Friday, December 26, 2008

Like Life - Lorrie Moore
Lorrie Moore comes across as the best student in an MFA class. Her prose is inventive and fresh. She can grab and hold one’s interest. She has a life view (a distasteful one, but with the force of conviction behind it). At times her humor is so dark that it’s startling. All these talents (which she sometimes overuses, as if dazzled by her gifts) don’t consistently result in successful stories; characters and situations and resolutions often seem half-baked. The noteworthy exception is “You’re Ugly, Too,” in which a woman’s emotional dissolution is treated as if it were a terribly, terribly funny joke. Moore uses all her unique strengths to evoke both dread and pity.

Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes (Spanish)
Disappointing. Initially I found Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to be entertaining, and the premise – which involves the abandonment of reality – interested me. As for the humor, I was only mildly amused; it was often crude and silly, not to my taste. Cervantes set out to appeal to the common sensibility of the time. I had expected something more lofty, and I felt relieved that the going was so easy. After a number of variations on the same theme, Cervantes turned to the stories of people Quixote and Panza meet on their travels. These stories were very long and suffused with extreme romanticism. I saw no hint of parody – they were related in a forthright way. I can’t stomach ornate and extreme romanticism, with all the talk of womanly virtue, all the manly tears shed. I reached a point where I had enough. If Cervantes had continued with one adventure after another involving Quixote and Panza, I don’t think that could have sustained my interest either. The book may be a major step in the development of the novel, but too much has been made of it. For example, the famous battle with the windmills takes up about a third of a page, and it’s not even described; it happens off stage.

After the Fireworks - Aldous Huxley
Huxley is at his acerbic best in this novella. His main character is intelligent, cynical and acutely self-aware. But he makes the mistake of entering into an affair with a much younger woman, and age will lose out when desire and obsession rather than love are the motivating emotions. Huxley observes the man’s downfall with relish.

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