Thursday, June 30, 2011

Current reading

Alright, I want to apologize for my pathetic leadership on Til We Have Faces (which I did like, though I didn't say anything about it) by sharing some book recommendations with you all. One of the lovely aspects of this forum is that anything you ladies recommend is so good and readable

Julia and Melanie mentioned Room first, and now I'm dying to discuss it with those who've read it already. They've already covered the basics of the plot: a young woman and her son held in captivity, narrated by the five-year-old boy. I flew through the book and made Darwin read it as well so that we could talk about it. I'm a squeamish person and was very wary of the subject material, but Emma Donoghue handles her narrative with an exquisite sensibility.

What I'm pondering right now is the twisted way in which Ma's captor tries to establish this marital relationship with her, down to the put-upon husband routine when she asks him for anything.

The whole "memoir" is constructed as the introduction to the publication of a newly-discovered and authenticated Shakespeare play about King Arthur (the entire play is included as the last fourth of the novel). The author, taking advantage of his contractual obligation to write the introduction, uses his platform to explain why he thinks the whole piece is an elaborate forgery by his father. The novel is amusing, if the interpersonal relationships get a bit strained and irritating by the end, but the play, The Tragedy of Arthur, is pretty darn good. I'd pay to watch it on stage, that good.

Here's another book in which an author constructs a whole body of literary work to support the narrative. A minor academic, researching the famous Victorian poet Randolph Henry Ash, discovers a long-hidden and smoldering letter from Ash (renowned for his faithfulness to his wife) to the poetess Christabel LaMotte-- two literary lights who were never supposed to have met, let alone corresponded. The resulting novel is a literary thriller, detective story, romance (both ancient and modern), and compendium of "source material" from these two poets. I'm not the most familiar with the work of the Victorian poets, but A.S. Byatt doesn't seem to strike any false notes in her creation of the oeuvre and letters of Ash and the lesser-known LaMotte. I might have been convinced that these were authentic works if I hadn't been told otherwise by the friend who recommended the book to me.

But skip, I beg of you, the crappy movie (which consistently underwhelmed, except for the eye candy of Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle playing the Victorian poets).

What are you ladies reading?


Emily J. said...

Ditto on Possession and the movie. Loved the book and hated the movie. How could it go so wrong?

Emily J. said...

Pt 2 I picked up Room and couldn't get into it. Not in the mood for it. But I did just finish and enjoy The Penderwicks at Pt Mouette. Juvenile fiction is all I can handle right now. But I need some good recommendations for car reading once we hit the road.

Emily J. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melanie B said...

I wrote my undergrad thesis on Possession. It was probably a mistake to try to write on a book I loved so very much. Especially when I was such an undisciplined writer. I had no focus and the paper was terrible. But I still adore the novel. The movie was a travesty. Though I'm not sure how you could make a satisfactory movie out of a novel when precisely what made the novel such a treasure was the way it was such a self-conscious meditation on the pleasures of reading.

And yes, I thought the twisted echos of the marital relationship were one of the most disturbing things about Room.

Enbrethiliel said...


Possession was one of those rare books that intimidated me on sight. So I tried to play nonchalant by reading only bits and pieces of it, skipping back and forth as necessary to fill the plot in for myself.

What an idiot I was, really. I think that if I had just sat down with it, given it the respect it deserved, and read it from cover to cover, it would be one of my favourites today.

Rachel said...

I think the one thing that disturbed me the most about room was what you mentioned. That psuedo-married relationship the captor attempts with Ma. Seriously, that made my skin crawl. Like, he thought what he was doing was the most natural thing in the world. *shudder*