contemporary literature part 2

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To continue our discussion on books, I was looking for contemporary fiction which would speak of the existential issues of mankind, of the aspirations of the young generation today, of the influence of technology on the life style and the mentality of contemporary society, and of the eternal questions as they are reflected in this generation. I have to add that in recent years, I have become aware of the ‘post modern’ influence on the arts, and usually I have not been comfortable with that style. I don’t wish to explore the depths of that philosophical point of view in this post. It deserves a post of its own. But I will mention two prominent characteristics of the post modern viewpoint. The narrative often embraces paradox and irony, and there is a general belief that two or more contrary ‘truths’ can exist together.

Saturday

About a year ago, I discovered Ian McEwan, and read ‘Saturday’ and ‘Amsterdam’ by him. My impression was that he has a beautiful language, and is a writer of classic gifts. Then I began to read his ‘Black Dogs’, and was unable to continue to the end. It was the first time I began to wonder whether the post modern point of view had begun to find it’s way into contemporary literature. This year I discovered Margaret Atwood, and continued to read her after purchasing a Kindle. The Kindle was bought primarily to make it easier for me to purchase recent books in English, without waiting a long time for the books to be sent to me. After getting the Kindle, I discovered T.C. Boyle and Richard Ford. I feel that I’m beginning to learn the nature of the fine writing of this generation.

Robber Bride

Sometimes it takes a while to acclimate to a different culture. I didn’t expect the new literature in the west to express my viewpoint, or to be concerned with the issues that most concerned me. I’m an Israeli, steeped in the Jewish culture, and also an old man. I am aware that society has moved forward, and that I haven’t kept up in many ways. But as I have mentioned on occasion, I’ve always believed that a sign of great art is that when we enjoy it, even when coming from very different circumstances than those of the artist, we feel that the artist is touching on some meaningful points of our own lives.

Cat's Eye

In reading Atwood, I enjoyed her lively imagination, and her beautiful poetic prose. It seemed that she was a vehement critic of certain failures of society, especially in relation to woman’s place in society. But I was also dismayed by a prevalent sense of alienation in her writing, the pessimism, and the almost constant sadness. I read three of her dystopian volumes. I believe that she has some very important things to say. But at the same time, there is a sadness and a helpless attitude in her writing that is very discouraging. ‘Cat’s Eye’ was a masterpiece. But it was fatalistic, unhappy. And it’s major character was alienated throughout her life, and unable to enjoy love or a healthy union with a partner. Worst of all, I had the impression that her characters found it hard to make life changing decisions. ‘The Robber Bride’ was another fine book of hers that I read. And here too, I felt that choice had been overcome by fatalism.

The Women

I discovered T.C. Boyle a couple of months ago. I have read two of his books, and have already bought a third. The first I read was ‘The Women’. It tells the story of the women in Frank Lloyd Wright’s life. I was familiar with Wright’s work, and had even read some of his writing. I felt that I knew a little bit about this great American architect. I didn’t know much about his personal life. When reading the book, it seemed a bit like reading about the life of a celebrity. I believe the story was built on a skeleton of relevant facts. And it was very interesting to get a lot of information on his private life, and be able to see him from a different perspective. But I felt that someone who was unfamiliar with the work of the man, would have gotten a very mistaken impression of what his life was all about. For each of us has good characteristics and bad. And by ignoring all his good points, the man seemed like a megalomanic donkey. In reading some of the reviews after having read the book, I encountered such opinions. But I believe that the portrait was twisted and warped.

Independence Day

The fourth contemporary writer that I encountered was Richard Ford. His name turned up in a review of another book which I decided not to read. But from what I did read about Ford, I thought that he might be a good example of a prime author of this 21st century. I chose to read his book, ‘Independence Day’ first, because it had received two prestigious awards. It was very well written. There was both subtlety and depth in the drawing of the characters, and a psychological understanding of the forces at play, between the lines of the narrative. But the hero of the story was in fact an anti-hero. This was a man who avoided commitment at all cost. He was unable to love, and had great difficulty parenting his children. Like other characters I had met in recent reading, he seemed a sort of helpless loser who was pushed and dragged through life by fate. He spoke of ‘existence’ as being enough for him. There seemed no drive to achieve something that was greater than himself. It wasn’t only that he was devoid of any great aspirations. He seemed unaware of anything greater or more important than banal human affairs.

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And so my friends, I would like to ask you who are more involved in the English language culture than I am… is this all there is? Are there other new authors out there who give us a spark of hope? Is there a more balanced approach to the affairs of man? Or is this the spirit of the times today. I know that sadness is as much a part of life as happiness. But are books today offering just the sorrow of life? I have received some recommendation for new reading in response to the first part of this article. I haven’t really checked them out yet, because we are in the middle of the holiday season. But I would be very happy to receive still more recommendations, and reading material I might try. It is not that I have nothing to read. I have never run out of things to learn, and I can continue to read the wisdom of the past and to enjoy it. But I would like very much to understand the direction of today’s generation, and I was hoping to find something a little more positive. I do appreciate your comments.

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48 responses to “contemporary literature part 2

  1. The Hare with Amber Eyes- non-fiction; The Time in Between- fiction, Chris Bohjalian- anything by him, The World Without You by Joshua Henkin,
    I try to get suggestions from friends and read reviews. I used to know a lot about young adult literature, when I taught but since I left teaching I’m no longer in touch with current authors writing for young people. I think the subject matter has become much darker, more drugs, sex, and violence, which is sad.

    • Thank you for your suggestions, Lisa. I’ve heard quite a bit about The Hare, but the other writers are new for me, and I will check them out. In my days, I don’t think there was literature for young adults. Young adults were interested in much the same literature that interested older adults. But I have noticed that classification since I started searching recent English literature. I do see a lot of interest in drugs, sex, and violence, and I can only guess that books are now influenced by TV and movies where once it was the other way around. But if they had something to say about the true nature of human lives, I don’t think that such subjects would put me off. The problem I’ve had with such popular books is that those that I’ve read are superficial as well.

  2. I’ve enjoyed your lit posts so much, Shimon. It’s such a “universe” of material that it’s hard for me to corral my views and present them effectively…I could write about books and authors all day, but I’ll refrain…

    As someone with a lit degree and another in theater, I’m an avid reader, Shimon, and have read all these authors you mention. I agree that they are wonderful artists and I also agree that their largely unrelenting dark themes and lack of joy is not only depressing, but a false view of life–and death–as I know it. There is the “literature” of the MFA/Writers’ Workshop world and the “important” critics, and there is the literature available outside of this, and I go to the latter and find great enjoyment rereading classics, poetry, and authors I’ve always loved. (I also have turned to non-fiction, and find deep satisfaction there as well.)

    One under-valued author I’ve enjoyed a great deal is Carrie Brown; her books are lovely and deeply appreciative of humanity’s variety rather than just relentlessly despairing. And have you ever read Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River? That book gave me a lot of hope regarding younger writers and their worldview.

    My problem is more with the critics and “marketers” who peddle dark and gloom (and irony: gad!) over those with a hopeful, or balanced portrait of life. I know there are artists creating works that are tender, profound, and honest, and I pray for them every night…may their creations find publishers and their way to my library. 🙂

    • I agree with you Kitty. One of our great advantages, is that we’re not locked into our own time when it comes to great literature. For me it has always been an inspiration, that I could enjoy the literature of many different times in history, as well as many different cultures and places. I was hoping for more positive messages from this younger generation in the west, but there is much for me to enjoy in literature from all the ages. And of course, non fiction is no less important than fiction. And in that realm I have found some great books from young authors. So far, I’ve not read either Leif Enger nor Carrie Brown, and I look forward to getting to know them. It seems to me that the marketers are willing to trade in whatever sells. But the critics certainly have a bit of responsibility for the standards of the art and literature of our society. I appreciate very much what you’ve written here, and as I learn more about literature in the English language, I hope I’ll be able to add another post with some more positive thoughts. Thank you so much.

  3. I strongly identify with your reactions to much modern writing in this post, Shimon. It’s as if it is now de rigeur to write such gloomy, pessimistic stuff – there is almost a fear of celebrating what is good and beautiful. My personal suspicion is, that this has arisen out of the loss of faith in our society – there is now so little sense of something or someone greater than ourselves.

    I agree with cyclinggrandma about the Hare with Amber Eyes – it’s a wonderful book, not fiction, but an extended and in-depth portrayal of the writer’s family history, seen through the prism of acquiring some Japanese netsuke. Edmund de Waal comes from a largely Jewish family. It is wonderfully written and is one of the books that stays on my shelf instead of going to the charity shop. I suspect you would like it.

    • I think you’ve raised a very important point, Gill. In previous generations, it was more or less taken for granted that man had his limitations; that he was not the greatest force in this world. The young tried to learn the wisdom of the aged. And there was this faith, that even if we didn’t fully understand how and why we got here, and why we had to die, there was a harmony in this world that included all living creatures as well as plants and rocks, from that which was too small for us to see to that which was too great. But this new generation has been bombarded by some very different ideas. They learn at an early age that “god is dead”, and that youth is better than all other ages. They learn that we are the pinnacle of a process of evolution, and they learn self love, and self expression as being the highest of human activities. The faith in forces greater than man have been replaced by a faith in man and his works, in science, in medicine, in physics… and most of all, in technology. Of course, you and I have great respect for the accomplishments of mankind. But we still have faith in that which is greater than man. And so, we don’t have this sour attitude towards life… this gloomy picture that seems so prevalent in some of the literature I’ve been reading. Thanks for your comment.

  4. I agree with you, Shimon. I find that I’m having trouble finding great books to read these days. I had not considered that it was a generational thing, but I think you may be right. Doom and gloom just does not suit me. These days, I find myself settling for Historical Fiction – books that transport me to other times and places – especially those that are well researched as I find that I learn something of history in the process. One of my favorite writers is Geraldine Brooks. Unfortunately, I have devoured all of her offerings and am waiting for her to publish something else. But I think modern classic literature has shifted to reflect darker times and it saddens me.

    • I can well understand your sadness, Cathy. It saddens me too. But often, just as in our own lives, there are periods of greater creativity and production, and others in which we tend to our physical needs, so too, I believe that in the history of cultures, there are ups and downs too. It could be that the very brightest of our youth are so fascinated by the magic of technology and the search for truth in science, that literature has had to take a back seat. Thank you very much for your suggestion. I will check out Geraldine Brooks.

  5. For non fiction, Shimon, you may want to try David Abram’s “Spell of the Sensuous” (Perception and language in a more than human world)

    Ann Patchett’s writing is a good balance to the writing of Margaret Atwood. I recommend “Bel Canto” for its inherent humanity.

    I was surprised that you tried TC Boyle … but I’ve enjoyed some of his books because he can tell a good story and I’m American and enjoy the underside of our culture. The most memorable is “Tortilla Curtain”

    Louise Erdrich is a Native American author who writes with a lyrical spirituality.

    • I really appreciate your sharing with me some of the books that you’ve enjoyed JH. I agree that Boyle has a lot to offer as a writer, and I will try ‘Tortilla Curtain’. In fact, I am reading him right now, the book called ‘Drop City’.I definitely plan to read Ann Patchett, and I will check out David Abram and Louise Erdrich as well. I have never read the writing of a Native American, and I’m looking forward to the experience. Thank you for your comment.

  6. I have enjoyed Ian McEwan before, but haven’t read Black Dogs. Even though you didn’t much like the book, it makes me curious since particularly Atonement was great literature in my mind. As for the rest of the authors you mention it’s been fine to read their books, but for me they never come out as outstanding. For the time being I am reading anything but English literature, so I can’t really come up with any recent suggestion. But I do look forward to your discussion about postmodern philosophy. There is a lot in the concept that I find hard to digest, but one thing is definitely positive about postmodernism and that is the critique of established truths.

    • It would be very interesting to hear your thoughts on Black Dogs, Munchow, after you’ve read it. I might even go back to reading it if you liked it. I’m always open to the possibility that I didn’t understand something, especially when I don’t read it to the finish. Thank you very much for your comment. I am always interested in what you have to say.

  7. Barbara Kingsolver is very intelligent writer. I enjoyed the Poisonwood Bible. While I admire Margaret Atwood as a writer, I too find her vision of the world very bleak.Both of the writers i mentioned to you before (Hilary Mantel and Pat Barker) are writing of times past. You now have me racking my brains to come up with a writer who writes on contemporary issues in a positive way. It’s my impression that somehow ‘literary’ has come to be bleak otherwise it’s not taken seriously.

    • I look forward to reading the Poisonwood Bible, and thank you for your recommendation. I plan to check out the other writers you mentioned as well. It could be, that eventually I will return to older literary giants. There is much that I haven’t read, and that I’ve meant to, over the years. But this is a very interesting exploration for me, right now, and I appreciate the help I’m getting from my internet friends. Thank you, Tish, for your comment.

  8. I have to agree with your critic re many of these books. I’ve read most of them too….I don’t know why so many best sellers have to have such whiny characters….maybe it’s because so many people whine at every given opportunity now and expect everything to fall at their feet without having worked for anything. And as you say, what’s with the endless sadness and hopelessness, there is always hope!

    I have tossed many a book but have found many gems too. I’m currently enjoying Kate Mosse’s trilogy…..

    Here’s a little tale for you. Last week I found a book on a deserted bench. No-one was around so I took it home. It’s called The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I opened it and there was a note glued inside the cover saying….I am a very special book. I am travelling around the world making new friends. I hope I have met another friend in you. It then tells of a website that I should contact to let others know where the book is now….then it asks that I read and release it. I haven’t read this author so I hope it’s a good read. Strangely, books have a habit of coming to me with a subject that I need to read at the time, or they echo and re-inforce my views on things….so….I shall take this one to the lakes with me tomorrow, the title seems to fit the place. xxxx

    • Looking forward to hearing your thoughts after reading ‘Shadow of the Wind’. The way you found that book is a fascinating story. I also plan to read Kate Mosse. Even though I’ve had a few disappointments so far, I have read some very interesting books, and I’m still hoping that I will encounter great literature along the way. I feel I’ve learned quite a bit already from some of the comments on this blog, and this just strengthens the admiration I have for the interchange and learning possibilities of the new internet media. Thank you very much, Dina. xxx

  9. Love these reviews. As I know I mentioned on another comment, Atwood is one of my favorite authors. I’ve not read anything by Richard Ford. Your description of the anti-hero is one that seems to be cropping up more often in contemporary fiction.

    • I’m beginning to see that if I keep looking towards the critics to find writers I might like. It’ll be harder to find something to my taste. What makes things still harder, is that sometimes a writer is seen as belonging to a genre, and not taken seriously at all. Coming from outside the culture… not living where English is the spoken language, it’ll be more difficult to find such writers. But I’m looking. Thanks for your comment, Jordan.

  10. I agree with Kitty, Shimon. It’s not that there aren’t books out there, tons of superbly written ones that present a more balanced view but they’re not finding publishers, I’m sure. Publishers only seem to publish what has sold before. Hence just a handful of jaded authors who only peddle their despair and pessimism make it to the bookshelves. If a few new writers are published, they certainly don’t get the marketing budget of a ‘name’, unless of course they are a celebrity and whatever drivel they choose to write will find a publisher with a budget. Publishers these days are not in the business of publishing good literature sadly, just what will please the shareholders and the accountants.

    • I was just saying that to Jordan, based on what Kitty wrote. I still don’t know if there are ‘tons of superbly written books out there’, as you said. But it could be that my mistake was to read to much literary criticism. On the other hand, we can’t blame publishers, because they’re in the business of selling, and if they think they can make a dollar, they won’t ignore the book. I was very impressed by an American writer by the name of Elmore Leonard, who started writing in the 50s. His first books were ‘westerns’, and I believe they were really classical in their approach. But of course, they’re looked upon as ‘genre’ writing. From that, he went on to detective stories, and made a fortune. But the later works, written for money, are not quite as good in my opinion, though he did make a bundle, and a number of his books were turned into top box office movies.

  11. Someone mentioned the Poisonwood Bible – I recently read that and I would recommend it too. It’s a long book essentially about the survival of a family despite the missionary zeal of the father who subjected his family to life in the Congo. It will reward you if you stick with it.

    • Yes, I plan to read the Poisonwood Bible. I have to admit, that there are certain subjects that attract me less than others, for instance, books about the holocaust (of which I know quite a bit), or books about the problems of ‘gays’ (about which I know next to nothing), but if I were to hear of some book that is said to be a masterpiece, I would probably try it, no matter what it was about. Thanks for the comment, Andy.

  12. Hi Shimon. You already know I am the wrong person to ask that question of. I am a bit jealous of your knowledge in that arena, but I would, after reading one depressing type book, choose yet another of the same/similar ilk. Reading what they’re about is as far as I would go. Now I wonder how that places me in the theme of things and the direction of our civilization.

    • No need to envy a friend because of his taste. For years, I read mostly non-fiction, and found it illuminating and inspiring. Moreover, I have the benefit of almost endless reaches in the world of Hebrew literature. It is just curiosity, and the remembrance of how I once impressed by English literature, that keeps me looking now for something of quality in that area. But still, I might not find it. I know you have read medicine mostly, Bob. And I don’t consider that any less valuable than anything I read.

  13. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    Shimon, you’ve read SO MUCH since getting your kindle. And I don’t really agree with you that because you’re old, entrenched in Jewish nature etc, that it’s gone beyond you (or advanced, I think was your word). I think you’re very today, and very open, and always learning. You’re a wonderful man, human, thinker, reader.

    • Thank you for your kind comment, Noeleen. But I have to say, that as I grow older, it is getting harder and harder to keep up with what’s ‘happening’ in the world. Still, in those areas that really interest me, I am able to continue learning. I appreciate your coming by and reading. Wishing you all the best.

  14. Having had a look around the bookshelves at home, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t read positive contemporary writers, but not by conscious choice. The books that make me have hope are all from an earlier period – Zazie in the Metro, The Thin Man, Lucky Jim, etc.

    • Yes, I can well understand that you would choose older reading material. When one lives within a certain culture, it is easier to look just for those things that appeal to you, and not for that which is representative of a certain generation. When I first got to know world literature, it didn’t matter to me at all, when something was written. It was all on the table. Now as an older man… having been disconnected from English for many years (and coming back to it because of blogging), I was curious about what had appeared in the last 40 years or so. But I may soon go back to my old favorites. Thanks for your comment, Richard.

  15. Hi, Shimon,
    As always, I find your verbal eloquence both delightful and daunting to my pedestrian brain. I frankly hesitate to put forth a reading suggestion of my own for fear of disappointing you in my choices. I will read the occasional dark and dreary book filled with dark and dreary characters, but more often than not, when I get a sense of gloom and doom and whining characters in a book I’m reading, I read the final chapter. If it ends in a dark way, I’m done. If there’s something redemptive and uplifting in the ending, then I’ll go back and finish it. I read for knowledge and I read for entertainment. I generally refuse to read a book that leaves me depressed – unless it’s for a very good reason: a valuable lesson, insight into a topic of interest, or perhaps because there’s a good, albeit sad, story. I do hope you’re able to find authors who interest you and leave you satisfied as you read the final words.

    • I can only congratulate you on the way you relate to books. It seems to me, a very good way to deal with them, Myra. I have left quite a few books in the middle, when I felt I had nothing to gain from them… but up till now, I haven’t had the desire to check out the last chapter. I’ve always felt that if I jumped to the ending, I was missing out anyway, on what the person had to tell me. But in light of some of my recent disappointments, I might try it out. Gloom and doom don’t appeal to me. And a writer has to be truly exceptional before I’m willing to put myself through such experiences, even if only empathetic. Thank you for your kind words. I believe that my ability to express myself is the result of a lifetime of study.

  16. “A tale of two Kitties“ by Charlotte What -the -Dickens is very intriguing

  17. Life of Pi – a modern book that combines elements of adventure, survival, hope and quite a bit of thinking.

  18. first, the dystopian thing – i’m sick of it. when my daughter was immersed in “the hunger games,” i rolled my eyes and thought, “oh boy, here comes another one.” in fairness to her and that book, i was forced to read too many dystopian stories through high school, so it’s a theme that had worn itself out for me. i find nothing original in anything dystopian.

    second, “is this all there is?” sort of, yes. art is produced by motivation. i have written a good handful of poetry, and nobody ever sits down and decides to write a poem. something happens to you, something affects or motivates you. something touches you somewhere inside and makes you want to share that feeling with others. that produces great poetry. it is similar with fiction. in a short story i had recently written, i was thinking about psychics who (allegedly) help the police find missing persons. and i thought, “what if an alleged psychic was kidnapping people, then pretending to help find them, and then the psychic looks like a hero?” something i experienced caused me to think of that.

    so when fiction/literature is turning into whining, depressing, boring, cry-baby stories – that is likely because too many people/writers are spending too much time complaining about how sad their lives are, and they are turning that into a story. what also contributes is the expanding number of (alleged) non-fiction books in which people confess and reveal devastating and/or embarrassing things from their own lives. too many books are all about “look what tragedy happened to me,” and i question how much of it is real.

    society, at least in america, has become too tolerant and accepting of bad things. too many people are gaining money and fame for having done wrong. and too many people are willing to gain money and fame for just claiming to have done some outrageous wrongs because the money and fame is greater than the negative effect of the wrongs they have done. and, in america, we quickly forget that you have done wrong and instead we just remember your name and that you are someone who did something to gain notoriety. in america, negatives are producing positives, and it is not fun. too much television time is given for negatives. nobody watches shows about people doing good things. shows about “trashy” people are popular, and i can only assume it is because more people are similarly trashy, and they are watching a reflection of themselves.

    if we look at the classic question, “is society reflecting art or is art reflecting society?” in this case, it is neither. it is art reflecting society because publishers want nothing more than to sell books. the impossible puzzle with literature/fiction is what you must do to have a book published. you must answer, “how is this book like other books?” and then “how is this book different?” publishers watch what sells and then scramble to find more of the same but with a slight difference. it is like a stream of consciousness.

    let’s say a typical book has 10 different aspects to it. and that book is popular. publishers will look for more books with 9 identical aspects, but the 10th one will be slightly different. that will be popular too. so the next book will again have 9 aspects the same and 1 different. and again and again until literature has slowly morphed into something else, but you can probably line up all the trends and follow the trail and sequence over time.

    last thing, here is the best book i have read recently:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Curious-Incident-Dog-Night-Time/dp/1400032717

    • It seems to me that the dystopian genre got its start in my generation, Rich. We had ‘Brave New World’ and ‘1984’, and I suppose they gave the inspiration to many others who came later. But from what I’ve read recently, there is more gloom to be found there than deep social criticism. What you say, though, about the sources of fine literature, makes a lot of sense. Regarding your story about the psychic, on the other hand, I find it hard to believe that the ability to be a psychic would be caused by a hit on the head, or taking some unknown drug. I’ve known some people who had very unusual psychic abilities, but they were very empathetic individuals. And so, it seems to me that the least likely to become kidnappers, are psychics. On the other hand, one of the common failings we have, as human beings, is voyeurism. And so it isn’t at surprising, that a celebrity who ‘tells all’ will be able to sell his tale. And since society seems much more forgiving and tolerant towards whiners than they were in my day, I can see where that could become a well accepted style.

      Your thoughts about the negative view of life in your country seems quite likely. I have seen some imported TV shows, and I came to a similar conclusion. But we have to remember, that when looking for fine art or literature, we are looking for the work of an exceptional human being in any case. All the same, the mood of a particular culture affects all those who are connected. I do believe that it works both ways; that art reflects society, and that society is influenced by its art. Thank you very much for your recommendation of the ‘dog in the night time’. I have heard of the book, and its been translated into Hebrew. I wasn’t much attracted to it at first, but I think I might give it a try now. I do appreciate your comment.

  19. Unfortunately, there is a looooooooooot of angst in my generation. Faith, in many areas of life, you just don’t see anymore. There is not a lot of aspiration or hope in many of the youth, and for those who have it, there is always the risk of burning out quickly. That, and I suspect that there was an encouraged trend towards sadness and other negative emotions in texts in the mid-late 00’s in the publishing industry. In 2008/2009 (I don’t remember which year), I did a creative writing elective in university. In one class, I remember my lecturer (who also did editing for people hoping to be published) ranting on about how there was an annoying aversion to sadness and other dark feelings and that it was good that these things were being expressed and it should happen more.

    Come to think of it, I can’t think of any stories that I know and love that are overwhelmingly positive. But when I was reading the first paragraph of this post here, I instantly thought of Murakami Haruki. I read his book “After Dark” for one of my classes, and I honestly didn’t really get it – it was a bit metaphysical, for lack of a better word. But it definitely raises a huge question of existentialism. “After Dark” is not regarded as his best work though. It was one I honestly picked up because I needed something I could hope to read in time to complete the assignment. What is his best work is debated, but I wouldn’t mind giving “Norwegian Wood” a go. Not a happy story, though…..

    • I hear what you’re saying Jess, and it’s definitely supported by my recent reading. And I suppose that your university lecturer is one of the many influences on the younger generation, who are helping to produce a very dismal cultural point of view. You might find it interesting to read what I replied to godschool above (her’s was the third comment, I believe). In a sense, it’s tragic. But there is always room for exceptions. I will check out ‘After Dark’ keeping in mind your warning. Thank you very much for your comment, and if I run into more positive writing of contemporary writers, you may sure I will discuss them on the blog.

      • I went back for the mentioned commentary and I agree entirely. I look forward to the discovery of positivism (it’s gotta be out there somewhere)!

  20. Reblogged this on Cool lady blog and commented:
    More ideas for what to read this winter

  21. Ah yes, Margaret Atwood. Wonderful and somewhat depressing at the same time. I agree with you about the despondent sense of much of her work. She has an incredible wit and sharpness that I love, though. Especially in interviews. (Here I am a bit late to the conversation.)
    I do have a soft spot for much contemporary Canadian literature. I wonder if you know Rawi Hage. I was spellbound by his book De Niro’s Game. Struck by the beauty of his language around an ugly subject and how humanity is both beautiful and ugly, too, and how we adapt, or don’t adapt, to new “normals”. I’m probably not explaining myself very well but there is something about that book that stays with me.

    • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a wonderful book, isn’t it? (I worked with autistic youth and adults for many years and that experience profoundly opened/moved me.)

      • Though I haven’t read the book yet, I’ve heard quite a bit about it, and it has even been translated here to Hebrew. So now it’s on my list, and I’m looking forward to reading it. Thanks.

    • I really enjoy her writing, but I can’t help wonder about the way she describes both me, and relationships. They seem to be lacking any inspiration. I realize that dystopic fiction has become sort of a fashion in recent years, and it is a way to criticize the failings of our society… as well as to point out the traps that we need to avoid. But even Aldous Huxley, whose ‘Brave New World’ was internationally praised, also wrote a book called ‘The Island’ in which he wrote of ways to improve the world. I’m afraid that if we just look at what’s bad, and what doesn’t work… we’ll lose sight of our real aspiration, which is to help make a better world where we could enjoy life even more. I have read about De Niro’s Game, but it isn’t available in Kindle yet, so I will have to wait awhile before reading that. Thank you very much for your comment, Karen.

  22. Pingback: whereabouts of the muse 2 | the human picture

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