“Fight Club”

Fight Club

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 debut novel, a fixture of pop-culture after David Fincher’s 1999 film. I read a first edition hardcover.

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3 out of 5 stars. 

Times Read: 3

Seen the Movie: I turned fourteen in 1999. I have seen the movie so many times…

The Plot:

A modern thirty-something with a perfectly fine life (condo, career, college degree) is drawn to a suicidal woman and anarchist man.

Oh, Fight Club. I pray for you to be satire and worry that you are actually taking yourself seriously. Please be as convinced as I am that your narrator is a whiny, privileged white man who is making his own problems. And please be trying to convey that Tyler Durden is a terrible figure to idolize.

Fans of Fight Club can be abrasive. Some seem to believe that Tyler is the hero of this piece, totally missing the point (like how some men read The Collector and decide that kidnapping a woman would be jolly good fun).

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Doris Lessing: Stories (Post 4/4)

Lessing 05

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Doris Lessing: Stories Introduction Post

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[129] “Mrs. Fortescue”

1 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

Fred has conflicted sexual feelings about the upstairs tenant, Mrs. Fortescue, and his teenage sister, Jane.

A cruel, ugly, meaningless story which feels depressingly male or from the viewpoint of a self-hating woman.

I’m a horror fan and I’ve watched my share of torture-based movies. They’re not my favorite. They usually lack a point beyond, “look how gross this is – can you handle it?” This story is the literary version of that: “look how depraved and cruel and twisted this boy is – can you handle it?” I can read it, but I’m not going to like it if you don’t give me a point along the way.

[130]

He scooped [the baked beans] out of the dish with the edge of his fried bread, and she said: “What’s wrong with the spoon?”

“What’s wrong with the bread?” he returned, with an unconvincing whiskey glare, which she ignored.

(p.512) Continue reading

Doris Lessing: Stories (Post 3/4)

Lessing 04

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Doris Lessing: Stories Introduction Post

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[86] “Each Other”

 2.5 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

A brother and sister carry on an affair.

Other than the incest, this story is written like any husband-goes-to-work, lover-comes-over affair. There’s not enough here to become more than a shock piece. There’s no context, the characters are paper dolls. I need more information: How did this sexual relationship start? When? Where are their parents? Do they have any other family?


[87] “Homage for Isaac Babel”

3 out of 5 stars. 

The Plot:

A young girl tries to read Isaac Babel to impress an older boy.

[88] First question: Who was Isaac Babel?

Isaac Babel (1894-1940) was a Russian-language journalist, playwright, literary translator, and short-story writer. Loyal to, but not uncritical of, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Babel fell victim to Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge as a result of his long-term affair with the wife of NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) chief Nikolai Yezhov.

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Doris Lessing: Stories (Post 2/4)

Lessing 03

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[44] “The Other Woman”

4 out of 5 stars.

 The Plot:

Rose breaks her engagement after her mother’s death, then spends years searching for what she’s lost.

Another 50+ page story. It has the same problem as “The Eye of God in Paradise” (Post 1, note [26]), feeling like two stories awkwardly glued together. The first half, following Rose, is a beautiful and sad meditation on a woman losing everything during the war. After her father’s death, the perspective changes to her married lover, Jimmie, turning into a tale over to a pathetic double-crosser. Though the end is pleasantly unexpected.

[45] First sentence:

Rose’s mother was killed one morning crossing the street to do her shopping.

(p.157)

[46]

“Being sorry doesn’t mend broken bones.”

(p.157)

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Doris Lessing: Stories (Post 1/4)

Lessing 02

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Doris Lessing: Stories Introduction Post

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[1] “The Habit of Loving”

4 out of 5 stars. 

The Plot:

Aging George marries a younger woman, if only to ease his loneliness, before understanding her own pain and depth.

Written so well.

[2] Reference:

George and Bobby drank a great deal of red wine and of calvados.

(p.13)

 

Calvados is an apple brandy from the Normany region in France.

[3]

“You know what, George? You’ve just got into the habit of loving.”

“What do you mean, dear?”

She rolled out of bed and stood beside it, a waif in her white pyjamas, her black hair ruffled. She slid her eyes at him and smiled. “You just want something in your arms, that’s all. What do you do when you’re alone? Wrap yourself around a pillow?”

He said nothing; he was cut to the heart.

(p.15) Continue reading

Doris Lessing: Stories (Introduction)

Lessing 01

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1

Post 2

Post 3

Post 4


Thirty-five of Doris Lessing’s short stories, taken from four previous collections and published in 1978. I read a used first edition hardcover.

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2 out of 5 stars.

Times Read: 1

What a strange reading experience. Two hundred pages into Stories’ 625-page running length, I was thinking that I might have the rare 4- or 5-star short story collection on my hands. Then the 1-star stories began to creep in. I soon found myself turning on the book.

I need more than beautiful writing to stay engaged. I take no joy in reading an entire story about the weather in a park. I need plot or compelling characters.

Lessing’s greatest strength is showing her characters as humans with their own motivations, strengths and weaknesses. There are rarely villains in these stories, no matter whose viewpoint we follow. There are unlikeable characters but even then we often see where they are coming from.

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“Ordinary People”

OP

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Judith Guest’s debut novel, published in 1976 and made into a Best Picture Oscar-winning film. I read a Penguin paperback.

5 out of 5 stars. 

Times Read: At least 5

Seen the MovieMany times. It’s a rare case where movie and book perfectly complement each other.

The Plot:

The Jarretts struggle to accept the loss of their oldest son.

My love for Ordinary People started in a high school English class. I fell in love with the characters, seeing aspects of my family in Conrad, Calvin and Beth. It felt like Guest had taken thoughts from my own mind; things that normally go unspoken in a family and that, as a teenager, I was convinced no one else understood.

Because of my emotional connection, I have a hard time judging Ordinary People critically. Is it written well? I certainly love it. There are passages I stop to read several times before moving on. But I’ve read other Guest novels (The Tarnished Eye, Errands) and disliked her unfocused prose and upper-middle-class angst. Basically, I disliked those novels for exactly what is at the core of Ordinary People. Somehow it works in this one. I don’t have a good answer for why.


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