Monday, August 23, 2010

"don't call it a comeback" or "i'm actually reading things that aren't trashy romance"

I totally forgot this was here. And then I saw Katie posted in May.

And I've recently backed away from the trashy novels and am trying to integrate myself back into fiction proper with a possible future foray into nonfiction.

So, I'm inserting a placeholder for "The Passage" by Justin Cronin. I've got an exam on Monday so it might be another week or two, but it's coming with a vengence.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak

Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak came at an interesting time for me. The group with which I was reading the book was focused primarily on vocational discernment, but I found a great light and hope in another focus of the book.

Palmer writes of a spiritual journey that takes him from one perceived “correct” place to a vocational home. He writes honestly and openly about the struggles he went through on his journey and includes a moving and important chapter on depression.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kathryn Stockett's The Help

I liked Kathryn Stockett's The Help, but I wanted to love it. I wanted it to creep into my bones like so many other works about Southern women and their problematic relationships. I wanted it to be risky and a little more painful than it actually was. I wanted a villain that was sympathetic and revealing, and protagonists whose lives were more developed. I wanted the book to have heavy consequences for me.

It didn’t do those things. It was engrossing; I read it in about 6 hours, deeply drawn in to the story and invested in the characters. My heart pounded at the end and I ached for the villain to get a much needed comeuppance despite knowing that good novelists never let the villain get overtly punished. The book understands its world, perhaps a little too well – it sees the ways that humans turn on each other and revile each other. It witnesses the ways that people will search for anything that degrades that which they fear and will stop at nothing to control their own lives and the destinies of others. We see a lot of this in the character of Hilly, who is, SPOILER, the villain. Hilly is manipulative; she takes great pleasure in inflicting Skeeter’s punishment, and it is apparent from the start that Hilly is looking for someone to punish or scapegoat. She reveals her foul plans in front of those who will be most harmed, daring them to speak against her, and she fantastically overestimates her own power and charm. Hilly is made to be hated, and that’s part of the problem.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lauren Winner's Real Sex

It is difficult to overstate how much I disliked Lauren Winner’s book Real Sex (complete with the pure white flower of virginity on the cover). The best parts of the book were fairly general and common sense, but at worst, Winner relies on begging the question, self-contradiction, and borderline misogyny to make her point about chastity. This point is not terribly different from what anyone who grew up in a church has heard before – sex is intended for marriage. Winner’s big difference from the standard line about chastity is that there is a spiritual discipline to abstaining; she acknowledges that for the single person, foregoing sex can be a sacrifice rather than an easy virtue, and she uses her own sexual past to demonstrate the difficulties of such a spiritual journey.

Winner would like us to believe that God created sex for marriage, that sex is a community act (we should ask our friends about their sex lives to help them discern correct behaviors), and sex without the possibility of procreation is not as complete a unifying experience as sex sans contraception (the myriad problems with this aside, it is clear that Winner is not dealing with any kind of homosexual experience – but she’s not really interested in complicating her thesis). The assumptions built into these kinds of beliefs are not challenged, even in the most basic of ways. She neglects thinking about marriage’s tumultuous history as a cultural institution, she assumes that discernment requires outside intrusion rather than invitation from the discerner, and she devalues the sexual experiences of many. Perhaps she does not care about these issues, or perhaps she thinks that her assumptions about the nature of marriage are accepted by her audience. She needs to be a little more persuasive – as a writing professor, I’m not entirely certain how her book was published without an editor saying, “Well, Ms. Winner, you need to actually explain this to your audience, since you’re trying to convince them you’re right.”