17 November 2014

fridgepunk: (Exoticising the otter)
I read Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale about 6 months ago and have been trying to read various more "literary" books, in part to find other sources of good prose, Atwood's good writing having made reading my usual supply of SF like eating stale rice cakes.

So I start a few books, and can't finish them because I kept finding weird ones like Steinbeck's East of Eden where you get an entire novel into the book and the actual story still hasn't started, and in East of Eden I might have continued on if, after getting the novel worth of backstory of two brothers, Steinbeck hadn't proceeded to start telling the backstory of a female character.

Said female character's only character trait being that she's a manipulative, amoral monster, which is bad. Note however that in the preceding tale of the two brothers, one of them is also an amoral monster, but a more physical and introverted one rather than a socially manipulative one, and he at one point even nearly murders his brother with an axe over fuck all, but he's presented as just a gruff man and so having violent rage attacks is just a (well, his only) character quirk and thus renders him morally neutral; Like a tornado or flashflood. Meanwhile the female character is presented in a much more negative light for doing milder stuff.

The prose was nice but the multiple levels on which it others women made me just decide it wasn't worth my time, a common response I'm having to supposedly "serious" literary fiction. Not least because 90% of the books I keep finding appear to be terribly written romance fiction aimed at literature professors, all of which are specifically about a middle aged academic having an affair with a much younger woman. I think the problem with Literature is, unlike the other main genres of fiction, that the tiny and ultra-narrow demographic the writing is aimed at has, like in "christian literature", led to most of the actual books in that genre being terrible simply because none of the writers have sufficient competition that they really have to bother putting engaging stories or interesting characters in their books. Instead, more often than not, it's crap where the writer has just focused on pandering to their audiences ultra-specific prejudices and weird fetishes.

Tender is the Night of course is notable in that the author, who may be familiar from his earlier book "The Great Gatsby", did tell people that this book was a "romance", because it mostly follows the relationships between the unfortunately named Dick Diver, his supposedly schizophrenic and incredibly rich wife Nicole Warren, and a young movie starlet called Rosemary Hoyt.

Dick Diver is a psychologist, unfortunately this is a book written during the interwar period and the reader is doubly-unfortunate because Fitzgerald did his research, and thus the psychology presented to the reader is almost comically Freudian.

Thus Nicole Warren's schizophrenia is given a clear cause at the very start of the book when her father explains, to the clinic doctor who he's handing Nicole over to, how after her mother died he and Nicole became close and prone to cut for lewdness and child molestation )

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fridgepunk

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