I’ve been reading ‘The End Of Vandalism’ and halfway wanted my next blog post to be a highbrow review on literature. Not that the piece is your picture of intellectual writing, but it is a book, and books mean brains. Instead, I’m going to write about how I sat in front of the television for almost 13 hours and melted my mind with an adaptation of “funny book bullshit,” as my dad would’ve called it. Maybe one day I’ll come back to this page and dazzle everyone with stirring tales of my genius accomplishments, but not today. Today’s the day I rave about one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen on the boob tube – ‘Marvel’s Daredevil’ on Netlifx. It’s an ambitious endeavor, rife with brave storytelling and compelling writing.
“House Of The Spirits” is an inferior reflection of “100 Years Of Solitude.” It really is the same book. The same ripped-off book.
Told in a weird narrative that flip flops from first person to third – (and sloppily too) – “House of the Spirits” is about 4 generations of a very turbulent family in South America. The main character is Esteban Trueba, who is as fierce with his temper as he is with his genitals (he’s rapey.) He literally runs the town of Tres Marias with an iron fist, having built it up from nothing into a strong, industrial corner of the country. He’s a jerk and almost nobody likes him but he forces himself on people because he hates being alone. Think of a more violent and vengeful Michael Scott from “The Office.” Nobody has a choice either – he’s the boss and what he says goes. Or they get hurt/raped. Tough way to live.
His wife is Clara, a woman with super powers and an aloof but ignorant demeanor. Her very existence is way too akin to the wild machinations that drove many a plot in “Solitude.” Everything she does is far-fetched and stretched as she goes around reading minds and performing acts of telekinesis like Jean Grey from The X-Men.
Her late sister was Rosa The Beautiful, who like “Solitude’s” Remedios The Beauty, is so ridiculously captivating that she dies young because no one so gorgeous should have to deal with the rigors of time hurting their peerless looks.
Clara has twins who, like the twins in “Solitude,” are absolutely nothing alike and take different paths in life. Ferula is her sister-in-law, a virgin spinster like Amaranta in “Solitude.” Her son-in-law is Jean Satigny, a foreign, girly snob who has hands as soft as baby smiles – you know, like Pietro Crespi in “Solitude.” Wait…WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE?!
“Solitude” was written in ’69, “House” in 82. “Solitude” won the Nobel Prize, “House” was a bestseller. “Solitude” has the word “solitude” on almost every 400-plus page, “House” has it a lot. “House” wants to be “Solitude” so bad! But it has one simple problem: It’s not as good as “Solitude.”
I want to ask Isabelle Allende something: Do you have any books that YOU’VE written? I like your style, so perhaps I’ll check your stuff out again. I just wanna make sure that you’ve written something that wasn’t written already. I don’t need any “The Picasso Riddle,” “The Baron of Monte Carlo”…you know, more rip offs. I need a real, original book from you and if you can do that, I’ll take a look. Just don’t bullshit me anymore.
The weird part is, I really liked the book because, heck…I loved “100 Years Of Solitude!” So I guess I like chocolate cupcakes because I like chocolate cake. One is the lesser form of the other.
So, I’m not recommending this book. I want to expand my mind and learn new things, not go 400 pages repeating someone else’s work. Now, I’ll see the movie starring Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close and Winona Ryder. Oh, and Antonio Banderas, somehow the only freakin’ Hispanic actor in the whole damned thing.
“The Known World” by Edward Jones gets its title from a small excerpt within one of the middle chapters. I can understand that, as finding the right name name for such an ambitious and ultimately satisfying novel must be like trying to achieve absolute perfection. Impossible, because there’s no such thing. But Jones sure comes as close to it as anyone can.
This Pulizter Prize winner about the waning years of slavery in Manchester County, Virginia is constructed through an endless array of stories about the lives of about two dozen characters. None of the stories are told in any particular order and it’s not uncommon to read about certain exploits from a character who had died in previous chapters or had not even been born yet. Writing a novel this way leaves a margin for error large enough to drive a truck through, but Jones weaves these fragments into a whole with expert precision.
Some would argue that the story is about Henry Townsend, a free black slave-owner. Others would call this a record of the trials heaped upon his widow Caldonia after his demise. In truth, there really is no true star of this show. Actually, there is one major player: Integrity. The light-skinned teacher Fern refuses to pass for white and insists on staying true to her foolishly unfaithful and inept husband. Field-hand Elias forsakes his running ways to stay close to the woman he loves. Henry crusades the hope of his people by owning slaves and pledging them lives of relative comfort lest they discover true hell beneath the crackling whips of inhuman white masters. His father, Augustus, disowns his son for this very reason, never relenting to the ideal of slavery under any circumstances. White sheriff Skiffington uses the word of God to keep him on the righteous path. Mr. Robbins, the most powerful man in the county, rules the land with a slack fist, insuring fairness for both sides – but with his own point of view. These people have deep backgrounds and strong personalities, driving this stellar novel toward infinite potential, heeded only by the eventual meeting between reader and the inside back cover.
The depictions of slavery inside are harsh, unjust, hopeful and proud. I’ve read more torturous accounts on slavery in books about slavery. This is not that book. The very essence of the piece can be summed up from the solitary existence of Moses the overseer, a fiercely complex presence from the mind of Mr.Jones. On the first page, he is strong, in charge, filled with a selfish duty to his lot. So much so that he eats dirt to gauge the lay of the land for harvest time. Somewhere in the middle, he’s filled with ambition and hope for a life that seemed out of reach before, having eaten precious, priceless fruit from the forbidden tree. And on the last page, broken, lame and alone, Moses is a beaten man without even enough will or care to eat anything at all. How many people from that era, existing through the imagination of God knew what that was like? A lot, I’m sure.