Sunday, May 18, 2014

#744. Overheard May 2014

Count me among those who won't be going.  I'd been living in New York a month when the attacks happened and saw the whole thing from my company's Learning Center, located on the Queens side of the East River, right across from the UN.  My "Prints, Plates, and Diagrams" class was on a break, so along with the rest of my class, I was down on the Center's back deck drinking coffee, enjoying what would otherwise have been one of the nicest days I'd ever spent in New York.  

I don't mind saying that the memory still haunts me.  I have absolutely no desire to relive it.
By the time the weekend rolled around, Hoboken was plastered with "Have You Seen This Person?" fliers.  They were on ever vertical surface in the Mile Square.  One poor guy lost his beautiful blonde wife or girlfriend.  I don't know the story.  But he kept putting those posters up for months and months and months.  I bet I saw her particular "Have You Seen This Person?" flier for a solid eight months after the attacks.  I still feel bad for that guy.
Anyway, that was a long time ago.  

I worked the phones for the telethon they held right after the attacks, and for awhile I jumped every time I saw a bunch of police cars rushing down the street to get anywhere.  But New York is eight million people and probably a million buildings, and for the most part, the City barely skipped a beat.  The Stock Exchange was out of lights for maybe four days, and I remember distinctly that when the mayor asked folks to go out and shop on Black Friday that year to help the City's economy, my mom came up, and we literally shopped 'til we dropped.  That was a pretty good day. 

Eh.  It's fine that they have a museum, but I think it's mostly for the tourists.  Anyone who was there won't need to see it to remember what it was like.
That's Dan Head over at Dan & Sally's Digital Domain reacting to the opening of the 9/11 Museum.  I've known Dan since 2006.  We both wrote about comics at the defunct Paperback Reader, and also overlapped at Digital Webbing (which is probably where we originally overlapped, in the message boards), so it was nice to reconnect with him in the blogging sphere.  9/11 is a subject that remains relevant to me.  Every time there's a piece of news concerning it (last week I read in the paper about the current status of unidentified remains) I still want to clip it and save it (which is what I did for years).  But I'm not a New Yorker (although, in some respects we're all New Yorkers since then), certainly not back in 2001.  That morning I was in a college dining hall.  Dan's memories are so much more...real.  I was fascinated to read his perspective years after the fact.  They're almost mundane.  I never really imagined it like that, what it was like to live there days, weeks, months after the fact.  The rest of us really only heard about the rescue efforts, the cleanup.  But those who lived with it...Anyway, just thought I'd send you some perspective.

Speaking of which:

I finally took a breath and dove into The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt's doorstopper of a novel. It just won the Pulitzer Prize (like, a few days ago) and was also shortlisted for 2013's National Book Critics Circle Award, so go Donna! As with Chang-Rae Lee's novel, this was a coming-of-age story and chock full of adventure. Our hero, young Theo, goes through a delightfully Dickensian childhood full of misery and joy, hijinks and heartbreak ... just one damn thing after another. I adored the thrill ride, implausible as some of it was, but the ending was terrible. OK, so you know dramatic structure has five parts — exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement? It was all good until the denouement. When you get to that part, do yourself a favor and just stop reading. Because 90% of the book was excellent, I still recommend it. The ending doesn't kill the book, it's just boring.

I'm reading Goldfinch right now. I think the book lost the bulk of its momentum after Theo went to live with the Barbours. Tartt's best writing was easily her breathless opening sequence. So far she hasn't come close to recapturing it. And I don't much care for Boris, and I've gone ahead and saw that he comes back again. "Implausible" is a good way to describe the unnecessary sequence of histrionic events. Like a literary soap opera. 

I loved Boris! I really enjoyed the Barbours, too; and the bombing scene became almost unlistenable to me (possibly because it triggered some PTSD for me, but also because it was. so. incredibly. long.). We seem to have had opposite reactions to this book! :) But I agree that it is indeed a literary soap opera. 

That's from Stephanie over at Words Incorporated.  It's actually from the end of last month, one of several books she discussed for the Cephalopod Coffeehouse (yes, officially I'm no longer participating in that), then a response I made in the comments, and then her reply.  I finished reading it right around the end of that month, too.  Actually, "finished" isn't quite the word for it.  More like, "abandoned."  Because ultimately, I just never got back into it, once I realized I was no longer enjoying it.  The funny thing is, Goldfinch from Donna Tartt isn't really as random a topic to bring up along with 9/11 as you might think.  At the start of the book the main character finds himself in the midst of a terrorist attack in New York.  One of many things I would've changed about the book is that I would have just gone ahead and made it a 9/11 story.  It was all but one at that point anyway; I just didn't see the point in shying away, which is what I think Tartt did.  Instead it's just a random attack specifically on a museum, that's never really explained, just one of many inexplicable elements that the author uses to create unearned dramatic tumult.  Stephanie loved it, though, and as you can tell even a character who rubbed me the wrong way almost directly from his introduction, the wacky foreigner Boris.  But the thing is, she and I differ again, concerning the ending, and Boris is part of the reason I think Tartt managed to pull a late book redemption, because Boris actually finds some useful redemption as the story finally takes some shape after a lot of meandering through Theo Decker's life (which, as I said in my comment, was at its strongest in the opening sequence when Tartt's writing was at its sharpest and most focused).  But the contrasts between Stephanie's thoughts and mine, just serve to remind me that everyone's perspective is different.

Which is also what Dan's post made me realize.  But then, we all know that already, don't we?  I think we tend to forget that.  So this is a new feature where I will try and explore that, highlighting not just interesting things I've read, but thoughts that have made me think.  Because that's about as relevant as communal blogging is for me.


Pat Dilloway said...

"Literary soap opera" is how I describe my book Where You Belong, which was at least mercifully shorter.

Tony Laplume said...

Yes, but is there soap involved?


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