Wednesday, April 06, 2011

What I'm Reading Now-Meg Wolitzer's The Uncoupling-& "Bits"

I'm reading Meg Wolitzer's The Uncoupling with a sense of, if not quite awe, happiness and relief.  It is very well-written.  It is amusing and smart.  I can't stop reading it. I sat down on the porch swing and told my husband to make dinner.  (He served me a casserole.)  Read, read, read.  I love Wolitzer's humor.

Wolitzer has a brilliant, distinctly American voice, slightly Nora Ephronish, with a twist of Dorothy Parker.  Her clever novel revolves around the sexual fallout from Aristophanes's Lysistrata.  Dory and Robby Lang, a happy couple in a suburb of New Jersey, are falling apart.  They're Best Teacher of the Year-type high school English teachers who joke about The Odyssey, but aren't obnoxious and don't take themselves too seriously, and have a nearly perfect life with their teenage daughter, Willa.  That is, until a cold breeze blows into the house and destroys Dory's sexual desire.  The other women in town fall under the same "spell" and lose desire.  They're the women in Lysistrata, turned around, not just depriving men of sex, but not wanting it.  And it is connected to a new drama teacher at the high school who decides to produce Aristophanes' Lysistrata. 

I took an Aristophanes class long ago, and though we did not read Lysistrata, we read two fascinating plays (actually more fascinating in Greek than in English, requiring too many footnotes in translation).  Perhaps the professor was worried about reactions to Lysistrata, though the other plays are ribald, too.

In The Uncoupling, there are many broken connections, especially internet clicking and links, though Dory and Robby struggle to be hip and unaffected by the changes in student thinking and short attention spans.
"You weren't supposed to think life was worse now; it was 'different,' everyone said.  But Dory privately thought that mostly it was worse.  The intimacy of reading had been traded in for the rapid absorption of information....  The world was different, not worse, her colleagues said to one another."

I'm not finished yet, but really love this.  It means I DON'T hate modern literature. 

 Bits.   Through Mark Athakis's round-up of essays on approaches to criticism at his blog, Mark Athakis's Fiction Notes, I ended up at a place called htmlgiant reading an essay by someone who wants to see "constructive" instead of "negative" online criticism.

"it strikes me as an incredible exercise in futility to waste energy writing negativity. Sure, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be able to articulate why you don’t like something, but it seems to me much more progressive & useful to be able to article why you do like something."

Athakis also linked us to several essays which think you should tell the truth about books.  You know which kind I like...

Bookstores.  I went shopping this afternoon and realized that we must rely completely on B&N now.  Borders has closed its doors, and our independent bookstores are tiny cliquey affairs.  You have to drive to Iowa City to find a good independent bookstore.  So whom do I support?  I've never lived in a one-bookstore town and it's scary.  There's still a Borders 40 miles away, which, by the way, put out of business the only independent bookstore there.  So if that closes...

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