Saturday, November 13, 2004

Not much good

It's that point in the semester when I can hardly get my head above water to breathe. School's super-busy and I'm desperately trying to finish my novel revisions in the cracks between. (I've just worked for ten hours without stopping but realize I will explode if I keep on working tonight! So I'm going to go out and get the paper & come home to read & fume over the NYTBR.)

It's a pity that the two things I've found time to sneak in over the last few days were both disappointing. I was terribly looking forward to P. B. Kerr's The Akhenaten Adventure, the first volume in a young-adult fantasy trilogy called Children of the Lamp. I think quite well of his novels for adults (Esau and The Grid were pretty absurd & over-the-top, but I liked A Philosophical Investigation and the novels in the Berlin Noir trilogy are good). And I love young-adult fantasy trilogies (Philip Pullman and Garth Nix are my heroes). But this is pretty lame. Well, to be fair, it's for younger kids, and it's very "read-aloud"-y, neither of which things do I particularly like. Call me a humorless American, but I'm not particularly taken with the jokes about the Egyptians, the French and so on. But the main thing is that the characters never really come to life, and there's also no sense of real danger here even at the most supposedly thrilling points of the plot. Compare this to any of Diana Wynne Jones's Chrestomanci books, for instance, and it's easy to see what's missing.

The other thing was less of a disappointment because I had such low expectations to begin with. And indeed Eve Ensler's "The Good Body" is not at all my cup of tea. It's really a sort of a cult, as far as I can tell, like Est or Scientology. (I believe Est=Landmark Forum in this day and age.) Yeah, sure, she's doing a critique, but there is something wretchedly self-defeating about performing this kind of obsessiveness with the flaws of her own body! It manages at one and the same time to be sort of bland and middlebrow and also obnoxiously doctrinaire about feminism. It reminded me of Naomi Wolf's "The Beauty Myth." And no, this is not a compliment.

Work's been much more rewarding than pleasure, in other words. It's not the point of this blog to say much about what I read/hear in work-related contexts, but I will say that Luke Gibbons is a very interesting man and his book about Edmund Burke quite brilliant; and my colleague Joey Slaughter has a powerful argument about human rights and narratives of development but I can't find anything good to link to.

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