Archive for May, 2013
While short, this book took me a while to read, really because it failed to draw me in. It has a simple plot. As I mentioned before, it goes through the stories of each of the Rackrent heirs– how they came to inherit the estate, how they managed it, and how they died, leaving it to the next heir. The narrator is a servant of the Rackrents who seems to really love the Rackrents, although why he does is completely inexplicable given that we see all of their worst traits through his narration.
Well, given that all of the Rackrents have glaring flaws, I didn’t really care for any of them. I especially disliked the one who locked his Jewish wife in her room for years on end because she refused to give him a very expensive cross she owned. I felt kind of bad for her because she was being mistreated, but it struck me as very odd that, upon learning of her husband’s death, she kisses it joyfully. I found myself wondering what the author was trying to say here in having a Jewish woman show such affection for a Christian symbol. Anyway, the point is that this little plot point was really the only highlight of the book for me. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s very hard for me to enjoy a book where I don’t like or even care about any of the characters.
I’m glad this book was short because I got bored with it towards the end. It wasn’t really a bad read, but, apart from the historical importance it must have, I didn’t see much in it. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die said that “the ironic comedy of the old butler’s tale is easy to appreciate.” Well, I don’t know about that because I must have missed it.
It’s been a long semester, but I’m finally within a couple weeks from being done! And that means that after I get my final projects done, I’ll have tons of time for reading again! And where am I starting? With all that Irish literature that I wanted to dig into earlier this year, starting with Castle Rackrent.
This book was written in the 1800’s, and, according to Wikipedia, it’s often regarded as the first historical novel. It tells the story of the Rackrents and how each sucessive heir to the estate managed their affairs. Because it’s a large estate, there are many Irish laborers under their control, and, as you might imagine, they tend to get the short end of the stick. The narrator seems determined to speak well of the Rackrents, but the reader can see how things truly stand.
This is a short one, only 85 pages, but the book I checked out from the university library also includes The Absentee, which was written by the same author. Since it’s also on the 1001 list, I may read it afterwards if I have time. I also think that this book is really cool because it really has the look of an old classic. The copyright page says published in 1903, which means that it’s physically a very old book. I think it’s really cool to read a book that’s probably been in the university library for years and years and there are still people like me reading it.
Right now, I’m 20 pages in. We’ll see how I feel about it later on. For now, I feel as though I’ve just started to get into it.
I mentioned before that I found this story very depressing at about 100 pages in. I also mentioned that it was very well written and provided a very realistic picture of Dublin in the early 1900’s, especially in the poor areas. These things continued to be true throughout the course of the novel.
It may have gotten slightly less depressing, but that’s really hard for me to say objectively. That’s because of the thing that I talked about in my last post. I just didn’t feel anything at all towards the end, unless you count interest in the writing-related aspects, like appreciation for Doyle’s style and techniques. It was, as I said, very well written, and I developed a kind of appreciation for it in that respect. My favorite scene is related to that aspect of it, but since, it comes near the end, I’ll share that in a separate post under my Spoilers section.
Beyond that, I honestly can’t say that I enjoyed it that much. I didn’t really like any of the characters, although I did feel sorry for Melody (Henry’s mother) and for Henry in the beginning because they had such hard lives.
This is another book where it would help to know a bit of Irish history, particularly Easter 1916 and the Irish Civil War. If you’re interested in reading historical fiction dealing with Ireland during this time, you may enjoy it more than I did. It’s not a bad book at all, it just wasn’t for me personally.
I’m curious to know whether this happens to anyone besides myself. You see, sometimes, when I’m reading a book, I feel very strongly about the beginning of the book, and then, at some point in the middle, I find that I’ve become incredibly detached from it. Even if the book is basically the same from beginning to end. The easiest example is a book that’s incredibly depressing. I’ll read the first 50 or 100 pages and feel absolutely terrible until I hit a certain point. And beyond that point, I just don’t care anymore.
Obviously, I still want things to get better for the characters, but it’s a wish that’s made entirely without feeling. From that point forward, I’m completely aware that these are fictional characters and nothing that happens to them is real. The story loses its power to affect me in any real way.
Perhaps it would help if I explained in more detail. This doesn’t happen to me often, but it has happened on at least two occasions now. The first time I can remember was when I was reading The Things They Carried. Another happened more recently while I was reading A Star Called Henry.
I read The Things They Carried for AP English class. It’s a book about the Vietnam War, and, right off the bat, I should tell you that I normally hate reading anything about war because it has such a strong negative effect on me emotionally. And that was no less true for this book. I hated it, hated it, hated it all the way up to the scene with the water buffalo. If you’ve read the book, you should know exactly what I’m talking about. It was this scene that made me want to chuck the book against a wall. I honestly might have if it hadn’t been a book that belonged to the school.
And from that point forward, I was unemotional, detached, not even close to caring what happened to any of the characters. A certain character died, and while my classmates went on about how he was one of their favorites and it was so sad, my thoughts were running along the lines of “Yeah, the author told us that was going to happen. I’m not surprised.” Completely tuned out. I registered every event, every bit of dialogue, all the information from our classroom discussions so that I could do well in the class, but I was almost completely numb to it.
Something similar happened while I was reading A Star Called Henry this semester. You may remember that I wrote a post about it when I was around 100 pages in, saying that it was very depressing. With this book, I can’t pin it down to any one passage, but at some point I realized that I found it much less depressing.
The point at which I realized for sure that I had crossed that line occurred during a passage where Henry is having trouble with some G-men (I won’t say why so that I’m not giving too much away) and they tell him to hand over his father’s old wooden leg. Henry is in huge trouble here, not sure what will happen to him. Just before this were a plethora of scenes that I should have been affected by, and all I feel is a slight twinge: “Aw, not the leg!” Now, that leg does have special meaning within the story, but still, it registered even in my mind that this was a very weird reaction to the section as a whole.
From then on, once again, I was reading just to know. I needed to know what happened all the way to the end of the story and what was important about it for the purposes of the class, and there my ties to the book ended. Whether things went well or things got worse, I just nodded and said, “Uh huh, I’ll make sure I remember that.”
Have you ever read a book that has made you completely disconnect from it this way? Any theories about it? It’s probably got some really interesting psychology thing related to how the brain works, but, unfortunately, I’m not a psychologist. All I know is that it’s true for me, and it certainly makes things interesting sometimes.
I may have mentioned before that I want to be a writer. If you were paying attention when I posted about NaNoWriMo or back when I did a couple of posts related to writing, you probably know that I’ve been working on a few pieces. I’m majoring in Writing, but there’s still one more year until I graduate.
But tonight, I’m doing my first ever public reading at a local bookstore! This bookstore is hosting an event where they feature undergraduate writers from local colleges, and my short story got picked!
I’ve done a couple of readings at school before, for classmates and teachers, but it’s really awesome to know that anybody could come to this event and hear my piece. I’ve never published anything before (unless you count Wattpad), so just knowing that my work is going to be heard and shared feels amazing. A writer just isn’t a writer if no one is reading his or her work.
I just wanted to share that with you guys! Have a great day, and, to anyone else in college, good luck with final projects!