Booking Through Thursday: Coupling

October 23, 2008 at 9:19 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 5 Comments

Here is my response to today’s Booking Through Thursday:

“Name a favorite literary couple and tell me why they are a favorite.  If you cannot choose just one, that is okay too.  Name as many as you like – sometimes narrowing down a list can be extremely difficult and painful.  Or maybe that’s just me.”

It would be a tossup between Jamie Fraser and Claire Beauchamp of Outlander or Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire of The Time Traveler’s Wife.  (Strangely, both these books involve time travel – not something I read about very often). 

It’s easy to love Jamie and Claire because their adventures splash across thousands of pages, and there are so many details and episodes that they seem almost like real people.  What I like about them is their relationship – Claire speaks her mind and they have an equal say in decisions.  While Jamie is a traditional manly man, Claire is also saving his bacon all the time.  They seem to enjoy and annoy each other in about equal measure, but the best part is reading their random conversations.

Henry and Clare are memorable, partly because their story is so very strange but partly because of the way their characters are drawn.  Henry is a great fantasy date – the cool but bookish rocker who looks like a bad boy but doesn’t act like one – yet I don’t know that I’d be able to put up with his little disorder.  Henry and Clare have probably the most intrinsically romantic relationship in literature.

I’ll tell you who I don’t like.  What is up with Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy?  First of all, I could never love a man I had to call Fitzwilliam.  Second, what would you want with some stuffed shirt who is so dry, rude, and condescending?  Would you want to put up with his family?  I also have to say I’d want no part of living that life, stuck out in the country popping out a bunch of kids and trying not to break the porcelain or stain my little lace dresses.  Aiiieee!

Although I love Jane Eyre, I don’t love Edward Rochester.  And neither should she!  My god, could you imagine what Oprah would make of a guy who locked up his crazy wife in the attic?  And that whole scene where he tries to make Jane jealous – what a jerk.  Sure, it’s romantic that she stands by him when he goes blind, but is that really the thanks she gets?  It sounds like Cinderella had it better.

I’m not so sure about Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, either.  Marry the war profiteer?  Not for me.  Come on, Scarlett, He’s Just Not That Into You!

Worst of all is Jo March and her old dude, what’s his name.  Fritz Bhaer.  OMG I about cried myself to sleep when I first read Little Women and found out she got stuck with him instead of Laurie.  What the hell kind of ending was that?  Ugh.

Two-for-One Review: “The Answer is Always Yes” and “Indignation”

October 23, 2008 at 3:49 pm | Posted in Fiction, Two-for-One Review | 1 Comment

At first glance, The Answer is Always Yes by Monica Ferrell and Indignation by Philip Roth would seem to have nothing in common.  It didn’t even occur to me until I was about halfway through Indignation, but the more I thought about it, the more it clicked.  Both books are about a smart college boy from New York and his struggle to fit in with campus life.  Both books have a prominent female love interest and a gay character.  While the subject is similar, the treatment is quite different.  Ferrell’s hefty debut is more than twice the size of literary lion Roth’s slender contribution.  The settings are nearly 50 years apart, with atmospheres almost diametrically opposed.  Roth’s book seems to pick up where Ferrell’s story leaves off, though I’ll leave the reason why a mystery so you can enjoy both.

The Answer is Always Yes concerns a young guy who is desperate to climb out of geekdom and become popular.  It’s painful and poignant, and rich with all the subtle details of social cues and fashion faux pas.  Ferrell paints a realistic picture of 1990s club life.  There were elements of the narration that I found slightly gimmicky, but they did help resolve some issues of viewpoint that would have been hard to handle in a different way.  I enjoyed Ferrell’s voice and became involved in the story.  I look forward to reading her next effort.

Indignation concerns another young guy who, on the contrary, could hardly care less about popularity.  He has entirely other issues on his mind.  It’s a lightning-fast read, a novella really, and there’s a huge surprise about fifty pages in.  I loved this book.  The only other Roth novel I have read is Portnoy’s Complaint, which was hysterically funny.  Indignation has its funny moments, but it’s more serious and focused, and less neurotic, than the earlier work.  I found that it raised some fascinating philosophical questions.  Having read two books written by the same author nearly 40 years apart, I’m intrigued to go back and read more, especially considering he’s won two Pulitzers and three National Book Awards.

Indignation and The Answer is Always Yes – two compelling, tragic, enjoyable reads.

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