Review: ‘Bad Feminist’

Courtesy of Buzzfeed

Courtesy of Buzzfeed

Bad Feminist
by Roxanne Gay

  • Date Finished: October 26, 2015
  • Genre: Feminism, Essays
  • Year: 2014
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading List: Fall 2015, 100 Best Books of the Decade
  • Grade: A-
  • Thoughts:

(Preface: I like how, after almost two months of blogging silence, I write a rambling manifesto defending not blogging and not reviewing. A few days later, I finish a book and all I can think about while fixing dinner is, “Oh, and I’m going to say THIS in my review. And this!” Ho hum.)

I don’t want to say I’m disappointed, but I really thought I would like Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist more than I did. I’d still give it an A-, which equates to pretty damn good, however I think I was expecting an A++. Stars. Fireworks. Celebrations. I think I was expecting Why Have Kids? all over again – something righteous and political and feminist, something that speaks directly to me, something I can’t stop quoting and sharing, almost to excess.

This did not feel like that, unfortunately. And I say “unfortunately” because – well, I don’t know. I think it’s because it feels like the flaws I found reflect deeper flaws within myself. A limit to my understanding. A limit to my undying political liberalism and bleeding-heart-ism. A limit to how much of a feminist I really am. I worry that because so many people champion this book and its messages, that when I find myself recoiling from some of those messages, that something must be wrong with me. Why aren’t as offended by these things as Gay? Why aren’t I as righteous?

This is a pretty stupid way to feel because if anything, this book is about feeling like a, well, bad feminist. These were the parts of the book that I loved and identified with the most. Gay’s opening and closing arguments revolve around how a modern woman is supposed to reconcile the moral and political demands of feminism with who we actually are as women. And who are we? Well, we’re imperfect.

Maybe I’m a bad feminist, but I am deeply committed to the issues important to the feminist movement. I have strong opinions about misogyny, institutional sexism that consistently places women at a disadvantage, the inequality in pay, the cult of beauty and thinness, the repeated attacks on reproductive freedom, violence against women, and on and on.

No matter what issues I have with feminism, I am a feminist. I cannot and will not deny the importance and absolute necessity of feminism. Like most people, I am full of contradictions, but I also don’t want to be treated like shit for being a woman.

I responded to passages like that with an emphatic, “GIRL.” I mean, can she sum up how I feel about my own feminism in any better terms? I do consider myself a feminist – very much so, despite the negative and inaccurate connotations people associate with the term. I’m not afraid to tell anyone about my feminism, and I am not ashamed to fight for the issues that matter to women. At times, I will even break my own rules about social media and be obnoxious about it on Facebook.

And yet, I am – in a lot of ways – totally your basic white girl. I am girly. I paint my nails. I like wearing skirts and dresses and heels. My husband and I tend to split our household duties along gendered lines, and it’s only sometimes that I’m bothered by the fact that Joel mows the lawn while I cook dinner and clean the bathrooms. Then I remember that I don’t like to mow the lawn, and let’s face it, I’m the better cook. And I go about my day. Ho hum.

At some point in my 20s, I reached a point where I came to terms with – and accepted – the ways I fell short of the ideals of my youth. I always thought I would be the intellectual and a super-successful career woman. I always thought that I would be completely up to date on both culture and pop culture. I thought I would be the kind of person to have a subscription to the New Yorker and manage to read each issue front to back, while also able to keep up with water cooler discussions of…whatever’s on Netflix or HBO right now. I thought I would find a way to make time for work and hobbies, while also keeping everything in my life neat, tidy, efficient, and effortless.

If only I could be superwoman. Throughout my 20s, I made several important discoveries about myself. I do enjoy intellectual work and pushing myself and the limits of my knowledge, but I’m never going to be a college professor. When I quit journalism, I realized the rigor of a highly-successful career was probably never going to be within my grasp. I asked my parents to stop my New Yorker subscription years ago and felt so relieved when I recycled all that un-read paper. And frankly, I do not have time to keep up with popular, long-form narrative television. Reading is enough for me. I am really terrible at chatting at water coolers, which is OK because I just avoid them.

I love that this book is about coming to terms with one’s highly imperfect self, and how despite all that, one can still call herself a feminist, even if she’s lacking in certain feminist categories. Like Gay, I am a big fan of the rap and hip hop. I won’t apologize for loving Snoop Dogg, even if some/nearly all of his lyrics are degrading to women. Pop music is fun, even if it plays to stereotypes. Sometimes, you just can’t care all the time.

But the thing is, I do care. I want to care more. I have to purposely avoid talking about the current attacks on Planned Parenthood to avoid throwing heavy things at people. Socially-defined gender roles piss me off, and I get very righteous when anyone asks why I, a married 29-year-old, don’t have children yet.

What I love about Bad Feminist is that Gay tells us it’s OK to be imperfect. That it’s OK to be a feminist and still be a human being with un-political tastes in music. It’s OK to be a bad feminist. Along those same lines, I shouldn’t feel inadequate that I can’t finish a New Yorker every month. I do not feel guilty that I don’t have highly ambitious professional goals to which I’m willing to sacrifice 70+ hours a week. I paint my nails, but I also chip them playing roller derby, and I couldn’t care either way. For all these things – for this sense of affirmation – I loved Bad Feminist. Thank you, Roxanne Gay.

And yet. There was something else in Bad Feminist, though, that I couldn’t find myself cheering for. There were things that I found myself recoiling from, in fact, and I wonder if the fault I find is with the book, or with me.

One reason the fault may lie with me is that I have to remind myself that I am a much different person than Roxanne Gay. We have had very different life experiences, and we are different people. She comes from a time and place and culture that is worlds apart from the life I’ve lived, and so there is no possible way that we are going to agree on everything.

However, given how strongly I identified with the central argument of the book (see above), I must have thought that we would agree on much more. I was dismayed to find that we differ on a lot of issues – like, a lot. I found myself rolling my eyes at times, while at other things responding (out loud, of course, because I’m weird), “Come on Roxanne. Why do you have to say that?” At times, when I found myself disagreeing with Gay on some key idea relating to feminism or racism, I would ask myself: “What’s wrong with me that I can’t agree with Gay? Or, what’s wrong with her argument? I mean, I feel like I should agree with her, because she’s so righteous about this. But I just can’t.”

Our opinions on Daniel Tosh, for example. I will not defend Daniel Tosh from accusations of douche-baggery. I’m sure he’s a dick. His jokes are misogynist, racist, and pretty dumb. Gay does not like him one bit. I can see why. However – even though I know I shouldn’t – I still find Tosh hilarious a lot of the time. Do I cringe when I laugh? Yes. Do I tell myself, “Oh God, I’m going to hell for laughing at that?” Yes. Do I laugh anyway? Yes, because sometimes stuff that shouldn’t be funny is fucking hilarious.

And so, even though Gay has told me that it’s OK to be a bad feminist, I read Gay’s diatribe against Tosh and I start to feel bad about myself because I like Tosh.0 (sometimes, when I’m in the right mood). I start to feel bad about calling myself a feminist.

And that thing is, when Gay doesn’t like something, she really doesn’t like something, and she’s heavy-handed in her opinion. In the essays where she rails against something, she leaves very little room for the other side. If you liked Kathryn Stockett’s book The Help, or the movie Django Unchained (like I did), you’re mentally defective and probably racist. Those kinds of opinions hurt, especially because I feel like I’m a pretty good judge of the books I read, and I’m not racist. I know it’s absolutely useless to play the offended white person, because frankly nobody cares. But what can I say? I’m white and I recognize what that means in terms of the privileges I enjoy. But still – it hurts. It alienates. You feel like, “Well, I try to understand and be open and fair. But I guess it doesn’t matter. Because of X reason, I will never be progressive enough.”

There were only a few essays where Gay made me feel this way, and it certainly put a damper on my enjoyment of her book. I also felt she was a little hypocritical when doling out judgment. It’s racist to find a small bit of literary value and enjoyment in The Help, but enjoying misogynistic rap songs is OK. I felt, at times, that Gay was not holding herself to the same standards espoused only a few essays apart. Perhaps if her disapproval wasn’t so mean-spirited. Perhaps if she at least tried to acknowledge the fact that some of her opinions are defined by her experiences and place in the world. Perhaps if she brought back some of the message from her feminism chapters, assuring readers that even if we don’t agree on this or that issue, it’s OK. We’re not perfect, and we’re all different. Just because one person finds something offensive, that doesn’t mean someone who doesn’t is a bad person.

In the end, all that matters is that we try – we try to be good feminists, good citizens of the world, good people. Our opinions are going to differ, and nobody walks through life morally and ideologically and politically and culturally perfect. But fight for the things you believe in, and fight for others when wrongs happen. If you’re doing that, you’re not such a bad feminist at all.

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Three mini-reviews

Pillars of the Earth
by Ken Follett

  • Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Year: 1989
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading List: Fall 2015
  • Grade: D
  • Thoughts:

Was it possible for this book to get any worse? Yes. If Ken Follett managed to make it longer than the 973-page atrocity it already is. Terribly cliched, silly, atrocious writing. There might have been something of value in the historical veracity, but I was so distracted by ALL THE TERRIBLE THINGS. Worst grade I’ve given a book since starting this blog- totally deserves it.

Song of Soloman
by Toni Morrison

  • Genre: Fiction
  • Year: 1977
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading List: Fall 2015, 65 Books to Read in Your 20s, Newsweek’s Top 100 Books
  • Grade: A-
  • Thoughts:

This book didn’t resonate with me like some of Morrison’s other books, however its very searing realness did manage to imprint itself onto my mind in a very lasting way. The characters didn’t mean much to me, but the story of identity is one we can all identify with. Also, I will never be able to look at a tube of lipstick without thinking of a red puppy penis ever again – thanks Toni Morrison.

The Cider House Rules
by John Irving

  • Genre: Fiction
  • Year: 1985
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading List: Fall 2015
  • Grade: A
  • Thoughts:

There’s something so quintessentially fall about reading John Irving. Irving’s books feel like the rustle of dried leaves, cozy sweaters, and steaming apple cider. The fact that this book takes place partly at an apple orchard helps that feeling immensely. In all seriousness, John Irving’s books have always felt like a comfortable place for me, and escaping into his prose and stories is always a journey I don’t mind making. This was probably my favorite of his books I’ve read so far, and one of the best stories I’ve ever read prominently featuring abortion. An absolute must-read for those looking to explore the nuance of a difficult subject and the decisions we all make about our lives.

A series of four mini reviews

It’s been a rough, busy few weeks/months.

I won’t bore you with the details, but the end of July, August, and beginning of September has consisted of:

  • Projects around the house
  • A very sick cat (and a lot of stress)
  • A vacation in northern Michigan
  • A roller derby weekend trip in even-further-northern Michigan
  • Labor Day weekend in Cincinnati
  • A noticeable uptick at work in which I have, for the first time in years, felt compelled to work at home in the evening

I’ve been reading, but in shorter bursts than I’m used to. And I’ve definitely not been reviewing, which is always a disappointment, personally, given that these “reviews” are how I process the books the read, not to mention remember plot and the odd bits that stuck with me. We read so much over the years, it’s nice to have a record somewhere.

But then you let one book review slide, then you finish another book, and another … and another. Then, you realize you’re four books behind and it’s like … *throws up the hands*

So, in an attempt to catch up – and because I’m sort of stalled on reading at the moment, with my fall reading list not finished – here’s a quick look at what I’ve been reading this past month:

The Executionner’s Song, by Norman Mailer

  • Genre: Fiction
  • Year: 1979
  • Project: n/a (although, it needs to be part of the Big Books Project – more than 1,000 pages!)
  • Reading List: Pulitzer Prize Winners, Summer 2015
  • Grade: B+

The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson

  • Genre: Travel, Humor
  • Year: 1989
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading List: Summer 2015
  • Grade: B-

Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann

  • Genre: Fiction
  • Year: 2009
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading List: National Book Award Winners, Summer 2015
  • Grade: A

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

  • Genre: Fiction
  • Year: 2014
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading List: Summer 2015, 100 Best Books of the Decade (So Far)
  • Grade: A (a very surprising, thrilling ‘A’ at that)

Review(s): ‘The Botany of Desire’ and ‘Cloud Atlas’

I feel guilty because I have been very remiss in my blogging duties. Other things have been consuming my evenings, and it’s taken me longer than usual to finish my latest book (Cloud Atlas). There always seems to be so many things to do. As it is now, I’m getting sleepy and I’m wondering if my evening of reading has meant I’ve forgotten to do something else (feed the kitten? lock the garage? take out the recycling?), so I’m going to try to write up two short(er than usual) reviews of the latest books I’ve read: The Botany of Desire and Cloud Atlas.

It really is a shame my blogging slump has come now, after reading two such wonderful books that I really have loved, but there it is. If I wait any longer, I know I’ll forget so many things I wanted to say about both, or I may never get around to writing them down. And when that happens, that’s really the tragedy.

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The Botany of Desire
By Michael Pollan

  • Date Finished: June 26, 2015
  • Genre: Science
  • Year: 2001
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading List: Summer 2015
  • Grade: A
  • Thoughts upon reading:

The Botany of Desire has, and will, become one of the few books that I just love talking about with anyone. Anyone, I tell you! Even people at my high school reunion who profess not to read, I’ll even talk about this book to THEM, and damn it if they’re bored. This book really was everything I thought it would be ever since I first saw it at Half-Price Books in 2009-10, where I was working at the time. I had read The Omnivore’s Dilemma earlier and just loved it, so I was on the lookout for anything by Pollan. This book answered that, as well as my curiosity and interest in the workings and order of the natural world, ecology, and botany (blame those silly science classes I was forced to take as an English major in college).

This book is pretty much great – there’s no other way to put it. Pollan takes an interesting approach to plants and botany in this relatively short book, written before The Omnivore’s Dilemma made him mega-famous. He takes four very common, very well-known plants – the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato – and explores their lives in relation to humans and the history of human desire. These plants have been majorly impacted in a variety of ways via their interaction with society, whether it’s the happy marijuana plants that flourish under controlled grow lamps, to the changing face (and taste) of the American apple when put up against market demands, to the inconspicuous flower that inspired an economic meltdown.

What I found most interesting, though, was the discussion of who is using who. Given that we all accept the concept of natural and artificial selection, it’s easy to see how the American apple tree has evolved, based on which apples people like best. But just as plants produce colorful flowers in order to attract the bees they need to survive, couldn’t we also say that a flower like the tulip uses the whims of its human admirers in order to ensure its own survival? Plants bend to the whim of humans’ desire, but humans also help those self-same plants fulfill their own deepest desire – sexual reproduction.

This book explores this topic and more, while also diving deep into the interesting histories surrounding the four star plants. There’s a particularly hilarious anecdote about Pollan accidentally growing a giant marijuana plant. I also learned a heck of a lot about plants, human culture, and how we interact with the resources around us. It’s pretty much everything I could ask for in a fun non-fiction, science read – and by that, I mean pretty great.

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Cloud Atlas
By David Mitchell

  • Date Finished: July 14, 2015
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Year: 2004
  • Project: Big Books Project
  • Reading List: Summer 2014
  • Grade: A
  • Thoughts upon reading:

I didn’t know what to expect from Cloud Atlas, although based on so many awe-struck, baffled reviews, I think I was expecting something incredibly complex and confusing, as well as something so densely written, I wouldn’t be able to see straight. Maybe Jonathan Franzen-like, or akin to David Foster Wallace.

I’m glad that initial impression was wrong . It did take me quite awhile to finish the book, although I attribute that to a big uptick at work, resulting in me forgoing my usual book at lunch. As I said above, stuff has been happening in recent weeks (a new kitten! house guests! a funeral! a high school reunion!), and coupled with the ten thousands things that need doing around here, I feel like I have less and less time to myself these days. No matter! I finished tonight, and I’m happy to report that despite a very slow start, things turned out awesome.

Cloud Atlas, as many reviewers and movie trailers will tell you, is a Russian nesting doll of a novel. The book follows six seemingly separate stories that take place on different continents and at vastly different places in time. The way David Mitchell structures this narrative is particularly fascinating, and if you’ve haven’t read it yet, I’ll leave that for you to discover. Cloud Atlas, however, is about more than that. It’s about the cyclical and repetitive nature of time. It’s about rebirth and souls moving through different times and places, only to fall for the same trappings of human nature again and again. It’s also a warning lesson, a story about what happens when humanity’s greed and selfishness is left unchecked over hundreds, if not thousands of years. It’s about the evolution of society, and the end of civilization as we know it.

I will say, it wasn’t until I was about halfway through the book – somewhere in the first Somni section – that I really started to get into it and understand the very subtle connections Mitchell was making. This book takes patience. I’ve read several bloggers who complain that they couldn’t get through the first 10 pages and put it down, never to try again. To that I say – I’m sorry for you. Slog through the first story of Adam Ewing as best you can, because once you really hit a groove with this book, it’s hard to put down.

Review: ’11/22/63′

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11/22/63
By Stephen King

  • Date Finished: June 16, 2015
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Year: 2011
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading List: Summer 2015
  • Grade: A-

For being such a die-hard Stephen King fan, 11/22/63 kind of snuck up on me. At some point, I think, J must have bought it for me, because one day while I was casually browsing my own bookshelves (as one does), I came across this very pristine copy in the trade paperback edition, which is unusual considering my book-buying habits. I must have forgotten about it [sad]. However, while making my summer reading list, I always try to sneak in one Stephen King (since a frightening and disturbing yarn is my idea of light beach reading), and this seemed perfect.

And it was! Gosh, how many ways can I yammer on about King’s ability to write such perfectly engrossing tales? Wait, I already have? Ten thousand times, you say? Just on this blog, you say? Thank goodness we don’t know you in person, you say?

Now, SK has been known to kill some trees with his tomes, and 11/22/63 is no exception (850 pages … yikes!). And so in the opposite spirit of this book, I am going to try to contain my comments to two subjects.

First, this is a really interesting, really fascinating story. The premise King plays with here is time travel, specifically, one guy’s quest to go back to 1960’s America and prevent the assassination of JFK. He’s convinced (or, someone has convinced him) that doing so will prevent much of the social unrest that unfolded in the succeeding decades, including the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Vietnam War. Along the way, our hero (Jake) has plenty of stuff to deal with.

Not too much of it is the typical Stephen King-style “stuff”, however. The only real supernatural element in this book is the “wormhole” that allows Jake to travel back to one specific moment in time – September 9, 1958. The wormhole (which is geographically bound in the storage room of a small town diner in Maine) also dumps you out into the exact same spot in that moment of time. It’s an interesting idea of time travel – more of the accidental rip in reality premise, rather than a mean you can bend to your will.

I did have my issues, though. First off, I’ve read a lot of Stephen King, and like most writers, his best characters are those he knows intimately inside and out. The young guy growing up in the 1960’s. The dad/writer in the 1980’s. These people are Stephen King. These are times and places where he lived, and thus, those characters that also live in that time and space feel the most real. King’s ability to make his characters feel like authentic human beings is one of the things I love best about him.

In this book, I feel King falls back on what he knows best … while in reality, it’s not the best thing to do. You see, our hero Jake is in his 30’s in 2011. That means he was born in 1976. But does Jake feel like a real, authentic 30-something dude who grew up during the 80’s and 90’s? No. Instead, we have a character who we’re told is 35ish, but who sounds and talks like he was born a generation earlier. In Stephen King’s generation, that is. In one scene, Jake accidentally belts out a Rolling Stones tune while cruising along in 1962, startling his girlfriend. But my question is: why isn’t Jake singing something more culturally relevant to his generation? In that moment, I realized that Jake didn’t feel authentic to me, which is disappointing because it’s one of King’s strong suits.

Along those same lines, the entire premise of the novel seemed a bit shaky to me. OK, OK … discover a wormhole that will take you to the past. Cool, let’s work with that. There’s so many things you can do! But what does our hero decide to do? He decides to … prevent the assassination of JFK?

First of all, Jake is not a history buff and really has no conception of the historical, social, and political ramifications of what preventing that event will mean. Second, the only reason Jake decides to go on this crazy, life-changing adventure (one that will require him to live 5 years in the past) is because the dying man who discovered the wormhole … a guy Jake first describes as a passing acquaintance … is convinced this is the right thing to do. Does Jake use the critical thinking skills he should have (being a high school English teacher) to ask himself, “Wait, I know I like this guy, but is he right? Isn’t messing with history a really big deal? Doesn’t this have the potential to go really-really-really wrong? And what do I know about JFK anyway? I was born in 1976.”

Does he ask himself these questions? No. Instead, he barrels along on an adventure to save the president, with nary a glance back. I don’t know. I feel like if you’re going to write a book about time travel, and using time travel to change the course of history, your underlying premise and motivations should be more … solid. I found myself questioning the book out loud multiple times (don’t worry, I made sure to do it when no one else was around), and it kept bugging me right until the (very, very, good) end. At least there was that.

Review: ‘Ethan Frome’

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Ethan Frome
By Edith Wharton

  • Date finished: June  3, 2015
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Year: 1911
  • Project: Revisiting the Classics Project
  • Reading List: Summer 2015
  • Grade: A-
  • Thoughts:

When I started my Revisiting the Classics Project many years ago, I didn’t know what I’d discover when I set out to re-read all the classics I had once taken a dislike to. For many of the books, re-reading them merely reaffirmed my initial impressions and prejudices – I still didn’t like The Scarlet Letter, nor the Lord of the Flies. However, giving Emma a second chance was one of the best reading decisions I’ve ever made, and nearly 10 years after graduating high school, I finally understood a little bit of The Catcher in the Rye.

I’m happy to say that re-reading Ethan Frome is another check in the “I’m-glad-I-gave-this-another-chance” column. I can’t say when, and in what context, I first read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, though I want to say it was in high school, but not for a class. It was around the time that I decided I needed to “educate” myself outside of the books we read in English class, so I began picking obvious classics during our daily SSR (sustained silent reading) period. The Red Badge of Courage was one. Ethan Frome was another. I’m guessing I picked it because it was short.

I don’t remember much of what I actually thought of the book, except that it was boring. I also had a good friend at the time, and when we hung out together, we thought very highly of our wit and “intellectualism”. Anyway, I remember this friend making some joke about how dull Ethan Frome was, and then I distinctly remember me laughing along, probably saying stuff like, “Ah yes yes, it simply was atrocious. What do they think they’re trying to say, with all that sledding down hills?”

Anyway, that was me being a bit of a 17-year-old asshole, as we all are sometimes. Anyway, that random recollection has colored my opinions of Ethan Frome for many years now, and all I can say now is, “Thank God I’ve managed to get over myself, stop being such an asshole, and learned to love Ethan Frome.”

Sure, not much happens in this book. The primary action takes place over the course of a few days, and in fact, much of the “action” is largely internal, happening inside the head of our tormented, sad hero Ethan, a poor farmer living in a remote village in upstate New York around the turn of the century. What follows is a recollection of the stifled yet passionate adulterous relationship between himself and his wife’s cousin. As our narrator explains to us very early on, things do not end well for poor Ethan. But yet, we as readers are swept away by his sad tale of longing, and reminded of the bittersweet nature of love, passion, and loss.

I think what changed my interpretation of Ethan Frome was actually, finally, reading the introduction (you would think I do these things more often). There, I learned that Edith Wharton wrote Ethan Frome in the aftermath of a passionate, yet disappointing, extramarital affair. This book is very different from the Edith Wharton that I know – specifically, from the young, wealthy, urbanites in The Age of Innocence. And yet, knowing where Wharton was in her personal life while writing this book, I feel that makes Ethan Frome all that more special – a quiet statement, deposition, and plea from the author. Because the scope of this story is very limited, readers are able to become intimately acquainted with Ethan. We feel his hopelessness, his passion, his longing, his sadness, his loneliness, his desperation.

I don’t want to say that this book is a warning against extramarital affairs and other sins of the like; instead, I believe this small, quiet book is about being human. It’s about feeling trapped between duty and doing the right thing, and giving in to deep-seated passions and desires. One is not necessarily the “right choice” when compared with its opposite. Instead, life is about the moments when you’re faced with the decision of one or the other, making that decision, and then living with the consequences. Sometimes affairs of the sort Ethan fantasizes about, and Wharton actually engaged in, don’t end well. A lot of the times, they end miserably. But does that mean that that initial decision to enter into such an affair is wrong? What if it’s the difference between being happy and free, and being miserable and lonely? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Regardless, once you give in, there are consequences. Dealing with those consequences is where life happen, and that kind of life is exactly we see in Ethan Frome. It’s a wonderful, poignantly-written story, and one that deserves a bit more credit.

Review: ‘Music for Chameleons’

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Music for Chameleons
By Truman Capote

  • Date Finished: May 27, 2015
  • Genre: Short Stories, Narrative Nonfiction
  • Year: 1980
  • Project: Favorites Project
  • Reading List: Spring 2015, 25 Books to Read Before You’re 25
  • Grade: A+
  • Thoughts:

I feel like I’ve given a lot of books an A+ this year – more than in years’ past, that’s for sure. But this A+ is worth it because it’s part of my Favorites Project, it’s Truman Capote, and it’s the book that made me fall in love with Truman Capote – so much so that, after reading this book, I counted him among my favorite authors.

I actually don’t want to say too much about Music for Chameleons because I feel like knowing about this book takes away some of its magic. That’s, at least, how I feel given that so much of the pleasure I derived from reading this book came from the sheer surprise of, “This is a book by Truman Capote?” If all you’ve read of Truman Capote is Breakfast with Tiffany’s, then you’re truly missing out. I contend that Music for Chameleons is one of Capote’s most lyrical, sweetest books, even if it’s only a collection of brief stories, most of them true. We see Capote playing around with the narrative nonfiction style he pioneered in In Cold Blood with another chilling crime story, as well as quirky line-by-line recollections of conversations Capote held with various individuals during his life, from his cleaning lady to Marilyn Monroe.

And so if you’ve never thought of reading this book – try it. Give it a shot. You may not know anything about it. You may never have heard of it before today. But sometimes, when you give a book a chance, it can change your reading life forever. This was one of those books that did it for me.