Five Years Ago This Month: May 2013

Five years ago this month...

...I was lazy. This is basically the tale as old as time on this blog: not enough time for reading, not enough time for posting. I promised more thorough Current Distractions posts and like, lol, I think we all know that that didn't happen.

...I reviewed A House for Mr Biswas. I am currently still so bored by this book that I didn't even bother to read my review.

...I was distracted. My opinion about Star Trek: Into Darkness has only soured further with time. (Also, I corrected a typo in that post!)

Here's what going home looks like when you live in a
temporary camp.

Looking Back, Part 6

Guys! I'm so proud of myself. The last time I wrote one of these posts was just over a year ago! And the previous one was just under a year before that! I'm pretty sure that this is the first time in the history of the blog that I've finished four decabooks so fast. I'm not sure if things are going to gcontinue at this pace given how I had to change my posting schedule earlier this year. But we'll see. Basically I'm just so excited by my progress lately. I'm excited to finish the project! The end isn't exactly in sight but there's a light at the end of the tunnel that I couldn't see five years ago, that's for sure.

Top 100 So Far

A couple of firsts this time around! And I'm not necessarily happy about them.

First, this is where The List's shocking lack of women writers becomes really, really apparent. Each previous set of ten has included at least one book by a female author. This time there are zero female authors, plus also a twelve book series by a dude. I only read the first two books of that, though.

Second, I skipped a book! I never plan to do this again, but after how much I hated The Rainbow, I treated its sequel, Women in Love, as if both books had been one entry, and quit reading the duology after hating the first book. I went into this in more detail when I posted about Women in Love, and that post is linked below.

For the books I actually read the publication date skewed to 1934, although it would've gone higher if I'd made it through more of A Dance to the Music of Time.

As for my feelings about the books, things started out bad and got better as the numbers got lower. I can only hope that this trend will continue.

Have you missed my silly little summary table? Here it is:

50. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller - 1/3
49. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence - no rating
48. The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence - 1/3
47. Nostromo by Joseph Conrad - 1/3
46. The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad - 2/3
45. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway - 3/3
44. Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley - 2/3
43. A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell - 2.5/3
42. Deliverance by James Dickey - 3/3
41. Lord of the Flies by William Golding - 3/3

Random/Romnovs So Far

R51. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
R52. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
R53. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
R54. Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
R55. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
R56. Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
R57. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
R58. Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
R59. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
R60. The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector

And that's all for now. See you when I've finished reading another twenty books, and also many times between now and then.

R60. The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector

Year Published: 1977 (1992 in English, I read Benjamin Moser's 2011 translation)
Pages: 81

First Sentence: All the world began with a yes.

The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector | Two Hectobooks

Confession time: this book looked interesting, but the real reason that I picked it up when I did was because it's so short. I hoped to gain some ground in The List by reading a very short book. Instead I ended up taking forever to read The Hour of the Star because I didn't have time to sit down and review it. So that backfired completely and I won't be attempting anything of the kind again.

The novel is narrated by the cryptic Rodrigo S.M., who is a writer and bears an unknown amount of resemblance to the actual writer, Clarice Lispector, a Brazilian woman. The setting is Rio de Janeiro, and the main character is a young woman named Macabéa, who works as a typist and lives in extreme poverty. She comes from "the northeast," which is something I understood mostly geographically, but the implication is that this is a country girl in the big city.

It's hard to say anything about the plot of this book because it's so short that to begin speaking about it is also to describe the entire story. It doesn't help that a large part of the early going is consumed by Rodrigo psyching himself up to write Macabéa's story, such that by the time he finally gets around to it there's not much time left. This is of course because the book is not only a character sketch but also a meditation on what a narrative is and the control of the narrator.

I read Benjamin Moser's note at the end of the book and found it a bit disconcerting. Moser says that Lispector's prose has a spiky quality, and I didn't find that at all, which either speaks poorly of his abilities as a translator or my abilities as a reader. But what I found was that this book felt most like a prose poem, each word carefully chosen for a specific purpose. That first sentence is one for the ages, and here's how the whole first paragraph goes:
All the world began with a yes. One molecule said yes to another molecule and life was born. But before prehistory there was the prehistory of prehistory and there was the never and there was the yes. It was ever so. I don't know why, but I do know that the universe never began.
This is prose with its own rhythm, that pulls the reader in and pushes them out with unmistakeable intent. It isn't an accident. The very next sentence?
Make no mistake, I only achieve simplicity with enormous effort.
I suppose that could be considered prickly.

I usually complain about flowery language and books that go nowhere, but fortunately for me it seems that when the book is a short one, I am 100% on board for both of those things. Lispector's portrayal of poverty in this book is more adept and affecting than any other book I can think of. Macabéa's world is very small but the edges of it are sharp. I suspect all this will stick with me for some time.

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Who hasn't ever wondered: am I a monster or is this what it means to be a person?
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I'm becoming terribly interested in facts: facts are hard rocks. You can't escape. Facts are words spoken by the world.
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