal experiences with an extensive academic lit review. Not a Trans Issues 101 book, which I appreciate. (Of course, I am already very sold on rejecting the gender binary, so I found it very easy to get into this book.)
There's so much to say I feel like I can say nothing at all.
Now I'm reading One Good Turn in print and Life after Life on audio, both by Kate Atkinson. So far, One Good Turn is more of a page turner than Life After Life, and not just because it has physical pages!
So, who would ever be dumb enough to marry in this society? The government started a propaganda campaign telling women that they are old maids past the age of 25 and they need to settle for a man or they'll be alone forever. Oh, and the recent increase in birth defects? Caused by advanced maternal age (over the age of 26), and definitely not by all of the pollution. Thanks, propaganda!
Bornstein gives hir own story through discussion of concepts and practices surrounding gender. Like all of us, on birth ze was gendered based on hir sex, and raised as a boy. However, ze had from infancy a feeling that being a boy didn't fit hir, and showed resistance to being treated as one. The conservatism of hir environment (ze was born in 1948 in a devout Jewish family) eventually forced hir to submit and ze learned to "perform" being a man--even marrying (three times) and becoming a father. In 1985 ze finalised hir transition and after years of preparation had surgical reconstruction of sex.
While it may seem that the story of people like Bornstein happens too rarely to concern us, it is actually of relevance to everyone, and I only wish I could persuade those people who take gender for granted, as they probably take for granted everything else about how we organize culture and treat each other, to read it.
Bornstein's first question is the first question ze ran into already as a child--what is man? What is woman? What does it mean to be defined by sex? Why is it so important to be of one or the other gender? Why are "gender outlaws", whether transsexuals or non-heterosexuals, treated so severely? Hir comparison of gender to a cult is funny, but not inaccurate, when you think about it. We get chosen, initiated, and must observe strictly enforced rituals of form, dress, behaviour--failing, we incur all kinds of penalties, soft to hard. We may even get killed.
Of many ideas in this book, I'll note only Bornstein's plea for abandoning the gender binary. It may superficially seem to simplify things, to insist on two categories, but when these are enforced by violence, then clearly what's at stake isn't observing "nature" and the health of society, but preservation of power structures, and by extension, preservation of the violence and destruction we are mired in.
ETA: Note on pronouns: I just saw that the Wikipedia article says that Bornstein prefers neologistic ze/hir pronouns, so I changed all the she/her above. I know this sort of thing frequently excites hostility and ridicule but so did (or still does?) the invention of "Ms" or the retirement of "spinster"... Heck, there are people my age rolling their eyes at "he/she" and "he or she" as examples of rabid PC.
But, you know, slowly, slowly...
A female reader berates Kael for her lack of niceness.
Fortunately we can laugh as easily as we might cry.
Also read The Leavenworth case (1878) by Anna Katharine Green. Quite readable, and although not "deep" in any way, I found it fresh and surprising in its treatment of female characters. Instances like these make me think there really IS a difference when it's women writing about women.
I've got The Madwoman in the Attic in TBR. I've read Frankenstein (Norton Critical Editions), which includes the Mary Shelley chapter from Madwoman, but that's all I've read of Gilbert & Gubar.
You might also want to check out Juliet Barker's The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors (and see my 5***** review of the Kindle edition, which I prefer over the heavy treeware).
On another note, my current Kindle read is The Golem and the Jinni.
I'm currently reading Seawitch, a paranormal mystery with a sensible heroine who doesn't jump into bed with every supernatural creature that comes along.
Finished Alice Munro's awesome The Moons of Jupiter, a story collection. If you like Chekov, you'd probably like this.
Noting: There was a feeling that women could write about the freakish, the marginal.
Basically, I think the book is worth reading, but it is neither a coherent examination of cultural racism, nor a well-written story. But there are parts that are well-written, and they are very well-written.
(x-posting in girlybooks)
Interesting, thanks. You certainly reaffirm the impression that the literary value in this case may be trumped by its value as subject for social commentary. It seems to me (and yes I belong to that select octet of people who haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird ;)) that the biggest story here will forever remain the history of the reception and understanding of TKAM, and the deception--perhaps followed by some change in how TKAM is read and taught?-- on the publication of Go set a watchman.
I can scarcely believe such a glaring "white saviour" myth, something so obviously flattering to whites in the midst of a thoroughly racist society, took so long to receive any wide public criticism, but there it is...
I'm curious, do you know of any examples of a "coherent examination of cultural racism" of the same vintage, in the same type of book, literary fiction, by a white author?
It's a good question. I can't think of any off the top of my head. Most of the white authors writing at the time were writing about the dissolution of their Southern society - Flannery O'Connor, Erskine Caldwell, etc, not really focused on race except in so far as it provided a backdrop to white culture. The first book that came to mind was Lewis Nordan's Wolf Whistle, which was written in the 90s, and then Will D. Campbell's Brother to a Dragonfly which is actually a memoir of his participation in the Civil Rights movement, among other things, but not a novel. I'll have to think on it.
ETA: I should add that in my mind when it comes to fiction "the story" usually trumps "the message" in a good novel. Or maybe it would be better to say if the story has to be sacrificed for the sake of the message (certainly the case in GSaW) it undercuts both.
I've still a couple hundred people ahead of me waiting for the book, but I can say immediately, because it holds generally, that I don't think of a book's "message" as THE message, or the (necessarily) most interesting communication in it.
In this case especially we are dealing with something that projects much beyond anything it can package as a spelled-out "message".
Let me just say that if anyone felt the need for a new way to think about racism after the recent general recognition that not only it didn't disappear with Obama, in some ways it looks worse than ever since the Civil Rights era, get this book.
Perhaps just a word about the term "racecraft": the authors have found useful an analogy with witchcraft in explaining how "folk beliefs" entrench themselves as "general knowledge", the "everybody knows some people have evil eye" and other superstitions and magical beliefs existing alongside rational habits of the mind.
Thus, "everybody knows race exists" seems to be something that hardly needs proof or explanation for many perfectly "rational" people.
Except that "race" doesn't exist, not as a primary-occurring biological feature of any human being. We actually KNOW this, scientifically, from even before the era of genomic typing, when human populations were being analysed on the basis of blood type, genetic loci etc.
No standard of "diversification" has been established (and thousands of racists looked VERY hard for more than a century now) such that can "type" people unequivocally as white, black etc.
In other words, race is a social construct. But whereas most discussions about race, at least among progressives, end there, the authors, eminently logically, BEGIN with that, and show how constructing race is the whole pathetic and paradoxical business of racism.
Um, did I say "a word", well... great book, anyway.
group read starting here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/197196#5300912
As the last one is the freshest in my mind and as it's the first Murdoch I've read, I feel like saying a bit more about it.
The main theme seems to be relations between men and women, or even "sex war", if you will. All the female characters who are conventionally young enough to be sexually active, suffer in weird bonds to men, specifically the "enchanter" in the title, an enigmatic character named Mischa Fox (Mischa, by the way, is a Russian nickname for "bear"--I don't know how far Murdoch's associations went, but the man's some kind of curious beast anyway).
But is he really doing any "enchanting" at all? Aren't the women rather buying into fantasies of their own making? Fox also holds potent influence over several male characters, and at least in one case it looks as if the "secret" were in nothing more complicated than sordid blackmail.
The women who fall in thrall to Fox range from ex-lovers such as the late-thirtyish "English lady" with a socialist conscience, Rosa Keepe; similarly aged Nina the foreign dressmaker whom Fox set up in business and uses for various favours, but not sex; eighteen-year old Annette the cosmopolitan brat of glamorous diplomatic parents who abandons school in order to educate herself in "The School of Life"; and, fleetingly, even the formidably capable Agnes Casement, on the wrong side of twenty or even thirty and out to marry her boss John Rainborough or replace him in the office--possibly both.
And yet, Fox himself seems to be more of an intangible and elusive symbol or evil spirit of women's bondage who, for example, wants to buy the Keepe's impoverished feminist magazine in order to destroy it, as he "doesn't believe in female emancipation", but the women suffer more directly, personally and intimately, in relations to other men. Rosa is being abused by a couple of sinister Polish brothers who first charmed their way into her friendship and then turned her into a mutual girlfriend, with whom they have sex in turns in the same room where their invalid mother mutely watches the proceedings. Peter Saward, the man who supposedly loves her, insists on knowing her mind better than she does, causing their relationship to stagnate and likely peter out.
Annette is a willing instrument of her adored brother's, who tells her what to read, what to think, how to behave and had even arranged her defloration, when and by whom it suited his ideas. Both Rainborough and one of the Poles try to rape her ("school of life", eh?), and you could say the injury of the assault is compounded by the insult of making it somehow her fault.
Nina wasted her life serving and waiting for Fox to make her his mistress. Agnes Casement is carrying on a vital battle with Rainborough and other privileged men for an office she is a million times better equipped for--but she is a woman, and poor, and alone. In those circumstances, any means must do, which includes humiliating herself, as women are expected to do.
You can tell I was fascinated by the goings-on here, but I can't say it's a good book. Much interesting is is hinted at, but it doesn't hold together at all. Which, somehow, doesn't interfere with it being a compelling read!
It is dedicated to Elias Canetti. I know they had an affair and I dimly recall reading that Canetti was a real pig to her. The take from his biography is that she was madly in love with him while he couldn't wait to get rid of her, and abused her a lot to other people. I think this is what made me reluctant to read Murdoch before, the fear that she'd be one of those depressing daddy-fixated masochists forever crucifying themselves on the altars to "remarkable", "genius" men.
But, there are traces here of something else as well, something steely and parrying.
Other characters range themselves, deliberately or inadvertently, into pro- and con-affair camps and their interventions give some colour to the narrative, but the central couple is dull as dishwater. Murdoch does like the weird incident though, and I enjoyed her frequent sending the plot out of joint.
I'm a newbie myself! I just joined the Iris Murdoch group the other day, do check it out, @sibyx is a fount of info and a very sensitive reader:
I've only read two and a half (currently reading Under the net) books and she wrote at least two dozen, so I'm not sure any of these would be my first recommendation on better acquaintance, but... choosing among them, I'd pick The flight from the enchanter over The sandcastle. It sure got my attention.
Under the net may yet beat them both, I think the writing is the strongest (of these), although it was her first.
There's a curious and appealing individuality to Murdoch's world and manner. I doubt anyone can mistake her books for anyone else's.
I have "The sea, the sea" and "The severed head". Don't know whether I'll turn into a full-fledged Murdochian but she sure hooked me.
Oh, yes, I have the fourth waiting for the Xmas break, I've raved about the first three in multiple places.
ETA: still totally hoping I'll get my ma to discuss them with me! Did anyone have multi-generational conversations about them?
"Just fill the form or call to avail the best deals on cabs in bangalore.
Our service providers will contact you and enjoy 100 Rs off on all ride
whether it is inside bangalore, outside bangalore,pick up or drop to airport."
I'm now starting State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, which an anthropologist friend recommended to me as, "This is what would happen if Heart of Darkness was anti-racist, had female characters, and took place in the 21st century." I was sold.
I was drawn to read How to read the Qur'an, copyright 2007, because author Mona Siddiqui is a woman and a British Muslim (otherwise there are many similar basic introductions to Islam, some of which I've already read) and we are witnessing a crisis at the clash point of Islam and the West in which the role of women is assuming an ever greater importance for deciding on the possibility of co-existence with Muslims in the West.
You can guess at the general stance she takes vis-à-vis interpretation just from looking at her photographs: she's devout, but does not wear religious covering (one expects she would in a mosque). Coverings for women have become completely politicized, especially in the West, with many Westerners assuming, as do many Muslims, that it's a legitimate Koranic tradition. But it isn't.
Like every other "holy book", the Koran is interpreted, and interpreted in various, even wildly divergent ways. Siddiqui argues for contextualising the Koran (and the hadith, the later sayings attributed to Muhammad), understanding the historical circumstances in which specific verses/prescriptions arose, for evolving interpretations in harmony with the necessities of modern life, and for "generosity" in interpretation: choosing the positive over the negative, the kind over the harsh, mercy over antagonism.
How I learned to drive by Paula Vogel
Many people will tell you plays ought to be seen, and I don't disagree, but I ALSO love reading plays. Even when they REALLY need to be seen to grasp fully, like this one. It's a coming-of-age story of a girl nicknamed Li'l Bit (a reference to her private parts, like all the rest of nicknames in her scary, inbred hillbilly family), who is desperate to get away from the poverty and general sordidness, and the sick spell her troubled in-law uncle Peck cast on her, lying in wait for the time she becomes "legal". The growing girl's increasingly conflicting emotions, confusion, fear, attraction and revulsion, desperation and guilt, are masterfully conveyed. Vogel uses devices such as a female and male chorus that voice various single roles, intercutting action, slide projections, suggested music and so on, that are not difficult to follow on page, but must add so much more in live performance.
But even just reading, one is aware of the great power of the play.
am just starting the hounding by sandra de helen, a modern take take off of the hound of the baskervilles and the first in her lesbian mystery series (i'm told there isn't lesbian content in this one; her dr mary watson comes out in the second book, i think, and her shirley combs is, like sherlock holmes, asexual, i think). i know, and like, sandra so am not entirely sure i will be able to be objective in my reading/evaluation, but will try.
The first half was great, the second lost the energy a bit as events slowed down and Jake's reasoning--pages of rumination, as it were--caught up with the truth, but was still amusing in a wistful fashion... very funny in places.
Have started John Bayley's memoir, Iris (Elegy for Iris for the touchstone) and to my utter surprise it's compulsive reading, truly fascinating, not least because their marriage was rather unconventional.
Would love to know what you thought when/if you get to it!
One could talk about it for ages...