When I was initially planning this post, I was only going to review only The Things They Carried, but after reading In the Lake of the Woods, I think they go together thematically and both share a focus on war and the aftermath of it. And so I’ll discuss both here.
All three novels revolve around two brothers, Claus and Lucas. They are twins. Perfect reflections of one another. In The Notebook, they are abandoned at their grandmother’s during a brutal war (presumably World War II) in their country (presumably in Europe) and, using a notebook, they practice hardening themselves against outside threats and internal ones as well.
This drama is a great example of the power of monologue. If you come from a place of studying prose literature, your urge is to cringe when you turn the page in the play and come across a big block of text. But, actually, a monologue is a blessing rather than a curse.
Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is a classic and compelling play centering around one poor Black family struggling to get ahead in 1950s Chicago.
What Kushner excels at is creating a sense of endings and of a grief that hangs above each of the characters as they accept illness, accept death, and accept that change is coming whether they want it to or not.
I’ll leave it up for you to decide whether the novel lives up to its extensive praise. For my part, despite the book being outside my literary comfort zone, I did see what made it so ground-breaking and so influential. It was worth the read — as long as the graphic violence (including sexual violence) is something that you can tolerate as a reader.
Every essay is a painstakingly, achingly beautiful construction of argument. From word choice to phrasing, he has a way of driving to the point, but also doing so with a biting simplicity.
My summer of reading non-fiction continues with two selections — Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face, and Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty. The two books naturally go together and I’ve decided to review them together here because I feel like they end up completing each other.
You know just enough about the characters — no more, no less. You are provided with just enough background information. It keeps the story tight and moves things along in ways that longer works often struggle with. Perhaps if you look closely you can see the traces of a formula, but it is applied so skillfully that it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment or impact of the narrative.
Punks. Rebellion. Drugs. Death. Yes, emphatically all those things. More than that, Welsh has constructed a searing novel of what it means to be young, lost, and trying to become an adult in a world that’s on fire due to the HIV epidemic in nineties Scotland and the rampant level of addiction and death.