June 2003 Archives
The Amber Light Came On
I havenít kept secret how much I love Blindness.
At Saramagoís Nobel Lecture, he said:
Blind. The apprentice thought, "we are blind," and he sat down and wrote Blindness to remind those who might read it that we pervert reason when we humiliate life, that human dignity is insulted every day by the powerful of our world, that the universal lie has replaced the plural truths, that man stopped respecting himself when he lost the respect due to his fellow-creatures.
To start our discussion, Iíd like to focus on two things (of many) I love about this book.
Craft: As mentioned in a previous post, some who read Blindness found the writing tedious. If youíve read any of Saramagoís other books, youíd quickly realize that run-on sentences, endless paragraphs, and scant punctuation is simply his style. In the case of this book, however, such difficult-to-read writing lends itself perfectly to its subject matter. As you read, itís almost feels like everyone is talking at once and you cannot discern from whom or from where the voices originated. You become as blind as the characters and, in turn, have a vested stake in the outcome of the story.
Allegory: Saramago isnít subtle. The blindness epidemic is a horrifying allegory for losing sight of whatís important. Rationality, dignity, and social order all collapse in the wake of the plague. Yet, hope remains as the group of seven main characters are lead by the one who is still able to see. For me, though, the happy ending doesnít seem quite so happy as the afflicted recover their sight. They must now see what their blindness has wrought.
What do you think?
The new Harry Potter is the talk of Blogtown. While Kate and Mary Carmen have been furiously flipping through their copies, I have been tucked into the couch with Blindness and am just pages away from finishing it in time for tomorrow's discussion. It's my third read, but I wanted it to be fresh in my mind.
And now I wonder: how many will be able to put aside dreaming of a world with wizards, meandering through Hogwarts, and mourning the death of a major character?
Tomorrow is the first day of summer. Looking for something to read while lounging on the beach or next to the pool? Check out these summer reading lists:
NPRís Books of Summer
New York Times' Books for Summer Reading
Book Magazineís Summerís New Wave
Too highbrow for summer? Thereís always:
Bully Magazineís Summer Book List for Pervs
The book that brought Oprahís book club back: East of Eden by John Steinbeck.
Anyone ever give any thought to why she decided to go with classics this time around? Could it possibly have something to do with dead authors not being able to object to the Oprah seal of approval being prominently featured on the cover? I wonder if Franzen included an essay on alienating the biggest mover of books who ever lived in his latest, How to Be Alone.
Whoís going to step up to the plate and moderate in September? We still have a few members who havenít lead the a discussion yet. Or, if youíve done it already, thereís no reason to think you canít do it again.
Blogged Books 2002
Ever wonder what other bloggers are reading? According to All Consuming, an aggregator of books mentioned in web logs, these are the top ten blogged books of 2002:
- We Blog by Paul Bausch, Matthew Haughey, Meg Hourihan (63 mentions)
- Small Pieces Loosely Joined by David Weinberger (58 mentions)
- The Weblog Handbook by Rebecca Blood (57 mentions)
- Stupid White Men by Michael Moore (54 mentions)
- Linked by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi (52 mentions)
- Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold (51 mentions)
- American Gods by Neil Gaiman (45 mentions)
- Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser (43 mentions)
- Emergence by Steven Johnson (39 mentions)
- The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker (37 mentions)
Hmm. Andy often accuses me of being obsessed with fiction, but I can't help noticing that nine of the above are non-fiction. Doesn't anyone read novels anymore?
Chuck Palahniuk, a BookBlog author, also made the list several times:
15. Lullaby (31 mentions)
64. Survivor (14 mentions)
86. Fight Club (12 mentions)
90. Choke (12 mentions)
Click here to view the entire list. Yes, I know Iím very late with this information, but I only just saw this web page.
In preparation for our discussion of Blindness, Iíve been surfing the Internet for reviews. The one thing that made me nervous about choosing it is Saramagoís style. It seems like some people really hate it.
From Amazonís customer reviews: "The author uses run on sentences that go on forever, and the only punctuation he seems to use is commas. And what REALLY bothered me was that he didn't give the characters real names, and when they were speaking it was terribly difficult to tell who was talking. I don't think he even used quotation marks for the dialogue. Very frustrating."
And another: "I hate the way Saramago mixes up his conversations between people into long sentences separated by commas. He makes it distractingly difficult to tell who said what. I suppose its all nice and nobel prizey as far as literary devices, but I find it annoying. There is some merit in this method, but worse is that the story is beriddled with elements that reveal the lack of insight of the author."
From Epinions: "The writing style has been proclaimed by experts to be Ďnovelí, I found it tedious. When characters speak, I fully expect to see a paragraph break and some quotes around somewhere to give me fair warning. Whenitisallruntogetheryoubegintowonderifthe attemptatstylewasperhapsgettinginthewayofhisstory. Note: I typed that last sentence that way on purpose to illustrate my point."
What they call bothersome, distracting, and tedious, I consider craft. To me, Blindness is one of the greatest novels ever written and Iím looking forward to finding out what you think.
A belated yet hearty thank you to Hunter for choosing A Canticle for Leibowitz as last monthís selection. If you can believe it, he actually fretted over which book he was going to choose because he wanted something everyone would enjoy. In the end, he went with a title he had previously enjoyed, which is usually the best strategy. Those of us who were able to participate joined in on a great discussion (etymological arguments and all).
Due to the increasing number of members who join BookBlog but then never participate in the discussions, I will be doing a bit of trimming of our rolls. I realize not everyone has enough time to read every selection. However, we need to have a plan in place to eliminate non-active members.
To that end, I will cut those who have not participated during the last six months. This is not to say that you have to have participated in a discussion. If you have either posted or commented anywhere on the site at some point since January 2003, your membership will not be canceled.
If anyone strenuously objects or is concerned that they're on the ax list, please feel free to either leave a comment below or drop me a quick e-mail. Thanks.
Happy Birthday, BookBlog
You may notice a few changes around here. In honor of BookBlogís birth, the site is in the process of getting a brand new birthday outfit. (Well, technically, we went live on May 28, 2002. We discussed our first book the next month, so I consider all of June to be its anniversary.) Not all of the secondary pages have been redesigned, but theyíll get there as time allows.
With each passing title, BookBlog continues to impress me. Our discussions have been simultaneously exciting and disappointing, challenging and straightforward, and heated and amenable. I am often surprised at our feelings about the selections, what we choose to focus on, and the directions our conversations take. We often disagree, which ignites many of our most enthusiastic debates. Yet, we maintain the necessary balance between confrontation and conformity that keeps us focused on our purpose. Itís all about the books.
My hope has been to create a forum for open discussion of literature, and each of you has proven to be what is necessary for its realization: true booklovers. There are those who read, and then there are those who love reading. Your passion is what drives this site, and I consider myself lucky to know you. This anniversary is a celebration of you all.