Andare, Partire, Tornare

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A brief book review, with ancillary bitching about the weather

There have been no further progressions on the “Must by a new car somehow” storyline, so I will proceed to ignore it for the moment.

The cold temperatures made today’s commute a bit of a nightmare, because the small snowfall we had immedieatly turned into ice, leaving side roads slick and dangerous. Thank goodness for the truck’s four wheel drive, as I ended up needing it as I inched along, passing several spinouts and one more serious accident, that ended up piled on the sidewalk. I made it in about a half-hour late, which was better than many, who ended up coming in around ten or eleven because of the streets or because the Metro was backed up (again, due to the snow – a car drove off of I66 and ended up on the actual train track).

Finished my read of The Crimson Petal and the White, by Michael Faber, and found it not as good as the nearly universal rave reviews would have it be. It was fascinating, true, and I was interested in the language and the characters, but I think it could have done with some severe editing, as it’s a huge book that tends to meander. About page 430, I got impatient and slightly bored, and ended up skipping ahead, to discover that the writer decided to exit the novel without winding up the loose ends. I was slightly surprised to discover that I didn’t care all that much – the book was, in some ways, brilliant, but I remained disengaged, and I wasn’t all that invested in finding out what happened to Sugar, the lead character. I think I am also not quite as naïve about Victorians and prostitution to be usefully shocked by the fact that the book is a gritty, detailed exploration of both of the above – I already knew many of the things that reviewers have praised Faber for discussing, so I didn’t find it particularly innovative. It is quite a good book, but I don’t know that I can get past all its flaws to call it a great book. A brief spoilery question about the book, however:

Wouldn’t it have been more useful to not have had Agnes suffering from a brain tumor? I think that if the author wanted to show a classic Victorian woman of good standing, and how inhibited and bound by society she was (to the point of madness, or at least madness in society’s eyes), he could have done it by simply writing her exactly as she did but without the tumor. I think that Faber liked having the tumor force her to “break” society taboos that Agnes would never have done without it (the moments where she speaks frankly and cruelly to someone, and soon thereafter goes unconscious), but through all this exploration of Agnes’ pysche, all I could think of was that most of this was due to her brain tumor, and her fate would have not been too different even if the doctors of the time had known about it, because there was nothing they could do to aleviate it. It just seemed to undermine the point he was trying to get at.

1:33 p.m. - 2004-01-09

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