Once again, I’ve stayed away too long. To be honest, I probably won’t be posting all that regularly until I finally finish some more papers. I’m a bit freaked out that 2012 is over already, and I don’t really feel like attempting to condense my thoughts on the year into a blog post. Suffice to say: it was a good year.
As for 2013 goals…I’m not a big resolution person, but I’ll say that my main objective is to graduate. Maybe if I put it in blog-writing, it will help keep me accountable. But for now, instead of a year-in-review/preview post, I’ll share some thoughts on stuff I’ve read and seen lately, but I’ll split it into two posts and start with books.
For xmas, Michael gave me a stack of exciting new books, two of which I’ve managed to read over this winter break. I think one my first posts on this blog was a quick review of a book he gave me last year, so this feels appropriate. Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad and Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her are actually pretty similar, which I wouldn’t have guessed from reading the summaries. Both Diaz and Egan tell their stories out of chronological order, with each chapter/story told from a different perspective/point of view, while exploring the way relationships evolve and deteriorate over time. New York looms large in both books, even though they jump to different settings throughout.
Egan’s has a wider scope and follows a bigger cast of interconnected characters, who are all directly or indirectly connected to the music industry. At first, I thought it was going to be a straightforward industry satire, but Egan is more adventurous. Some of the chapters/stories work better than others. One chapter is told entirely in a PowerPoint presentation, which worked for me, but I guess some readers will hate it. The strength of Goon Squad are the well-drawn characters, who develop slowly as small details emerge back and forth in time. Egan’s attempt at industry satire, on the other hand, didn’t do much for me. The idea that technology has taken the soul out of modern music is nothing new, and frankly, reductive, conservative, and unimaginative. In fact, a lot of the tropes in Goon Squad feel well worn, but for me, Egan’s eye for detail and subtle characterization in the stronger chapters redeemed the more pedestrian elements of the novel.
This is How You Lose Her has a tighter focus, largely centering on chronically unfaithful Yunior (Diaz’s alter ego, it seems). Diaz is more consistent than Egan, and he somehow made me care, at least a little bit, about the fate of his ostensibly unlikable, misogynist main character. In a lot of ways, it was an uncomfortable book to read. Diaz doesn’t shy away from endemic racism in the US in representing the experience of Dominican Americans. However, every time I read a text by a male author whose misogynist narrator/protagonist is supposed to expose said misogyny, I feel like it’s such a slippery slope. I’m going to direct this conversation to QueerBlackFeminist‘s blog, where she has written an eloquent post on the subject, with an equally eloquent reply from Outlaw No. 451. (*Watch out for a spoiler for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in the first paragraph!)
In any event, it’s really nice to read some books for fun instead of poring over journal articles and theory. I hope 2013 will bring more of this. More tomorrow!