Ilya Kadatsky Kadatsky itibaren Mooresville, NC, Birleşik Devletler
** spoiler alert ** I finished this feeling ambivalent. Character development was for the most part very, very flat. Really, Stanley Mott is about the only character with much depth. I don't feel like I came away with much more insight into the early US space program as I might have liked and there was very little that I didn't already know. The climax (?) of the novel on the moon with the solar flare is all too brief and quickly skipped over. The guys on the moon die quickly and with little attention devoted to how they felt or experienced death or the knowledge that it was coming. Aside from a brief bit of grieving by their fellow astronaut in the Command Module, they may as well have just wandered out of the book like extras on a stage. There's almost no discussion of what the loss of 2 men under such circumstances would be like for their colleagues and families. I suppose Michener may have been going for a "that's how stern, upstanding heroic Americans do it" motif, but it just didn't wash for me. The loss of the Apollo 1 crew was devastating to their families and colleagues, something that was communicated at the time and in nearly every documentary or interview that has touched on the topic. I can't understand why Michener didn't explore those human elements more to take a closer look at bravery and grief and dedication from so many perspectives. So, in summary, I give it a resounding "meh" and have consigned it to the swap pile.
I am loving the unabridged version, all 1194 pages of it! I especially like this translation by Julie Rose. Excellent. So much better than the beloved abridged version I read so many years ago!
Imagine that you’re a working class Cockney mother with a husband who detonates bombs and a young son who is four years and three months old. You stave off your anxieties about the uncertainty of your life through mindless sex encounters. Eventually, you meet a neighbor – a journalist named Jasper – and, while your husband and son are at a soccer game, you invite him to your flat. At the exact same time you are in the throes of sexual abandon, there’s a massive terrorist bomb attack at the London soccer stadium, vaporizing over one thousand people – your husband and son among them. How do you go on? How do you live with the remorse? Chris Cleave explores that question in an epistolary structure; the nameless woman writes a letter to Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of the attack. The epistolary form is used with caution as a framing device (Nicole Krauss’s The Great House and Moshid Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist come to mind), because it is not easy to pull off. The reader is a fly-on-the-wall and can choose to connect with the narrator – or not. And if truth be known, Mr. Cleave is not entirely successful in his narrative control as the conceit of writing to Osama begins to wear thin. What he is successful with is developing a fragile persona – an obsessive woman who is gradually unraveling as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder and who is quickly spiraling downward. The anonymity of the character makes her everywoman, trying to survive in a post-terrorist world. The woman writes, “Before you bombed my boy Osama I always through an explosion was such a quick thing but now I know better. The flash is over very fast but the fire catches hold inside you and the noise never stops…I live in an inferno where you could shiver with cold Osama. This life is a deafening roar but listen. You could hear a pin drop.” The bombing and PSTD, though, is only the beginning. London is quickly transformed into a virtual occupied territory as the woman fights her own inward battles. She is drawn into a psychological maelstrom with Jasper and his fiancée, Petra, an upper-class fashion journalist who happens to resemble her closely. Indeed, Petra and the narrator may very well represent two parts of London, which is described as “a smiling liar his front teeth are very nice but you can smell his back teeth rotten and stinking.” Each cannot exist without the other. And so they enter a danse-a-deux of symbiosis and betrayal. Eventually, the novel veers toward a stunning denouement and an over-the-top ending. It’s extraordinary ambitious for a first-time novelist (this book was written before Chris Cleave’s more well-known Little Bee) and sometimes the prose comes across as rather self-congratulatory or forced. Mr. Cleave’s intention, it seems, is to portray a decadent Western society that struggles to break free of its class distinctions – without success, setting itself up as something to tear down. Yet at the core of the novel, there is an emotional void. The characters are not quite satirical, yet not quite real. And as a result of the epistolary form, we, as readers, are held at arm’s length, not quite embracing them. This often disturbing, sometimes macabre novel has its own intriguing history. The morning after its initial launch party, in July 0f 2005, three suicide bombers detonated their devices in the London Underground. The book tour was shelves and the novel was temporarily withdrawn from sale by many UK retailers. Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. And in Chris Cleave’s world, fiction is very strange indeed. (2.5)
We do like to have books about Pittsburgh, even if when a movie is being made the lead actress says denigrating things about this great city. We fortunately need not concern ourselves with her, especially if she does not have the acumen to recognize Pittsburgh's advantages, or the common decency to keep her crude opinions to herself. All in all, a captivating read.
If you teach or have a son, read this. If you're both a teacher and parent to a boy, start tomorrow! This was recommended to me in my administration class by the professor, and I'm glad I looked into it. Besides focusing on why today's boys (and by extension, men) are falling behind in schools, business and society. Tyre makes a compelling case that the feminist movement may have over-reached, and the outcome is a high drop-out rate amongst boys, a horrible future for male minorities, and a bleak outlook for for females as a result. On this last point, who loses when 60% of those in college are females? University admissions will tell you it's girls as they've lowered standards for boys as a way to even the demographics. Video games, ADHD, the injection of female teachers and neurscience are all explored in this book, and Tyre makes a strong case. I'd recommend this book to anyone in education and/or the parent of a boy. My only critique is that end gets very redundant and the solutions offered are so obvious that Tyre need not spend chapters delving into them.