Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin is a novel told in four voices about a mother’s disappearance and how this affects the different people in the family.  The reviews I’ve read talk a great deal about the guilt of the family, the selfishness of the individuals and how her being accidentally left at a train station reveals to them all just how loving and wonderful she was and also just how selfish and unappreciative they were.

I think I missed something because if that is what this novel is solely about then I doubt I would love it so much that I wish I could buy copies of it for everyone I love and am eagerly recommending it to everyone.  This is a lovely book about regret, about how we take one another for granted, and ultimately about how we never really know what may happen next. 

The novel begins with the mother already missing and her family hoping to find her, creating a flyer and debating what it should say and what photograph they should use.  The eldest daughter is the first to express her reaction to her mother’s disappearance with a conflicted range of emotions from anger to shame, from hope to despair.  Her complicated relationship with her mother is revealed both through her relationship with her siblings and her memories of discovering some things about her mother that nobody else seemed to know.

The book is sprinkled with flashbacks that are perfectly woven within the narrative that one never feels a jarring leap in and out of time. Rather, each moment leads to the next and even the feelings that are so often in opposition to one another seem to flow from and towards each to each in a natural fluidity.

The eldest son, husband, and mother herself are all given time to share their own feelings not only about the immediate moment of the mother’s disappearance but the little habits and circumstances that built up with a near inevitability to her being one moment there and the next gone.  Where the novel loses some of its integrity is in the final section where the older daughter once again takes over the story and things frankly turn melodramatic.

I can see why so many reviewers are focusing on the “mother guilt” aspect but the fact is that I saw the mother’s character as flawed, the way we all are, and the choices she made were no more nor less what many mothers make from one day to the next.  She favors one child over another, indulges the youngest much in the way youngest children are often spoiled if only because there is more to give the younger child after the older ones have gone.  The mother is proud and sympathetic but I never felt that her children were overly narcissistic although I did feel the husband was negligent and, of them all, the least appreciative of how fortunate he was.  The complexity of the marriage is too easily dismissed if only the husband’s perspective were given but when the mother herself is finally allowed to share her own story this seemingly long-suffering wife shows a strength of character that is formidable.  If her husband did not love her well, neither did she love him as much as she perhaps could have. 

To suggest this novel is about how selfish children and spouses don’t appreciate how loving and self-sacrificing their mothers/wives are is to over-simplify it because she does not accuse anyone of the things for which they are beating themselves up; instead, she takes responsibility for her life, her choices, and, in chorus with the others, admits she could have done better.

That is the story I read—one in which we are all guilty, perhaps, of taking for granted what is here and not appreciating those whom we hold most dear.  Instead of a book that made me feel ashamed of myself as a daughter, it made me feel honored to have been a mother and grateful to my own mother for sharing this lovely book with me and so very many more things that I know I’ll never have time enough in this lifetime to tell her how much I really do appreciate and love her. 

Maybe the book I read is flawed and the reviewers are right but if they are then I’m glad to be wrong. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Struss

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Struss is one of those ubiquitous books that one sees everywhere but never sees anyone reading.  Nobody ever recommended it to me and I’ve seen “reviews” that give it 5 stars or 3 stars but no explanation for why it deserves one or the other.  I figured it was time for me to just borrow a copy from the library and see for myself.

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I began the introduction because the author is writing to a British audience and her guidelines for punctuation are different from those in the United States.  I can understand it would be too challenging for the publisher to revise the book accordingly and I see no reason why the author should be asked to write a second American edition.  What the publisher should have done is invited an American to revise the British rules, replace them with American ones, and re-release it giving the book dual authorial credit to both Truss and this American writer so that Americans could enjoy this book for themselves.

The humor is wry, as one would expect from a British author.  Her examples are not necessarily familiar every turn of the page but it doesn’t take much imagination to get her point.  And an exclamation point/mark by any other name is still doing the same function over here or there.  Unfortunately, I can easily see American readers becoming even more confused than they already are about how to properly punctuate and, believe me when I say, we don’t need anyone adding to our confusion.

We are screwing it up perfectly fine with only one set of rules to understand without muddying it all up with a second.

I really wish I had read someone’s review about the book that explained that this book is firmly entrenched in British rules because I probably would have happily skipped it altogether.  Sure, I would have missed out on some of the wonderful history of punctuation through the ages.  Why did we get rid of the rhetorical question mark, for instance? 

Towards the end of the book she does make a strong case for how punctuation has changed and will continue to change and that nothing in language should be taken for granted.  She also denounces emoticons as a lazy writer’s way of giving meaning to poorly written text.  If you take the time to think about what you want to say and write it with clarity and precision, your reader will know if you are joking (without a smiley face) or perturbed (without an angry face) or even chagrined (without a dunce cap face).

Would I recommend this book?  Yes to anyone who follows the British standards for punctuation; yes, to anyone else who enjoys learning a bit of history about language and enjoys their humor on the dry side; no, to anyone who is trying to better understand the American way of punctuating a sentence because not once will the author explain to you why there should be spaces between the “dots” in an ellipsis and so many other rules we try to follow.  If you need to read this book to learn the rules here in the United States, you need to turn elsewhere.   

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Mrs Dalloway Reader ed Francine Prose

The Mrs. Dalloway Reader edited by Francine Prose is a collection of Woolf’s writing alongside the writings of contemporary authors (Katherine Mansfield and E. M. Forster) as well as contemporary writers.  Prose has gathered together a very interesting and insightful group of writings all meant to enlighten the reader and perhaps enhance an appreciation for Mrs. Dalloway and Virginia Woolf herself.

From Woolf we have the full text of her novella as well as an early short story version that barely resembles its descendent except perhaps in title (“Mrs. Dalloway’s Party”), excerpts from her journal, and an introduction to the novella (that gives away a major plot point).  Her short story is juxtaposed against Katherine Mansfield’s own short story “The Garden-Party.”  Reading the two stories side-by-side leaves little doubt which is the more superior and when the novella is added into the mix one’s appreciation for how Woolf revised her original vision into something far more profound cannot be understated.

Any writer who wants to really see how far a revision can carry a story would benefit greatly from reading the short story and novella by Woolf and take notes!

The essays were a disappointment only when they digressed from focusing on Mrs. Dalloway.  Gathered from a conference where Woolf’s works were being highlighted, some of the essays barely mention Mrs. Dalloway and the reader who has not delved into other works by Woolf will feel lost and even confused.  When the essays focus either on the novella itself or compare it with other novels by Woolf and/or others, the essays are better.  But they are best when the focus is on Mrs. Dalloway and the inspired The Hours by Michael Cunningham.  Cunningham’s brief essay, a celebration of Woolf’s novel, is followed by E. M. Forster’s broader appreciation of Woolf’s early novels.  Forster, a friend of Woolf and the other Bloomsbury group, doesn’t focus solely on the one novel but he assumes that the reader has not read her writing and therein lies this essay’s strength because the previous essays presume that the reader is quite familiar with Woolf and build from that presumption.

This is at worst, an error in judgment on the editor’s part but it is hardly a flaw that detracts from the overall effect of this collection.  When Daniel Mendelsohn writes about the novels by Woolf and Cunningham as he discusses the movie The Hours, there is a sort of magic in seeing how eloquently each informs the other.  When Sigrid Nunez approaches the novel for a third time, her disappointment in the narrative is understandable but then it is followed by Deborah Eisenberg’s pleasure in the novel.  Last but not least is the very intimate personal essay by Elissa Schappell who meant to take a copy of The Waves with her on vacation and accidentally grabbed the wrong book which, as one would expect, proves to be the right book after all, the one that serves as a prophetic metaphor for Schappell’s own life.

The book concludes with the complete text of Mrs. Dalloway.  I would have put it first, especially when one considers how many plot points are blatantly bandied about in the previous essays.  But I think it’s safe to say that anyone who picks up this book has probably already read and appreciate the novel so there won’t be too many surprises made in reading the essays.  I certainly would encourage anyone who likes or even loves the novel to read this book.  If you do not fall squarely into that camp, and especially if you think that Woolf’s writing is obtuse or over-rated, you probably should just pass on reading this book altogether.  I definitely recommend it, in spite of its subjective flaws.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen is a re-read for me but I honestly couldn’t remember one thing about this novel.  Not even the protagonist’s name (Fanny Price).  There are few surprises, this being a Jane Austen novel after all.  Fanny is adopted by her wealthier relatives and lives with her four cousins, one of whom treats her with more respect and appreciation than the others.  She is quiet to the point of timidity, shy and unassuming.  The word “humble” immediately comes to mind when one thinks of Fanny and, according to the blurb for the edition I read, she was Jane Austen’s favorite of her heroines.

Fanny Price is adopted by her more wealthy relatives, the Bertrams.  Her maternal aunt is indigent, at best, and her other maternal aunt is a busy-body who lacks any compassion for her niece.  The cousins are not sympathetic towards her, except for her cousin Edmund.  When another pair of young people move into the community, trouble stirs as flirtations abound and Fanny alone remains this still point in all the supposed drama.

I have no clue why Austen so admired Fanny. Mind you, I actually came to like Fanny by the middle of the novel, so much so that I had to force myself not to read it in spite of the fact that I knew how it must end and had no doubt of who Fanny would finally marry by the novel’s conclusion.  Nevertheless, I cared about her and wanted to see her live happily ever after.  I felt a sort of maternal urge to protect Fanny from harm.

Aside from Fanny and her one cousin, there aren’t many characters to like in this novel.  And it lacks the humor of  Pride and Prejudice.  I also found one part a bit discomfiting which I’ll explore in more depth in a post-dated spoiler. Nonetheless, there is an interesting perspective on morality and class that one does not expect to find in a simple comedy of manners.  Typically, a novel of this era would equate the upper class with higher morals and the lower classes with amorality.  Fanny, herself, coming from a lower class branch of the family, is arguably the most moral person in the novel.  Her female cousins, however, are not as moral as she herself is.  Her own brother is more moral than the eldest male cousin and at least equally as moral as Edmund, the younger male cousin.  On the other hand, when Fanny goes home for a visit, she is confronted with the difference society can make not only in her own mother, who is compared with her aunt Bertram, but also within the varying degrees of duty and sensibility in her younger brother and sisters.  If Fanny recognizes that “there but for the grace of God”—or her wealthy relatives anyway—she would go, she doesn’t seem to connect this with any need to feel an empathy for her family.  Instead, Fanny favors those who are most dignified and refined while distancing herself in every possible way from the ones who are least disciplined in speech and deed.

Ultimately, it is the lack of humor that I loved so much in Austen’s previous novel that I missed most in this one.  I can see a leaning towards greater sophistication that I ought to appreciate but I see why I forgot most of the novel altogether and suspect that my reading it again will not be a priority.

There is not one in a hundred of either sex, 
who is not taken in when they marry. . . . 
I consider that it is, of all interactions, the one in which people
expect most from others, and are least honest themselves.  (47)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Waves by Virginia Woolf

The Waves by Virginia Woolf is a highly experiment novel, one written in a stream-of-consciousness style in the voices of six characters.  The book is divided into nine sections which represent a time of day as well as a time of life.  The first section takes place in the morning and during childhood with each progressive section seeing each of the characters growing a little older.  Highly poetic, using a lot of imagery that is echoed throughout, the novel is a challenge to read.  In fact it is so challenging that I would tell anyone that doesn’t immediately like the way it is written they may as well put it down because it doesn’t get any easier than the first few pages.  And so challenging that about one third through the book I was already thinking, “I’m going to have to reread this to appreciate it.”

And there it is.  I can’t say that I “appreciate” this novel yet.  I can admire the skill with which it is written. I can praise the skillful use of stream-of-consciousness.  I can even laud Woolf’s confidence in her reader’s ability to have the intelligence to get what she’s doing and to trust her fully.  But can I say I like this novel upon first reading it?  No.  I really cannot.

I like some of the characters—Bernard and Jinny most especially.  Perhaps because I feel that I know them best.  Perhaps Neville too.  I like the symbolism of the waves—the impermanence of being, the way thoughts and relationships ebb and flow.  There is so much to praise it almost feels anathema to not just say “Wonderful” and move on.

But the truth is, I don’t believe this book can be read once and appreciated.  Not by me, at any rate.  I shall absolutely read it again and with pleasure, with a curious desire to let the evocative voices weave themselves into my skin.  There may be many books one wants to reread because they were so much fun to read the first time around.   There may be books one wants to reread because they have a familiarity of person or place that appeals.   This novel demands to be read just to be better understood.  It left me feeling washed ashore with no bearings and eager to dive back in as soon as I was done.

Rereading will have to wait for another time.  As always, I already have other books demanding and deserving my attention.

This book is part of the Books I Should Have Read By Now Challenge because I read an excerpt from chapter one in my British Literature class way back in 1997 or 1998.  I fell immediately in love with what Woolf was doing and said, “I really need to read this book.”  I’m glad I finally have!  This is also, obviously, a part of the Classics Bribe.  As you can tell, I’m having fun with these challenges (and maybe I’m pondering creating one of my own).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Healing Journeys by Linda Daniels

Healing Journeys:  How Trauma Survivors Learn to Live Again by Linda Daniels Psy.D. is an invaluable resource for both the professional and general community trying to work through issues of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Drawing on both her professional and personal experience, Daniels shares her story of escaping from the One World Trade Center on 9-11, her working with other survivors, and her work with trauma in whatever form it takes.  Daniels urges her patients and the reader to

Tell your story over and over.  Tell your story verbally, in a journal or in whatever form is most comfortable to you.  But TELL YOUR STORY!  Often, a detail, like an image or a thought to which your body and mind may be responding, evades you in the initial telling, but becomes evident as you retell your experience.  (22)

There are many stories from other people, several who also survived the same event a Daniels while others experienced a death of a loved one, witnessed a violent act, and more.  In this, the author shows that there are various causes of trauma while also revealing how different forms of therapy that can be used.  She emphasizes the necessity of honoring the process in recognizing that the pace at which each person recovers is unique.  In this she also reminds the reader that recovery does not mean “healing” and that there are some things which occur in a person’s life which are never truly forgotten.

Each chapter ends with some form of responsive exercise, whether a simple checklist or open-ended questions with blank space for a written response.  She is also ever mindful of the danger of re-traumatizing a person.  For the survivor struggling with suicidal thoughts/ideation, she offers simple advice:  Just as there are countless traumatic events, there are countless reasons that a person may consider suicide rather than continue living in the aftermath of trauma (78).  When encouraging a written exploration, she keeps the story rooted in the present by suggestion the phrases “at that time” and “when it happened” to create some distance from the traumatic past.

With additional resources—including a list of books and supportive organizations—this is a book that offers compassion and practicality.  I especially appreciated these resources.  And while I appreciated the variety of stories, I occasionally found them more a distraction than a benefit.  Perhaps a “less is more” approach would have worked better for me.  

An edited version of the above review appeared in the Wellness & Writing Connections newsletter.  

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dance of Intimacy by Harriet Lerner

Dance of Intimacy by Harriet Lerner is her follow-up to the previously published Dance of Anger and although many of the ideas and teachings she suggests overlap between the two texts, the two work so well together that it is hard not say one ought to read both.

Lerner writes from a clearly feminist perspective and her books are aimed primarily at the woman reader, although men would and could benefit from what she has to say.  The issues of relationships falling into underachiever/overachiever dynamics is not primarily gender specific.  A woman is capable of being one or the other or even somewhere along the spectrum of both; men, too, will swing between one extreme or another when interacting with others.  There simply isn’t one simple way of being.

Repeatedly, Lerner reminds the reader that the stories she shares of how relationships become triangulated and how one person within the relationship can move towards change are simplified.  In a few pages or even a few paragraphs she can easily show a successful experience but the reality is that these examples evolved over time, gradually, and often in conjunction with months or even years of therapy.

Relationships are hard work and intimacy is not something that once it is achieved one need do nothing else.  Instead, Lerner cautions that the work is ongoing, endless, and never really gets any easier.  Easy or not, she shows that it is necessary. 

The appendix is especially interesting as she shows the reader how to create a family tree that goes beyond the simple X married Y and gave birth to A, B, and C.  In her charts, one records births, deaths, marriage, divorces, crises and other significant milestones.  It is these changes that often have ripple effects from one generation to another.  A woman who lost an infant son may become the obsessive grandmother to her first and only grandson while seeming to be unconcerned with her own daughter and granddaughters.  A man whose father died when he was twelve may slip into an affair when his own child is twelve, repeating the distancing he himself experienced in his core family.  The woman whose parents divorced when they were nearly married twenty years may find her anxiety about her marriage increasing as she approaches her own twentieth wedding anniversary.  Until one looks at the possible sources for such familial patterns one cannot see how they manifest from generation to generation.

I am eager to begin her book Dance of Deception but I want to sit and think a bit longer about what I’ve just finished reading before reading more.  I would definitely recommend her books to anyone who is struggling in a relationship with a parent, spouse, sibling, child, or even a very close friend.  If you find one book, either Dance of Anger or Dance of Intimacy interesting and/or beneficial, you’ll probably want to read both.  I’m glad I did even if the information is almost redundant.  Almost but not fully.

This book is part of my Fifteen in 2011 book list and, as such, is also a part of the Books I Should Have Read by Now Challenge

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf was chosen by the Banned Books Club on which means this is yet another rereading.  But am I ever glad we chose to read this book so that I would be compelled to reread it.  I am beginning to think that Woolf will become a part of my rotation reading where I put certain favorite and favored writers, gradually reading and rereading everything they’ve written.

This novel lends itself to being read at least twice, if not more frequently.  So little seems to be happening on the surface.  On the first page Clarissa Dalloway decides to get “the flowers” herself as she and her household prepare for a party she is giving later that day.  That’s it.  That’s the plot—Mrs Clarissa Dalloway is giving a party and things happen throughout the day, people come and go, do things, think thoughts, say what they want but rarely what they mean, etc.

So why does it merit being visited more than once? 

For anyone who wants to be a writer and use the third person multiple point-of-view, Woolf so brilliantly moves between characters that it is almost impossible to perceive the shifts.  This novel should be read as a textbook by any writer who is struggling with how to make smoother point-of-view transitions because, when it is poorly done, it can be disruptive to the narrative flow, causing the reader to no longer feel lost or immersed in the overall story.

I found myself once again bemused with myself.  The novel begins with the single sentence:  Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.  Which begs the question:  how is it that I didn’t think that flowers would be so meaningful when I read it the first time but this time I felt like every page was blooming with yet another reference to a flower or the use of floral imagery?  Nearly a third of the way through I was tempted to start at the beginning of the novel with the purpose of noting all flower images as I read along.  I’ll have to hopefully remember to do it next time because there are many and, no doubt, there are papers or entire books written on the subject out there somewhere.

It is also interesting to see how delicately Woolf handles the shift in society that is occurring at the time of this novel for it takes place five years after the end of World War I.  Sandra Gilbert, in her wonderful book Death’s Door, talks a great deal about the effects of this war upon society in general and the grieving process in particular.  Upon this reading of Mrs Dalloway, I found myself pondering the implications of the war, how much is changing, and will continue to change.  Clarissa’s generation is part of one stratum of society but society is moving at a pace that will soon leave her and her kind behind.  Some of the changes are as subtle as her daughter’s choice to wear pink instead of white while others are more apparent, with post-traumatic stress disorder being part of the story as well.  

There is a psychological depth that is especially remarkable in that psychology, itself, was relatively new in general and making only gradual inroads in literature, typically in the more experimental novels being published at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.  Woolf has obviously not only considered this in her composing a seemingly simple story but she has truly mastered it.  If so little happens on the surface of things, there is a great deal that is happening within the depths of the characters.  Again, mostly subtle but some quite obvious.

I want to reread this novel already and not move on to anything else but I already have other books to be read and I can only hope that there will be time a year or two from now for me to revisit Clarissa Dalloway and her world.

To read my original review: go here.

This novel is also part of the Classic Bribe challenge I've been enjoying so very much.  

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer by Edith Wharton

Summer by Edith Wharton is a book I’d never heard of before I read Ethan Frome but the author said that the two are similar and she even went so far as to call Summer the “hot Ethan.”  The parallels are certainly there, as both novels are set in small New England towns and are firmly established in a season.  If Wharton is guilty of using pathetic fallacy she at least does so to good effect.

This novel has a sense of doom about it but it is lighter or perhaps more lethargic than the other novel. Charity Royall is the ward of Mr. Royall who rescued her from a life of poverty.  One night when he is perhaps a little drunk and lets himself get carried away, he approaches Charity but she flatly declines and this one night of thoughtlessness results in a spiral of events that culminate in the understated tragedy that the reader knows is coming.  I say “understated” because, when compared with Ethan, Charity’s denouement is far from tragic, albeit it is equally far from joyful. 

Once I began reading, I found myself pushed to continue reading and, although I expected a far more devastating conclusion, I was not unsatisfied at the book’s end.  Wharton’s understanding of Charity’s insecurity, the choices she makes as a result, and her need for a place that she can call her own, are all delicately and well handled by an author who is as brilliant as she is intuitive.

Another in my meeting the two challenges:  Books I Should Have Read By Now and The Classic Bribe.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Journals of Sylvia Plath

The Journals of Sylvia Plath is a must-read for anyone who is fond of Plath’s poetry and wants to better appreciate the vagaries of creative insecurity.  Of all the things that most stood out to me, were the parts that sounded so familiar both in my own struggles with my writing and in the struggles I’ve witnessed in other writers, their words as confessed in blogs or in their published journals.

Her depression is, of course, evident as it ebbs and flows.  She often has what seem to be manic episodes of happiness followed by “depths of despair,” as Anne Shirley would say.  I found myself noting the books she read, making a sort of Sylvia Plath Syllabus, noting whenever she did why she read one writer or another.  Virginia Woolf and D H Lawrence seem to offer room for balance in her own writing. There are mentions of many poets she admires and deprecates, although she occasionally redresses her original opinion and suggests an appreciation for a poet she denigrated before.

I would have been content with some of the editorial comments removed.  A few, I concede, were necessary to allow some context but to have either her former husband or her mother explain what is happening is an insult to the reader.  Yes, tell me when there are geographical changes or that there is a break in journal entries because she was in a hospital but leave me the space to interpret the content for myself, allow me to define the meaning behind the words.

I avoided the reading for a long time because I was concerned it would make me feel sad and I confess that it did.  I think it’s na├»ve to blame Hughes for her suicide.  It’s all rather chicken/egg postulations.  She had tried to commit suicide before she ever met him and at their initial meeting she literally bit him until he bled.  On his cheek.  That this was not enough to scare him off suggestions that he had quite a few issues of his own.

Trust me, if a man were to bite me on my face the first time I met him, I wouldn’t want to see him again and if a man called me after I had done this to him, I wouldn’t answer.

It is also overly simplistic to suggest that society was a source of the problem.  Had she lived in another time, would she have been more content, more happy?  Perhaps if only because we have better drugs.  She obviously needed something to help her maintain some semblance of emotional balance.

All apologies aside, I think it was heinous for Hughes to destroy the journals she kept towards the end of her life. How dare he destroy anything that belonged to a woman he had abandoned?  She obviously had emotional problems long before her successful suicide and I can’t help wondering if she didn’t struggle with post-partum depression as well.  And where does one thing begin and the other end?  Who knows?  Again, we’re back to the whole egg/chicken issue.  This is a woman who was a genius but was broken before her brilliance ever found an audience and one can’t point a finger at any one element, like society or her father’s death or Ted Hughes or motherhood or her talent.  It is not that simple and to suggest otherwise is to deny the obvious complexity of being human and tragically flawed.

This is one of the Books I Should Have Read By Now choices I made as part of my Fifteen in 2011.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

War Talk by Arundhati Roy

War Talk by Arundhati Roy is a collection of political essays by an Indian woman who is controversial, possibly because she knows how to speak her mind in an intellectual manner.  Her essays are well-supported, with frequent footnotes, and whether you agree with her contentions she never falls into citing a statistic or quote a speech without offering evidence that she is not making arguments that are not rooted in reality.  And anyone who is not alarmed by privatization and corporatization hasn’t paid attention to the effects of colonialism and imperialism throughout history.

I found her essays fascinating although I don’t presume she speaks for every Muslim Indian citizen nor Indian women let alone every Indian citizen.  For me, the weakest essay in the collection was on Roy wrote as an introduction for Noam Chomsky’s For Reasons of State. The rest, however, are clear and precise, passionate without becoming either sentimental or vitriolic.  While some may deny the statements she makes, especially when she addresses herself beyond Indian politics, it would only suggest an ignorance rather than a legitimate refutation.  In the end, it is a matter of agreeing to disagree, in face of evidence that is, as I’ve said, well-supported.

I’ll likely add all of her books to my Neverending-to-be-Read-Book-List.  Whether I agree or not, I feel that reading her essays is a provocative challenge to understanding what we believe about the political situation here and abroad.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a book I adore reading occasionally. I inevitably fall in love with this novel every time.  Truth is, this novel gave me a temporary delusional belief that I might like romance novels.  No.  I like Jane Austen.  Apparently in my inclination for the genre begins and ends with her.  And this one is my favorite.  I can’t even say how  many times I’ve read it at this point nor can I explain how every time I read it I am charmed all over again.

I wish I had bought a copy of this novel, an inexpensive paperback version, and made a habit of marking my favorite quotes, the ones that make me laugh, with a date in the margin.  This way I could track those things that made me smile previously. 

In reading Sense and Sensibility before reading Pride and Prejudice, I can fully appreciate the growth of her talent from one novel to the next.  What the former hints at, this one shows to full advantage.  The touch of irony that borders nearly on sarcasm is delicious.  I adore Elizabeth Bennett and her father is wonderful.  I’ve never done more than like Jane but I liked her a bit more this time, perhaps because I saw her more through Elizabeth’s eyes.  And never has Lydia seemed more selfish and foolish nor Mr Collins more odious. 

And Mr Darcy.  He is so perfect.  I love his seeming arrogance and his inability to let down his walls.  Above all else, I love his compassion, which only comes out later in the novel. I know that I’ll be revisiting this novel time and again and fall in love with him each and every time.  

I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love.  (33)

I read this as part of the Classic Bribe.  I plan on reading Mansfield Park next, reading Austen in the order in which she was published.  Perhaps someday I'll give Bibi a copy with a pen and tell her to mark her favorite quotes with a date in the margin, so she can follow her appreciation as it changes and grows upon rereading.  I love this book so much!
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