Currently Reading: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
So I started reading this novel a month ago. Then one day, my friend’s car broke down and I accidentally left it in said car. Didn’t realize where it went until I saw her next several weeks later and she said “oh yeah, here’s your book!” I picked up where I left off and am rather enjoying it…except I’ve misplaced it again. I really want to finish reading it. Adam Ross has an intoxicating writing style which makes the blatant misogynism of the novel bearable.
The novel is essentially about men who want to kill their wives or men who have killed their wives or men who wish they weren’t with their wives and have fantasies about killing them. That’s a somewhat relatable feeling, except it’s ONLY about men and their wives, not about women and their husbands or men and their husbands or women and their wives. And all of the women in the novel, save maybe one, are absolutely unreasonable and reprehensible and stereotypically emotional and irrational. In some ways, I hate this novel, but like I said, his writing is so intoxicating and carnal and dirty that it’s worth dealing with the misogynism. He’s only written one other work—Ladies and Gentleman, a collection of short stories— which may or may not be as misogynistic, I couldn’t really say. Either way, if he gets rid of his anti-woman undertones, he could be a very very prolific and excellent writer.
Who reading this doesn’t know that lobotomies kind of suck and were among the worst ideas as far as medical standards go? I feel it’s safe to assume that we’re all in agreement on this; however, author Howard Dully doesn’t seem to think so. His memoir about his life before, during, and after he was given a transorbital “Ice pick” lobotomy could have gone many different places and could have said many different things. But the message he seems to want to convey is that lobotomies kind of suck—a pointless statement made adamantly in a world that is already well aware of this point. His book would have probably been controversial had it been published in, say, 1975. But with it’s 2007 publication date, it seems like a wasted effort to get across a point that doesn’t need to be made to a public that’s only reading the book for the macabre topic.
My Lobotomy is in the same vein of memoirs as A Child Called “It” (1995). It is rather heart breaking and at some points hard to read. If Dully’s accounts are correct, then as a child he was definitely neglected by his father and emotionally, verbally, and probably even physically abused by his step-mother. At 12 years old, she convinced a doctor and Dully’s father to agree to lobotomizing him. After the surgery—which didn’t seem to affect his personality or development much—he was made a ward of the state and sent from home to juvvie to psych wards back to homes. You may find it presumptuous of me to say that the lobotomy didn’t affect him much, but this is where I find major issue with this tale: despite his repetitive claims towards the end of the book that it affected his whole life, the lobotomy didn’t really affect him. The lobotomy was just another form of abuse and, in blaming the lobotomy for his inability to function in society, he’s simply scape-goating. His step-mother was a bitch, his father was uncaring and the fact that they abandoned him to the state is what made him non-functional. He’s blaming the lobotomy when he really should be blaming the lobotomy when he should be blaming his parents. He doesn’t do that for a reason that I understand, but it makes the book pointless. Instead of making a statement about abuse, instead of making a statement about government and medicine, instead of making a statement about the medical community (two of which he does bring up, but only briefly towards the end of the book) he’s making a statement about lobotomies.
In all honesty, to me it seemed like after doing the radio broadcast, he got it into his head that it would be really cool to write a memoir, except that he overlooked the fact that he cannot write. So many times in the book, it is just pages and pages and pages of “I did… I did… I did… This happened… I did… I did…” There is remarkably little subjective experience; essentially the novel is about Dully doing typical teenage boy stuff, just in a bad environment that didn’t cultivate him into a functional human being. That’s why it’s so hard for me to buy into his claim that the lobotomy had a huge effect on his life: yeah at the end he’s talking about crying and I believe he was legitimately crying and sad and at peace and whatever, but when placed next to his life story, it looks artificial or created after-the-fact.
Currently reading: My Lobotomy by Howard Dully and Charles Fleming
At twelve, Howard Dully was guilty of the same crimes as other boys his age: he was moody and messy, rambunctious with his brothers, contrary just to prove a point, and perpetually at odds with his parents. Yet somehow, this normal boy became one of the youngest people on whom Dr. Walter Freeman performed his barbaric transorbital—or ice pick—lobotomy.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go is daring in a lot of different ways. Despite it’s contemporary occurrence, it is set in a world that is very different from our own. One in which certain “students” are different than others, kept separate from the rest of the world and taught art, culture, and history all while their future of donations is subversively worked into their subconscious. It’s set in a sci-fi world where a science break-through after the Second World War has allowed for the cure of those previously incurable diseases that could unexpectedly ravish a person. However, despite the sci-fi cause of the story, the details of this world remain only undertones, occurrences that are accepted as facts of life and remain unquestioned by the narrator who is guided along by them. Never Let Me Go is a love story -both romantic and platonic- more than anything else.
This story is told as if you’ve sat down with someone and asked them to tell you about their life. It is non-chronological, with one anecdote necessitating the telling of another, and thus leading to a highly interconnected tale of three friends who grew up in a boarding school together. It makes for a very engaging story; however, the narrator is the kind of logical, analytical, matter-of-fact individual that can lead to some moments seeming slightly emotionless.
Ishiguro does a fantastic job of avoiding the style of story telling where things are laid out clearly for you from the beginning; instead he allows it to unfold as narrator Kathy sees fit, assuming that you are already privy to the workings of this alternate/contemporary UK. In this way a lot of philosophical themes- the most important of which is what makes someone human- are subtly introduced and can be easily overlooked because the question is not directly posed. It isn’t until late in the novel that the real workings of the world become clear to you, or even to the narrator - and even then it’s hard to assess the world because these facts have been slipped in slowly throughout the novel to become nothing more than the way things are.
Was anyone else raised within a religion and they never questioned it until they met another person who devoutly and stringently followed a different religion? This novel captures that feeling: the idea that what that other person is telling you is just not how things are. But once that idea that things really are different and that the world is so much wider and complex than you thought has been planted, then it eats at you and remains at the back of your thought processes. It’s a sneaky and clever novel that in a lot of ways is incredibly fucked up, but it’s so subtle with this errant way of life that the true implications of what you’re reading don’t become apparent until later reflection.
This novel is brilliant. Plain and simple and I would like to leave it there, but feel as if I should mention the film adaptation. Never Let Me Go (2010) is in my opinion one of the best book-to-movie adaptations I’ve ever seen. Though it’s not perfectly 1 for 1 with the book, it does capture the subtlety and normality created in the book in an impeccable way. And in some ways the movie is better - Andrew Garfield brings the childishness and emotionality of Tommy to life in a way that narrator Kathy simply doesn’t. It was so hard to fight back tears at the end of the book, and I think part of the reason for that is because I saw the movie first and so somehow I felt like I knew Tommy as a character better (or maybe differently) than I would have if I’d just read the book. See the movie, read the book; they’re both great and they compliment each other really well.
Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn is now on my shelf.
Currently reading: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I managed to lose or misplace my copy of Mr. Peanut, which is a shame because I was actually enjoying it, much more so than I was Naked.
Currently reading: Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross
David Pepin has been in love with his wife, Alice, since the moment they met in a university seminar on Alfred Hitchcock. After thirteen years of marriage, he still can’t imagine a remotely happy life without her—yet he obsessively contemplates her demise. Soon she is dead, and David is both deeply distraught and the prime suspect.
The detectives investigating Alice’s suspicious death have plenty of personal experience with conjugal enigmas: Ward Hastroll is happily married until his wife inexplicably becomes voluntarily and militantly bedridden; and Sam Sheppard is especially sensitive to the intricacies of marital guilt and innocence, having decades before been convicted and then exonerated of the brutal murder of his wife.
Still, these men are in the business of figuring things out, even as Pepin’s role in Alice’s death grows ever more confounding when they link him to a highly unusual hit man called Mobius. Like the Escher drawings that inspire the computer games David designs for a living, these complex, interlocking dramas are structurally and emotionally intense, subtle, and intriguing; they brilliantly explore the warring impulses of affection and hatred, and pose a host of arresting questions. Is it possible to know anyone fully, completely?Are murder and marriage two sides of the same coin, each endlessly recycling into the other? And what, in the end, is the truth about love?
Mesmerizing, exhilarating, and profoundly moving, Mr. Peanut is a police procedural of the soul, a poignant investigation of the relentlessly mysterious human heart—and a first novel of the highest order.
Cover for Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake designed by Angelica Alzona
But I am eighty-two. Thanks a lot, you dirty rats. The last thing I ever wanted was to be alive when the three most powerful people on the whole planet would be named Bush, Dick and Colon.
in lieu of encouraging children to read books when essentially they are the same thing: an escape. Educational or intelligent television shows probably exist in the same proportion as educational and intelligent books, and, of the books they read and tv shows they watch respectively, people probably read fantasy/fiction/escapist novels in proportion to the number of fantasy/fiction/escapist television shows they watch. Granted, I probably didn’t learn the word “Lambasted” from a tv show, but they’re really not all that different of media.
So I’m at an old cafe by the beach alone and I got up to use the restroom and buy a croissant. When I returned this was in my book ~
This is the cutest thing, this is the type of thing I would swoon over. Someone who was fascinated by the sight of me reading, my goodness.
It’s cute the first time. It’ll be creepy as fuck the next time especially when he adds, “If you’re still looking for your favorite skirt, it’s still at the dry cleaner. You never brought it home.”
I’d probably swoon a little bit.