Tonight was my final exam for my Contemporary Fiction class. Thanks be to God! It took me 3 and 1/4 hours to write identifications for 10 quotes from the 6 books we read, as well as write two essays of two-plus pages each on two out of four topics. My head still hurts. What follows are my brief thoughts about each of the books we read in the last 6 weeks (for those who may be interested).
The Pacific & Other Stories by Mark Helprin: I cannot recommend this book and author highly enough. All short stories about war and death and life. Masterfully written. How he achieved to write about war in a poetic and beautiful way, I’ll never know, but this is one author I want to read again.
Beloved by Toni Morrison: I don’t care if she’s a Pulitzer Prize winner or not, I did not like this book. While it was a mildly confusing narrative style, I felt she did not develop her characters well. Nor did I find any beauty in her words, despite the difficult topic of slavery. Perhaps if I had read this book before Helprin’s I might have felt differently. He spoiled me with his writing skills so every book following his did not measure up to him.
Fay by Larry Brown: This was a ‘southern gothic’ genre book. The main character, Fay who is 17 years old, hails from rural Mississippi where she ran away from her migrant farmer abusive father who sold her baby sister for a car. Sam, a state trooper, picks her up from the side of the road and brings her home to his alcoholic wife, Amy, who promptly ‘adopts’ her like one would a stray puppy. It doesn’t help that Amy and Sam’s daughter, Karen, had been killed in a car accident and that Sam is having an affair with Alesandra. Long story short is Sam ends up sleeping with Fay, Amy dies in a car accident and the story continues to spiral downward to the end. I won’t spoil the ending for you but you’re not missing anything by not reading the book. This one was a snoozer for me.
In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason: This one I would recommend. It is the author’s first novel and I was impressed. It is a story of a teenage girl named Samantha, whose father was killed in Vietnam prior to Sam’s birth. So he never knows he has a baby daughter and Irene (the mother) doesn’t tell Sam anything about her father. The story is Sam’s quest to discover more about her father, Dwayne, and in the process discovers her own identity. It has a very good and hopeful ending.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien: Here is another author who has the talent to draw you in with the first few words. This is a brutal book about Vietnam and the things the troops carry either in their rucksacks or in their hearts or in their memories. O’Brien pulls no punches with his descriptions of war. It is visceral, brutal and heartrending. I wouldn’t read anything else by him as this type of book is not my favorite, but he drew me in. If you don’t mind violence and honesty, you may like this one.
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk: This book was a colossal waste of my reading time. I didn’t like. I didn’t understand it. The psychotic violence is over the top. I found it rather humorless. It doesn’t take long to figure out that Tyler is a split personality and completely wacko. I do not agree that this book is supposedly addressing the issue of masculinity in contemporary America. I think it is more about gratuitous violence.
I am signed up to take this same professor’s Irish Lit. class in the fall semester. At least this time all our reading won’t be crammed into 6 short weeks but will go over 15 weeks. I can’t imagine the writing load that will be involved and I dread his mid-term and final exam but I think the topic will be interesting. Here are a list of reading requirements (so far) for the class. Has anyone read any of them? What say you about them?
- Ireland by Frank Delaney
- Translations (a play) by Brian Friel
- Dubliners by James Joyce
- Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
- The Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh
- A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift