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Archive for the ‘Library: C/WMARS interlibrary loan’ Category

54. “Blindness,” José Saramago

August 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Really interesting, but very problematic– frequently sexist and blindness exists only as a metaphor for the worst side of human nature. People who experience this white blindness quickly become animals, shitting their beds, hording food, lashing out violently. In fact, the author has them referring to one another as animals: when one character asks the other his name, he responds “what use would names be to us, no dog recognizes another dog” by name (52). So throughout the story, people are referred to by a descriptor. Predictably, the married women are referred to as [whoever’s] wife, and not as autonomous beings. Even the doctor’s wife, whom I will refer to as the woman who could see, is nothing more than her husband’s job.

Liat Ben-Moshe breaks down the problematic theme of blindness in “Disability Studies Quarterly.” I also came across a blog that asks What Sorts of People Should There Be? that comments on a few of the advertising techniques employed by the movie promoters.

Stylistically, Saramago does not use punctuation marks to set off dialog, nor does he use carriage returns. Paragraphs are often quite long. This makes the book difficult to put down, because there are very few natural pauses. I don’t mean difficult in a bad way, nor in an entirely positive way. It took some getting used to each time I returned to it, but once I figured it out, it kept me reading. It also augments the confusion of not yet having learnt how to navigate blind in a seeing world, as the speech sees to overlap and sometimes it is hard to sort out who is saying what.

I did find the book engrossing– while reading I experienced the odd blurring between life and reading and kept forgetting that neither my friend nor I were blind. In my defense, for a lot of the time that I was reading, he was sleeping half-sitting up in the same room, there but not seeing. Also in my defense, I am ridiculous and apparently don’t understand the difference between having your eyes shut and being physically unable to see.

Page count: 352
Page total: 22,864

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46. “Big Fish,” Daniel Wallace

July 9, 2009 Leave a comment

I was pretty disappointed by this book. The sentence structure is really inconsistent and the very short sentences and fragments did nothing for me. If you enjoyed the movie, I would not recommend the book. The movie, however, is lyrical, sad, and exhilarating, so check it out.

Page count: 180
Page total: 20,588

39. “American Bee,” James Maguire

June 7, 2009 Leave a comment

This book is divided into sections on the 2004 bee, the history of spelling bees, profiles of past winners, profiles of five spellers-to-watch in the 2005 bee, and a play-by-play of the 2005 bee.

I was underwhelmed by this book. It felt like each part was written separately– there were a lot of repeated anecdotes.

This part cracked me up: In the mid-1800s, spelling bees were all the rage in New England, causing a New York Times reporter to ask, “could there be a more characteristic and illustrative comment upon the narrow, colorless intellectual and moral tone of the New England life of the New England life of the rural districts, which is now passing away, than the fact that they were driven to such an arid, barren resource as spelling for amusement!” (quoted on 62).

I also learned that one of the reasons that similarly-spelled words are pronounced so differently is that the pronunciations come to us from different parts of England. “Bury,” for example, is a Kent accent, where as “busy” is a London one. When the first US dictionary was written, many people railed against it. Joseph Priestly, who discovered oxygen, said it was “unsuitable to the genius of a free nation” to tell people what words mean, or how to spell them. Hilariously, back to our Puritan roots, Noah Webster defined “freedom” as “a violation of the rules of decorum.”

Page count: 363
Page total: 18,460