Vengeance - A Jessie Carr Novel #4
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There is a wonderful passage where you learn about how a club band chooses its play list and moves the audience through increasingly intense emotional highs. The novel gives lip service to religion, but in the end, it is a story about the effect of luck on working people. Fortune both the goddess and wealth hold sway here, but the reader reads for the beating hearts and determined striving of people who work as farmhands and waitresses, in factories and convenience stores.
I've read the novel at least three times, and I used to name it as my favorite.
Vengeance - A Jessie Carr Novel #4 by JL Schneider | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble®
This reading, however, I found it almost too painful-- possibly because I knew the ending well, and felt Wharton moving towards it inexorably. Elaine Drennon Little's novel was governed by the vicissitudes of fortune, but felt upbeat somehow. Wharton's wonderful, artistically shapely novel brutally, constantly nudges Lily Bart into her downfall. Everything works brilliantly here. The final chapters of Book I , for example, set up the tragedy of the second half.
Lily barely escapes a wealthy male acquaintance's attempt to rape her. She is devastated by the betrayal she owes him money , but goes home to her cold, rich aunt's house and waits for a visit from the man she thinks she loves. She asks her aunt for money to pay her debts, and is refused, but still convinced her beloved will save her.
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She waits and waits, but he never comes. We know, but she doesn't, that he saw her leaving the home of the man who attacked her and assumes she was there for an assignation. Instead of her beloved, she is visited by the Jewish parvenu Simon Rosedale, who proposes to her. She almost accepts, once she realizes her beloved isn't coming. She is, in fact, about to write a note accepting Rosedale, but receives a telegram from a friend inviting her to cruise in the Mediterranean.
She thus passes on her best remaining chance to be a rich society woman and goes on the voyage which will finally ruin all her chances at the kind of marriage she was bred for. There are many things Lily Bart does to hasten her own fall— she uses her small inheritance when she gets it to pay off her debts. She refuses to take the action that would save her reputation.
She undercuts all her own work early in the novel to get a proposal from an annoying boor. She is repeatedly too invested in a kind of high-mindedness that she cannot afford. She never closes the deal on investing the valuable property that is herself. I admire the novel enormously and will no doubt read it again, but this time I was impatient with Lily's self-destructive behavior, and felt for the first time that perhaps Wharton was too determined to make the story come out the way she wanted.
Lily has a friend who is poor and lives for others— a model of an alternative life— but Lily disdains that life. She will only live is she can have both luxury and high-mindedness. Essentially, I felt that Simon Rosedale was beginning to take over the novel, and that Lily should have accepted him. She comes very close, is indeed writing a note to him when the invitation to cruise arrives. So it is a combination of chance the arrival of the invitation as well as Lily's pride and, of course, the anti-Semitism of her class that ruin her.
There is also an unexplored element of terror of physical sex entering in, I think. Rosedale loves Lily for her expensive, superbly decorative quality, but he also desires her physically. Except for some of the heavy handed sentimentality over the working girl who gives Lily brief respite near the end, Wharton wrote a pretty much perfect novel, only perhaps too determined to trace Lily's downward trajectory to its logical conclusion.
The first half was pretty terrific— a young girl discovers her fiance's weakness if not moral turpitude. The second half, in which she obsessively manipulates her son into behaving honorably, is a little creepy to me.
I kept expecting the young man would be ruined by mama's self-immolating yet still selfish love, but he buys into it completely. This was my first Nero Wolfe mystery in a while. My husband's family are all Nero Wolfe fans, and Rex Stout is the first mystery writer I ever liked enough to read extensively. This one, new to me, was good in a lot of ways. Published in , it takes place among rich folks on their Westchester estate; the detective Wolfe, who is famously fat and sedentary, has to get in in a car; narrator Archie Goodwin cracks wise; a right-wing radio personality loses his job.
It is also mainstream for its time with its anti-communism, but nuanced enough to have some actual CP members appear with information Wolfe can use. Archie is his usual unrepentant and obnoxiously sexist self. Anyhow, it's of its time in all kinds of interesting ways. Oh, and it has an appearance by Wolfe's crime boss nemesis, the original he-who-shall-not-be-named, Arnold Zeck.
There is a mystery here too, and lots of action and car chases and fire fights and narrow escapes on foot. They weren't bad, but I felt them being written, probably with an eye to the hoped-for movie which starred George Clooney and Cate Blanchett and a crew of other big names. I kept hoping that the German heroine Lena would turn out to be not-so-good, but she stayed good, and instead we got a lot of interesting Nazis and not-Nazis plus good underworld characters like an expatriate Cockney whoremaster and real estate magnate The main character Jake was a little too skillful in his sleuthing and fighting to suit me.
This is another book where I liked the minor characters better than the major ones. But oh that Berlin, and the very real sufferings of the Berliners, many still blaming the Jews. As usual I'm glad Faulkner took on some issues of race, but also as usual, it's hard to separate Faulkner's characters' racism from his own.
There's lots to be offended by— lots of assumptions about "Negro" poverty, even "Negro" odor. Does anyone know of any good African-American criticism of Faulkner's work? Faulkner is pretty terrible in how he treats women too. In spite of all the discomfort, the novel has some of the darkest, funniest scenes in literature, including the brutal, weird love affair between Joe Christmas and Joanna Burden.
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Faulkner is especially good on sniffing out the racism of the people who ostensibly want to help blacks like the Burden family. He is the master of having truly awful things happen that are also funny as hell— the origins of Southern Gothic, but done so much better by Faulkner than by his imitators. He is also a master of moving around among many characters, and using them to tell the story in long first person speeches.
There is a lot in his novels that is meant to be profound but that I find overblown, exaggerated, even silly, but he's a wonder if you can stand him. I'll end the short takes with a nonfiction book I was dipping into over most of the summer, when we always see at least one Shakespeare play at the always-terrific Shakespeare and Company. It is written with many short chapters, which works well because of the amount of information included. It essentially establishes the case for Shakespeare's popularity as a playwright in his lifetime, for his determination to cut a figure back home in Stratford, and for his enthusiastic search for whatever material and stagecraft would please his audiences, which ranged from the general populace in outdoor theaters like the Globe to the more genteel audiences at the indoor Blackfriars theater, to many special appearances at the courts of Elizabeth I and, especially, her successor, James I.
None of this in any way undercuts Shakespeare as a genius. He was happy with the demands of his profession as man of the theater— actor and entrepreneur as well as writer, but he never stopped his exploration of the human spirit and human condition. It's a very pragmatic and I would say just look at Shakespeare. It includes reference to records of deeds and legal proceedings Shakespeare was involved n as well as his publication history. One especially interesting circumstance was the regular, powerful effects of the plague every summer that caused the theaters to be closed and the company to go on the road.
The writing world lost a master craftsman recently when Elmore Leonard died at the age of Leonard was a prolific novelist, short story author and screenwriter. He wrote nearly 50 books. Most were Westerns or crime fiction set in Florida or Detroit. Hollywood made more than half of them into movies or TV shows.
His work might not have been great literature, but it was always great reading. Leonard was a master of clean and elegant prose. He was an astute observer of human character, but never as an aloof anthropologist. Leonard climbed into the getaway car himself and rode off with his characters.
Vengeance - A Jessie Carr Novel #4
His villains and anti-heroes were weak and sometimes not too bright, but always memorable. Leonard was renowned for his authentic dialogue. It was direct, gritty, witty, and used sentence fragments, slang, and regionalisms. Within a few sentences, the reader knew where the character was from, how much schooling he had had, his spot on the social ladder, and how much money he earned. Open any of Leonard's books at a random page and read the dialogue aloud; you couldn't find a better teacher. The list includes "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue" and "Keep your exclamation points under control.
Elmore Leonard is gone, but his books and wonderful characters live on. Julie was the Judson Jerome scholarship winner that year and had already published her chapbook Election Day. Not only did I find out during the week what a wonderful poet she is but also how generously she helps other poets. So I wasn't surprised when she published a full-length collection Slipping out of Bloom the following year. In the meantime her poems have been widely-published in numerous journals from Southern Review to Christian Century, anthologized and nominated for Pushcart Prizes.
Just when I thought she couldn't get any better, Cascade Books just published another full-length collection, Particular Scandals, which is her most mature work so far: accessible, entertaining and spiritually profound. The book contains three untitled sections. The first section immerses us deeply in poems about loss, illness and healing, as she and her husband faced serious health challenges while still in their forties.
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As if Julie realizes she's given the reader a strong dose of mortality—and lessons to be learned from it—the second section includes mostly nature poems, celebratory and healing. These include, among other things, poems about a very happy dog, pagan dancing in the rain, a barefoot husband-gardener and, once again, bees, this time as "Hell's Angels. All of which builds to the satisfying final section synthesizing the previous two.
Interspersed among poems dealing with tragedy and abuse and are those filled with healing from both natural and supernatural sources. The wonderfully life-affirming "Afterlife" concerns a World War II veteran, raised an orphan, who experienced "a childhood with nerve amid the world's first breakdown.
It first appears in one of the epigraphs from Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, in reference to Christ's having been born, "improbably, ridiculously," into his particular time and place as "the scandal of particularity.
Section Three contains perhaps the book's most heart-breaking poem "Voice," in which the mother of a twenty-year-old suicide later stumbles on a voice mail he left, with a shattering final line, the effect of which I won't spoil by quoting. It also contains some of the funniest, most whimsical and light-filled poems.
Who could resist reading a poem with the title "Will you let me write about my love for my child"? I say yes. The collection ends movingly with two very different and deeply spiritual poems: "Remember Blessing" and "Window. The book could've ended on that note—find hope when there is none—but she saved the best for last, "Opening," which brought me to my knees. Too easily labeled a "Christian poet," Julie writes poems which are spiritual, even theological at times, but never in-your-face preachy.