Sunday, November 2, 2008

Portrait of a Marriage - Nigel Nicolson
I suspect a whitewash job. Vita and Harold are not the wonderful couple the son would have us believe they are (read between the lines). The book is well-written but repetitive. I see the makings of a good novel about the rotten rich.

Go Tell It on the Mountain - James Baldwin
Powerful, impassioned, intense. Perhaps too intense. The unrelenting darkness of these people’s lives started to weigh heavily on me. Religion is pervasive for them, but it’s a religion born of desperation and desolation; it too is dark. Baldwin creates four vibrant characters. Interestingly, the one who is most fully-developed – and the most sympathetic – is the hated father. This is an autobiographical novel by a young man; Baldwin may not have had the detachment or perspective necessary to resolve complex emotions. This sense of irresolution is present in the ending, when John goes into a religious trance. I was baffled as to what this scene said about the boy and the direction his life would take.

Black Spring - Henry Miller
These are sketches, odds and ends. But, then, doesn’t Miller do whatever he wants to do? Genius gives him that right. Miller was a supreme egotist; all his writing is about himself. I’ll grant him a degree of genius, but it’s not the kind that’s compatible with my tastes. Too self-indulgent. The words cascade impressively, but I was often not sure of what the point of it all was. I like structure and discipline; Miller hated structure and discipline. He succeeded in pulling me into his world in Tropic of Cancer, but not in anything else I’ve read by him.

Welcome to the Monkey House - Kurt Vonnegut
Lightweight stories. Entertaining, often inventive – but reading them is like eating buttered popcorn. Vonnegut is in favor of love, sex, peace, etc. This, as the “message” of too many stories, gets to be predictable and trite. A few stories rose to the level of good, but most were juvenile and, like popcorn, lacking in nourishment. I only read half.

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