how we feel about books....
Posted by Kate on February 06, 1998 at 08:59:54:
In response to Yup, sort of., written by Betsy on February 06, 1998 at 05:53:43
But I really
] could NOT get into the book. I didn't finish it with a "whoa" the way I did books
] like Emma or The Power of One. I was just glad that it was over. Well,
] not really that, but just felt like I'd finished a hard task.
] So I spent the
] book totally rooting for Lucinda to find some ground or stability but
] not entirely thrilled with Oscar as a comparison/compliment.
] I'm not even sure if I said anything that made sense here (feel free to tell me I didn't!);
] but I don't think I'll be pulling O&L off the bookshelf anytime soon for a re-read.
You made a lot of sense. I think one of the issues is how we expect to feel about reading a book. I like reading to be a relatively easy and relaxing experience, because I read really hard stuff all the time for work, and I just want to chill when I read a novel. So I tend not to persist when it's hard work (and there is some agreement here that O&L is hard work).
We also seem to have an expectation that we're going to like and relate to the characters. Given the variety of people in the world, it's obviously the rare character who EVERYONE is going to admire and like (Lizzy Bennet is the obvious exception), or even relate to. Your fellow feeling for Lucinda demonstrates that her's is a life experience which is not something created in Carey's mind, but which does relate to real life.
I think the thing with Oscar is that we have all sorts of expectations about the heroes of novels which he does not meet AT ALL. He's not handsome, or commanding, or in control. He seems utterly at the mercy of fate or God or whatever, and unable to take any control of his life. He is terrified of drowning. He doesn't understand what's going on around him - he's not a "man of the world" in any sense. He almost seems a little "simple" at times.
I think one of the things Carey is doing is challenging what we see as a "hero", and what we see as heroic behaviour. In the last third of the book this becomes particularly clear.
I would be very interested to know what men think of Oscar. Do they despise his weakness, or are there men who, like you with Lucinda, secretly identify with him?
A final thought. Although this is proving to be a difficult group read for many of us, I'm glad we're doing some modern writing. I think it's important some times to see how the literary world has changed in the past fifty or so years, and how authors are less willing to take the easy way out, with characters that are immediately appealing, and a predictable happy ending. Not to say that I will not enjoy reading A Room With A View next... but this was a refreshing, if somewhat challenging excursus!
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