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07 September 2011 @ 10:40 pm
#22, #23  
The Tenderness of Wolves, Stef Penney

This is a reasonably readable book - in that once I got over the fairly boring first chapter and accepted that yes, I was going to keep reading a book about farmers in 1860s Canada that I found in the radiology department, it drew me on. At the finish, though, it's what at best I'd call a 'muddle' and at worst a 'hot mess'. There's wolves in it, sure, but not enough to justify the cute title. I think the main theme - for there are several stories - is Native Americans in Canada and the white women who loved them.

As for the rest, if I didn't own such a slash-oriented mind one of the stories might have given me the surprise Penney was aiming for.

Like, the beautiful young male loner comes across a husky older male loner who has a cabin outside of town? They turn out to be friends? Does this look familiar to anyone? Hurr, hurr, 'friends' and 'hunting trips', is that what they're calling it these days.

... except yes, in fact, that was what you called it if you were a gay farmer in 1860.

Speaking of 1860, one thing this book fell utterly flat on was describing the time period. It could have been any time when women found it difficult to get a good education and non-white people were openly discriminated against, meaning anywhere up to 1980, or possibly yesterday. There was no sense of difference, the alienation of the modern reader from the mindset of Dickens or Eliot or Gaskell.

I don't think the book was particularly bad on racism, but I don't think it was particularly good either. Mrs Ross' falling for Parker seemed tacked-on and unnecessary, but maybe that's because there were too many storylines already, including one about a white woman falling in love with a Native American man. As for the discovery of a written Native American language - THAT is the story I wanted to read. Or possibly one about wolves eating people. Or the Hudson Bay Company and the rise and fall of its rivals. All in all this book was too small for the scope of the events it was covering.

Incidentally, have they come up with a better term than 'Native American' yet?

The Road, Cormac McCarthy

Wow. Yawn. I wish he'd written this from the point of view of the cannibals. As it was, our peaks of narrative tension were ... the two guys finding food and having a bath. Running out of food again, finding some and having another bath. Like seriously, FUCK OFF with the dystopias that don't do anything with the dystopia. I've come to realise that apparently Ayn Rand is TEH EBIL, but at least Atlas Shrugged was a convincing, terrifying account of the slow descent into dystopia. The scariest part of a novel like this is not wandering around avoiding the scavenging hordes, it's how there came to be scavenging hordes in the first place. The day people realised there would be no more light, no more heat, no more television. Where's that in this book? I half-expected the old man on the road to say 'I am John Galt.' I'm pretty sure McCarthy killed off the man in the end just to fucking end the story. We all know the real end of this story is when the world runs out of fucking canned goods.

The man thought he seemed some sad and solitary changeling child announcing the arrival of a travelling spectacle in shire and village who does not know that behind him the players have all been carried off by wolves.

This is a good line. One good line in hundreds. I thought this dude was supposed to be an OMG AMAZE writer. Maybe in his other books, idk.
Current Music: every teardrop is a waterfall // coldplay
catnip jonesrumpleghost on September 8th, 2011 12:26 am (UTC)
Man, it's interesting that you say you didn't find any narrative tension, my skin was crawling with dread the whole way through reading this book. I thought it was terrifying and vivid and compelling. I think the fact that it leaves you with all these questions and unfulfilled expectations is the point, it is a very deliberately discomforting book, it doesn't want you to take the normal kind of pleasure out of a reading experience.

Also, it wasn't dystopia, it was post-apocalypse, which is a very different thing. I was reading a really great essay by Michael Chabon which talks about the way that McCarthy had to go against all his instincts in writing this -- the idea that there would be anyone left, let alone any record -- and to attempt to make up for it he strips away all the usual crowded dense prose that he became famous for with Blood Meridian (which is his best book, imo). I thought it was written beautifully.

(By the way, in answer to your other question -- I do have all my book reviews private-locked on my old journal, but I'd already read The Road before I started doing the reviews, so. I do have reveiws of Blood Meridian & No Country For Old Men.)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: Pretty shoesscoradh on September 23rd, 2011 10:14 am (UTC)
Starting from the end -

I do have all my book reviews private-locked on my old journal

That's a shame. I always like going back on reviews of books I read because you did and seeing does my opinion ever jive with yours.

When I review, and I think when a lot of people review, they aren't comparing the book to other books so much as to the ideal book - the one that contains everything they're looking for. No such book exists, but if you're lucky you'll find some that contain enough good (in your opinion) elements to make up for what it inevitably lacks. Certainly as a child I wasn't so hypercritical about what I read. I think you're unique in that you enjoy so much of what you read, you commit yourself thoroughly to the plot or the prose or the concept. Most of all you judge books for what they are instead of what you think they should be. You're the ideal reader and I'm the ... un-ideal. But then, to be critical is my nature. It's not a very pleasant nature, but it's the one I've got. :/
Alysseannealysse on September 8th, 2011 02:53 am (UTC)
Oh, wow. I didn't think The Road was quite THAT bad, but I'll agree that it could've been better. Especially the freaking ending. I mean, really, McCarthy? Really? Daddy dies, just like that, and his kid is carried off to safety, just like that? No. Just NO. I usually like endings that leave you going WTF?, but this one was just too much.

As for the first book, I've never even heard of it. I think I'll avoid it, though. It just doesn't quite sound worth my time...
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: socksscoradh on September 23rd, 2011 10:07 am (UTC)
I totally expected the saviours to eat either him or Daddy. Or both. NGL.

Yeah, it's one of those books you read when you're waiting on a ten-book order from Amazon to arrive and you really can't justify buying another book from a shop...
xoxo, Geralynnbuildyourwalls on September 9th, 2011 06:29 am (UTC)
Okay, comments regarding The Road --

At first, when I had read it, I thought it was a little weird how the use of syntax and prose was being...murdered and how it was possible for this guy to actually get away with it. But I didn't think it was overly pretentious, I just like things to be grammatically correct even if I never am.

Secondly, I think that the ideology of seeing it through teh cannibals would be fuckton crazy. There were parts were I was very O.o about and I even went as far as to say that I had to put the book down because I was really depressed at how awful everything was. The part with the catamites? Yeahhhh, pass.

I felt the ending was really ridiculous, in retrospect. When I read it, of course I was already depressed byt he whole ideology of the thing and then I was like "wahhhhhh", for about two seconds and my husband demanded I read a happy book. But looking back, I gotta agree. He obviously killed the guy to end the story. AND to make this whole thing even MORE WEIRD, do you know how McCarthy got the idea of writing this? Going to the fucking Alamo with his son one day as a son/dad time and was like "oh hay, what if this happened to us?" Man, if I ever get like that when I'm a mother, I'm going to make sure the babydaddy checks me into a mental ward.

Also, can you please tell me the evils of Ayn Rand? Cause I hear such conflicting views -- one that she's awesome, then people telling me to read The Fountainhead which I'd rather watch paint dry than attempt to read a book from a woman who has been most notably described as a self-centered individual for 10000000 pages. Literally, that book scares the bejebus out of me. But I'd like to know your opinion since you are well read and you are also well-spoken and can break it down in about 2-4 paragraphs.

PS: Ever read anything by Alice Sebold? I think you'd like her. Maybe. You're so well-read that I often feel overwhelmed by the books you can get through. This is probably why you are a doctor - you are so so smart.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: jillicons: disco rabbitsscoradh on September 27th, 2011 06:35 pm (UTC)
Oh man! The part where he randomly cut out apostrophes! I thought it might be just the boy's POV or just the man's, but it wasn't, it was everywhere and anywhere and it wrecked my head!

It wasn't necessarily the beyond-redemption cannibals I wanted to hear from so much as the three people driven to such lengths of desperation that they'd kill and eat a baby they knew they couldn't support. That at least would be interesting, which is more than I can say for the plight of man and boy. (And SERIOUSLY, can we get over the oh-so-edgy non-naming of characters? It was old when Daphne du Maurier did it.)

I didn't think Ayn Rand was evil at all! I thought she was awesome in that her morality was pro people who did stuff and against people who made up bullshit instead of doing stuff. In my mind it was people like me, working hard at a real job, versus the kind of people who want to fuck up my job by telling me how I should be more 'patient centred' and 'holistic' by 'reflective learning'. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. But it turns out what she meant was big bad industrialists against, like, teachers and academics, which in fairness is not the read I got from it. But my workplace, then and now, is quite bitter about paying so much tax to support people who've never worked and have never so much as been asked to, and that is I suppose the essential divide. People who can't get a job seemed to be ranked in society alongside those who just won't, and I guess a lot of people who are anti Ayn Rand fell into the former category at some point? idk, I'm just guessing. Working has made me way more rightwing than I ever thought possible.

Anyway, that's the 'politics'; the stories themselves I found interesting. The protagonists' goals always seemed rather ethereal to me, maybe because they're so far beyond my scope. I guess the most troubling aspect is that her heroines seem to enjoy getting raped.

I read The Lovely Bones. I thought it was half-daft. Didn't she, like, resurrect herself for a day to turn her lesbian friend straight? What even is that? I can't speak as to the quality of her writing, because I read Bones years before I started ~analysing what I read and it turned me off enough that I haven't read anything else by her. I also read bad reviews of the book where someone kills their Alzheimer-suffering mother.

If I were smart I would not be stuck in a job I loathe, lol. And I get through a lot of books because I have no social life - actually, I've been watching so many TV shows I haven't even done that lately. So don't feel intimidated. My life is far less shiny from the inside.
uminohikariuminohikari on September 10th, 2011 02:05 am (UTC)
Canadians call Native Americans, First Nations?
uminohikariuminohikari on September 10th, 2011 02:07 am (UTC)
Wait, google says that First Nations refers specifically to Canadians. Nevermind!
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on September 23rd, 2011 10:06 am (UTC)
That book was set in Canada, so I guess that's appropriate!