Okay, now this is just sad. Where has my head gone, and what has it done with my reading? (I don’t have the answer to either of those questions.) I suppose some months are just like that.
August Reading Stats
- Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
- The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood
Total Pages Read: 947
I finished two books but they were both rereads, so I’m not really sure they should count, but in the absence of anything else I’m going to go ahead and count them anyway. Both of these books are on my deserted island list, and I was unpleasantly surprised by neither of them.
I will say, however, that I first read The Blind Assassin as a teenager and didn’t think much of Alex Thomas even then. As an adult, I absolutely hate him. I don’t take issue with his politics, I take issue with the fact that he is a verbally and emotionally abusive prick. Granted, most of what I know about him is seen through Iris’s lens and there’s no way of knowing if he actually thinks of her as a cunt on stilts, but based on the rest of him I’d say the odds are not in his favor. “He draws her out, then chokes her off.” If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about him, I really don’t know what to tell you. Not exactly a love story for the ages – although, given that most popular romances seem to be built on a solid foundation of abuse (see also: Twilight), maybe it is. Whatever the case, I’m not sorry he’s dead.
Psych just kidding. My current reads are exactly the same as last month’s current reads, minus obviously The Blind Assassin, so instead I thought I’d do a mini review of The Bell Jar, which I reread back in July. I was originally planning to do a full-blown review like I usually do, but then I realized I didn’t actually have that much to say about it and also the book was due back at the library, so the full review got canceled. Sorry.
Warning: Spoilers, as usual.
The Bell Jar
Official rating: 3.75 stars. I liked it well enough, but I didn’t love it.
The Bell Jar is the story of Esther Greenwood, a college student who is accepted for an internship with a prestigious New York magazine in the summer of 1953 (also, coincidentally, the summer the Rosenbergs were electrocuted). She’s supposed to be having the time of her life while getting onto a solid career path, but she is in fact lost and directionless and already suffering from the early stages of depression, which makes her unenthusiastic and lethargic. Unable to enjoy the glamour of New York and with no clear idea of what she wants to do with her life, Esther returns to her mother’s house in Connecticut, where she suffers a catastrophic meltdown that begins with her canceling her plans to go back to college and ends with a stay in a mental healthcare facility following an attempted suicide.
I would have enjoyed this more if Esther weren’t so unabashedly racist. How many ethnic groups can she offend in one sentence? The results might surprise you. </clickbait> On a normal day Esther rarely mentions her looks, but when she is unwell she compares herself unfavorably to various ethnic groups, namely Chinese and Indians (whether she means Native Americans or Asian Indians is uncertain). To be inescapably clear, she does this only when she is ill and looking like she just crawled out of a dumpster. I could excuse outdated language, which is also used, but the decision to use people of color as a convenient shorthand to describe the Very White protagonist’s physical appearance is disappointing at best. I would’ve thought that a writer so widely regarded as brilliant could’ve troubled herself to come up with something less lazy. This is an unfortunate stumbling block, because aside from the race issue the book is really, really funny. Esther’s observations on marriage, and on male-female relationships in general, are sharp and unapologetic. She is petty, hilarious, even relatable (you know, when she’s not describing herself as a “sick Indian”). She is currently unsure of what she wants to do with her life, except that she wants to be a writer. I actually feel somewhat seen.
At the same time, though, I never found the book particularly memorable. My normal practice is to memorize whatever I’m reading, but for one reason or another this really didn’t stick with me and I’m not sure why. Some books just melt right out of my head while I’m reading them, and this happened to be one of them. I suppose the fact that I remembered almost nothing about it from the first time I read it should’ve been a warning sign. Maybe this is my cynicism and my non-whiteness kicking in again, but it just seemed very………….bland? I’ve said that Esther is an amusing narrator and I stand by that, but her day-to-day life is so uninteresting that I completely understand how it could drive her to a nuclear meltdown.
The other problem is that Esther is kind of an awful person. In the first couple of chapters, she first abandons Doreen with a strange man, then – when Doreen returns reeling drunk to their dorm in the middle of the night – promptly kicks her out of her room and lets her lie sick on the floor because she doesn’t want to deal with her. Her interactions with people other than Doreen make me wonder if she’s naturally lacking in empathy or if this is an effect of her mental illness, which admittedly takes a tremendous toll on her life. Either way, she’s not a friend I would want to have, and I will most likely not be reading this book a third time.