walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Liveblogging tonight's reading group selection

Chapter 1 sort of set me off, but until I hit this bit, I couldn't quite figure out why.

"And the women came out of the houses to stand beside their men -- to feel whether this time the men would break...The children stood near by... and the children sent exploring senses out to see whether men and women would break. ...After a while [sic no comma] the faces of the watching men lost their bemused perplexity [ed: basically, the author here just said "confused confusion". Yes, yes he did.] and became hard and angry and resistant. Then the women knew that they were safe and that there was no break. ... Women and children knew deep in themselves that no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole."

Yeah, okay. Whatever. Chapter 2 was a little full of itself, but was basically okay.

The first paragraph of Chapter 3 is a single sentence with over a hundred words, ending in this phrase:

"but each possessed of the anlage of movement."

Okay, that's bad. You're thinking, but the rest was probably okay, right? No. No it was not. "all passive but armed with appliances of activity, still, but each possessed of the anlage of movement."

This author is a pompous ass. I think I now understand both why I so carefully avoided ever reading this book before today (and I doubt I'll get through it now). I _also_ understand a lot more about why my ex-grandfather-in-law loved it so much. He, too, was a pompous ass, and he lived through the relevant time period and read the book when it was new, popular fiction.

I'm not going to mention the title or author; you shouldn't have any trouble working that out for yourself, but I'd just as soon people not randomly google their way into my blog or hate-tweet how feral and uncivilized I am for mocking what is widely considered classic American literature.

Also, why the infinitives in this sentence (assuming that is what they are)?

"The sun lay on the grass and warmed it, and in the shade under the grass the insects moved, ants and ant lions to set traps for them, grasshoppers to jump into the air and flick their yellow wings for a second, sow bugs like little armadillos, plodding restlessly on many tender feet." I really did reproduce this faithfully. I would never write a sentence like that, and I'm not sure why anyone let that sentence be published with that odd grammar, never mind the ongoing randomness of some of the comma choices. I really don't _have_ this problem with other fiction from the late 1920s/early 1930s, so what is going on here, anyway?

Chapter 3 is very short, and appears to be a belabored metaphor for the contents of the rest of the book (turtle laboriously climbs up a highway embankment, rests, continues, is nearly hit by a woman who in turn nearly crashes and is more careful, continues, is hit and flipped by a truck driver who aims for him but survives this encounter. Something about an oat seed along for the ride). I suspect that this author really wanted to be a poet.

Oh, look! In chapter 4, J. (look, if I give the name you are totally gonna know the book right off) says that JWs stayed at his family's house one time. (It's right before the preacher tells J. about no virtue and no sin, just stuff people do, followed by a dollop of the preacher experiencing immanence).

In Chapter 5, this, this, ugh.

"Behind the tractor rolled the shining disks, cutting the earth with blades -- not plowing but surgery ... Behind the harrows, the long seeders -- twelve curved iron penes [sic seriously wait for it] erected [har de har har it gets worse!] in the foundry, orgasms set by gears, raping methodically, raping without passion. ... No man had touched the seed, or lusted for the growth. Men ate what they had not raised, had no connection with the bread. The land bore under iron, and under iron gradually died".

I get the whole earth, fertility, blah blah blah thing. That's ancient. But this? People really think this is great literature? This is purple, overwrought, ridiculous, absurd prose and it is also actually kind of bad from a farm policy perspective, too. It's not like the more labor intensive system which preceded the tractors was in any way good for the land. The dust bowl which failed the croppers out was an artifact of the earlier system.

Also, this paragraph is preceded by an interaction between the croppers and the banker/owners which I _think_ is supposed to make me sympathetic with the croppers or perhaps their ancestors, but really doesn't have that effect for me at all. More of a, hey, you[r ancestors] stole the land, you lose the land. You[r ancestors] killed to get the land, if you're smart you'll move along before the bigger, badder dudes kill you.

The Penguin edition's only end note for Chapter 5 is to explain "Spam". Really? You need to have "Spam" explained? Even with spam used for bulk/crap online messages/email, if you google Spam, you get product pictures right at the top. I can't imagine what they were thinking, that they needed to end note "Spam".

There's a really awkward two paragraph tenant monologue about property owning the owner when he has too much of it and is too distant from it. It is inserted in the middle of an interaction with a neighbor who has taken a job driving a tractor (and is eating a spam sandwich), and is advocating for jobs vs. cropping.

After the tenant farmer gets done threatening to kill the president of the bank and the board of directors and a bunch of other people (yeah, that's sympathetic), "the phalli of the seeder slipping into the ground".

Oh, look, in Chapter 6. Muley has ODD. Well, sure, I mean, with a nickname like Muley, what would you expect? Here is TJ's summary of Muley, in response to Muley's question about whether TJ is trying to tell him what to do. "No, I ain't. If you wanta drive your head into a pile a broken glass, there ain't nobody can tell you different." A bit later, here is Muley talking about himself, after noting that he has been told to go somewhere else, a place he _would_ have gone if he hadn't been told to do so. But, having been told to do so: "But them sons-a-bitches says I got to get off -- an', Jesus Christ, a man can't, when he's tol' to!"

Chapter 7 is a monologue of a car dealer. It is every bit as awful as you could possibly imagine. Supposedly, one of the favorite parts of Homer's work Back In the Day was the Catalog of Ships, which of course to any of us is just a list of names. Not entirely unlike that, is this chapter. (Yes, dear, I do recognize most of the makes and marques, altho I did have to look up Rockne -- a Studebaker -- and Apperson. And Star by Durant, which as near as I can tell was a kit car. Can't figure out why Chevvies is spelled with two v's; that's the verb, not the car. Mysterious. I think he had pushovers for editors; nothing else explains the mysterious and inadequately end-noted "Hymie" that occurs in the chapter.)

In Chapter 8, we read a paean to Mother J. which shows that while all other families are run by the men, the J. family is run by Mother. *sigh* This inconsistency bothers the author not at all.

Oh, man. And this book violates my long standing rule against books with awful birth stories in them. Jeez. Really, there is no limit to how much I dislike this book.
Tags: not-a-book-review
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