So here are a couple of things that I’ve read lately, and my feelings about them, in brief.
C. by Tom McCarthy
I gave up on this book after the first 40 pages because by page forty, I still couldn’t tell who the main characters were going to be or what the book was going to be about. I’m ok with the idea of a novel that plays with perspective and narrative and so forth, but this book just felt intentionally evasive. Look, McCarthy, I’m reading you at 3 am while I try to nurse. Don’t get cute with me. If you’re going to be all hip and postmodern, at least do it right (see: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. Sure he’s postmodern. Why not?). To be fair, I think this is the sort of novel that does some supercool stuff thematically, but right now I just haven’t got the patience for it. Lesson learned by me, I guess.
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
The problem I have with satirists, like Swift, is that I’m not in their same context, so they don’t seem funny or clever or anything to me. They’re just aggravating because I have to keep flipping to the footnotes to find out what event or person the author is referring to. Jokes that have to be explained are never funny. Thackeray, on the other hand, in Vanity Fair has written something that is not only clever satire but also a really wonderful story that can stand outside of its context. The stories of Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley continue to provide me with all kinds of things to consider about class and gender and power. Yay Thackeray!
The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes
This is a darling novel about, well, I don’t really want to tell you because it gives away some of the adorableness. But it is also a story about several individuals, and how they negotiate romance, tragedy, and building a life together in contemporary Dublin. This is not High Literature, but it is definitely heartwarming and absolutely worth reading.
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
I didn’t like this book. Maybe it’s just too far from my reality for me to find a way into, but I felt like all the characters were just really improbable people acting in really improbable ways. And not just improbable, wrong. Perhaps I just have unrealistic expectations about the world and how it functions, but it seemed like all of these characters got themselves into situations in which there was no way for them to make a good choice. Maybe that’s the point of the novel– existential alienation and all that– but I still didn’t like it.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Froer
What Froer wants to say right off the bat is that eating meat is unethical, and that if you eat meat, you are behaving in a way that is selfish, evil, exploitative, and unethical. However, Froer is too cowardly to do this until the end of his book, which pretends to be a fair and balanced consideration of what it means to be a person who eats meat. Froer contends that the agriculture industry is too corrupt, that there is no such thing as humane slaughter or raising of animals, and that the environment is too fragile to justify eating meat. Rather than fix any of these problems, Froer says that the best thing to do is to not participate, that the fix itself lies in removing oneself from the meat industry altogether. Like I said, cowardly. Well written and interesting. Lots of good reasons to be a vegetarian. He doesn’t do much to combat the image of vegetarians as self-righteous weaklings, though. At one point, Froer says something like, “I don’t want to tell you that eating meat is evil, but it would be evil for me to do it.” (I’m grossly paraphrasing since I don’t have the book in front of me anymore. Sorry.) Anyway, kind of an eye-roller for me.