"The book I'm looking for,' says the blurred figure, who holds out a volume similar to yours, 'is the one that gives the sense of the world after the end of the world, the sense that the world is the end of everything that there is in the world, that the only thing there is in the world is the end of the world."
- Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tina Fey and Lorrie Moore

Hello! It's been awhile. I've been busy with work and other things, but I have read two books. These are the books!

Bossypants by Tina Fey

One of the things I love most about 30 Rock is its strong female voice. As someone who grew up white, male and affluent... I'm sort of required to feel guilty about the relative fortune of abstract populations that are unlike myself. So I do! Like, genuinely, I really do!

I'm embarrassed to admit that don't know much about minorities or poor people. But I do have some experience with affluent white women, and so feminism has become the ism for me. 30 Rock is--duh--hilarious and great without any kind of additional qualification, but it also simultaneously deals with the disparity that women experience in everyday life and pokes fun at the sorts of people (me!) who think that sort of thing is important. Tina Fey's book has a lot of the same stuff: It's serious and thoughtful about the kind of messages it sends, but it's also just silly a lot of the time. It basically reads like a very short collection of blog posts. I imagine it's exactly as funny and thoughtful and likable as my blog. I'm like the boy Tina Fey. Yes.

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

This book is fucking excellent.

It's one of those fancy pants, capital-L Literature gigs (grosssss!), so there's not a lot of plot to go around, really. But basically it's about this: a girl in college who finds a job as the nanny for an adopted child.

The power comes from two places. First, like most Literature worth paying attention to, it draws on the uncomfortable truths of being an adult human being. That is, it trades in the fact that we are often petty or insecure or greedy, but don't really realize it. Second, the protagonist, Karen, has a really strong voice. I tried (unsuccessfully) to explain the voice of the author to my girlfriend several days ago. It's funny I guess? I don't like "funny" books, a la Douglas Adams or Christopher Moore.This book isn't funny like that. It's "clever," but not in a winking, Oscar Wilde sort of way. It's just... OK... The author, the character--whoever--seems to have a lot of fun with the language of the novel. But it isn't written in such a way that's condescending or separate. It's actually a very sad book. I bookmarked an instance where I thought the way in which the author savored wordplay in a tragic way was particularly poignant, for some reason:

"And sometimes it was true: the three of us would go out together, and we were like a family. If he had loved me, or even if he'd just have said so, I would have died of happiness. But it didn't happen. So I didn't die of happiness. Words for a tombstone: SHE DIDN'T DIE OF HAPPINESS."
Like that's kind of funny, right? But not in a way that separates itself from it's subject, which is what I dislike about most funny books. You get it. I'm totally making sense. For sure.

When I was in middle school, and first got into serious reading, I read the classics almost exclusivley: Dickens, Dostoevsky, Dumas. I basically refused to read anything written after 1950, believing that the works of real value and importance were the older ones. In college, I finally got into more modern work--work like this--and it's been breathtaking.

It makes me wonder: did literature just get better in the last 30 years, or have I just gotten older, gotten more capable of appreciating the emotional difficulties represented in the work of any writer? Anyway, I'll find out soon. My next read is my first ever Faulkner: A Light In August.


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