Friday, November 19, 2021

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

“Why does that obstinate little voice in our heads torment us so? Could it be because it reminds us that we are alive, of our mortality, of our individual souls – which, after all, we are too afraid to surrender but yet make us feel more miserable than any other thing? It is a terrible thing to learn as a child that one is a being separate from the world, that no one and no thing hurts along with one’s burned tongues and skinned knees, that one’s aches and pains are all one’s own. Even more terrible, as we grow older, to learn that no person, no matter how beloved, can ever truly understand us. Our own selves make us most unhappy, and that’s why we’re so anxious to lose them, don’t you think? Remember the Erinyes?”

Gorgeously written, leaden and long, and pretentious,  but I couldn't stop reading. A lesson to be learned about writing melodrama, page-turnings, etc. What we know about each insufferable main character is not enough to distinguish them one from another, except for Julian, their magister, who remains mostly hidden from the action but limned in by indirect reference.

James Wood of the London Review of Books gave it a mediocre review, writing: "The story compels, but it doesn't involve...It offers mysteries and polished revelations on every page, but its true secrets are too deep, too unintended to be menacing or profound."

Monday, November 01, 2021

Bewilderment by Richard Powers


The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane


Why I'm just getting around to reading this now we'll never know. Pretty amazing, atmospheric, psychological novel about a young man's first days serving in the Civil War. Completely unconventional. Almost all of the plot is mental, internal.

In the present, he declared to himself that it was only the doomed and the damned who roared with sincerity at circumstance. Few but they ever did it. A man with a full stomach and the respect of his fellows had no business to scold about anything that he might think to be wrong in the ways of the universe, or even with the ways of society. Let the unfortunates rail; the others may play marbles. (p. 83, Bantam Classic, 2004)

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