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Whatever Words I Say Wednesday

What I've Finished Reading

I didn't love the last hundred pages of The Golden Notebook as much as the first five hundred. Anna's crack-up is never quite convincing - there's something a little dated and pedantically Freudian about it, maybe? The insufferable American lodger who dominates the last sixth of the book, whose appeal to Anna seems to be that he is even more fragmented a self than she is, is an interesting idea for a character but in practice grates on the nerves. In retrospect, huge chunks of the frame plot left me cold, though I didn't realize they were going to until later in the book. My affective fallacy and I got tired, after about Page 450, of Anna's endlessly (and despite the constant self-analysis of the narration, difficult to understand) bad taste in men, and also her Lady Chatterly-esque fixation on men's realness, on them being "real" as opposed to some other kind of men, an elusive state whose parameters are never explained. But all that doesn't mean I didn't like it, or that it wasn't a page-turner.

My favorite parts were those dealing with Anna's disillusionment with the Communist party and her meetings with literary and movie people - the comic tragedy and the broad comedy. The earnest theorizing about men and women and sex is interesting because that kind of thing always is to me. It's interesting as character expression and as a historical record, even if as theorizing it leaves something to be desired.

I already knew, because Burgess spoiled it for me (and it's not hard to see it coming) that the golden notebook would turn out to be The Very Book You Hold in Your Hands, Dear Reader -- Lessing is kind enough to bury the reappearance of the first line a few dozen pages from the end, rather than dangling it on the last page S.E. Hinton-style.

There's a lot more to say about this book but I'm going to put it off until later, at least until the comments. In the category "well-off left-wing women have a bad time in the twentieth century," I think liked The Group a little better, but I'm glad I read this one.

I'm still feeling a little book-hangoverish from The Count of Monte Cristo. I've even begun to think that maybe the slightly disappointing ending was a deliberate protective measure, like the way deep-sea divers have to pause on their ascent to avoid whatever horrible thing happens to their lungs if they come up too quickly.

What I'm Reading Now

From October 1976 until 1979, when I returned to Naples to live, I avoided resuming a steady relationship with Lila. But it wasn't easy. She almost immediately tried to reenter my life by force, and I ignored her, tolerated her, endured her. Even if she acted as if there were nothing she wanted more than to be close to me at a difficult moment, I couldn't forgive the contempt with which she had treated me.

And just like that, here we are again. It's like I never left. I've been putting off starting The Story of the Lost Child partly because I want to "read down" some of my other books first (to make room on the shelf, because Elena Ferrante books are books I keep) and partly because I know I'm going to feel a loss when it's really over. But here we are.

So why do you think it is that Anna Wulf's awful relationships were a source of irritation to me in an otherwise enjoyable book, while I greet Lenu and Lila's even more awful relationships with open arms and a kind of joy in bitterness? Differently-focused narration? Anyway, here we are, back in Naples for the last time.

What to do, then? Admit yet again that she's right? Accept that to be adult is to disappear, is to learn to hide to the point of vanishing? Admit that, as the years pass, the less I know of Lila?

This morning I keep weariness at bay and sit down again at the desk. Now that I'm close to the most painful part of our story, I want to seek on the page a balance between her and me that in life I couldn't even find between myself and me.

Also reading: The Hidden Land by Paula Dean. The cousins have been stuck in their Secret Country for some time now, making do. Ted, whom everyone thinks is his formerly fictional self-insert Prince Edward, is trying to prevent the assassination of the king, but the back cover tells me it isn't going to work. So far it promises to be just as sticky and strangely-paced as The Secret Country, though maybe with a little more plot?

What I Plan to Read Next

I have this anthology called Fiction in the Heart of Dixie: An Anthology of Alabama Writers, maybe that? We'll see how long it takes to finish my current books, now that all my reading time is being eaten up by employment.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
a_phoenixdragon
Jan. 11th, 2017 11:32 pm (UTC)
*HUGS*
evelyn_b
Jan. 14th, 2017 02:56 am (UTC)
<3
osprey_archer
Jan. 12th, 2017 01:51 am (UTC)
I like the idea of the ending of the Count of Monte Cristo as a way to prevent us all from getting the literary bends. If it had ended with Villefort going mad - or with a gorgeous scene where Mercedes and Dantes reunited, probably with the golden sunshine of late afternoon pouring down upon them as they at last shared a long-postposed kiss - well, either way I might not have been able to read another book for a week.

I thought The Hidden Land was the plottiest of the Secret Country trilogy - the most like a normal book in that respect.
evelyn_b
Jan. 14th, 2017 03:13 am (UTC)
I haven't got very much further into The Hidden Land, but it does seem plottier! Honestly, it feels as if this + 1/3 of The Secret Country made a complete novel and the publisher said "We only publish fantasy in trilogies or more." Almost, but not quite, because I think The Secret Country has its own logic and momentum that isn't the usual plot-logic and momentum. THL doesn't "need" most of TSC to make sense, but I feel like Dean wanted to write TSC, if that makes sense.

Seriously, after some of those scenes in Monte Cristo I just had to get up and walk around for a while. It's all for the best that it ended on a slightly weaker note.

Also, I JUST REALIZED I can now watch the tiny dog adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo! :D :D

eta it looks like we're in for another awkward human/dog pairing! I can't say I blame Fernand for being upset.

Edited at 2017-01-14 03:15 am (UTC)
osprey_archer
Jan. 14th, 2017 01:38 pm (UTC)
Oh, poor Fernand. "You prefer him to me? But he is LITERALLY A DOG, what even."

And yes, I agree about TSC, both in that a part of it + The Hidden Land would have made a more normal fantasy novel with a plot arc and so forth - but probably that would have required cutting out a lot of the arguments about "is this real? Are we hallucinating our fantasy land? What are we going to do about time passing when we're gone?" and I feel like Dean really wanted to write that.
chez_jae
Jan. 13th, 2017 09:50 pm (UTC)
I
It's a Catch-22:

Work takes away from our reading, but we must work to afford books.

:D
evelyn_b
Jan. 14th, 2017 03:21 am (UTC)
Re: I
Someday I'll manage to balance the two! (I hope).
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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