I have been reading lots of short stories this past week, maybe because I'm supposed to be writing my dissertation and reading short things makes me feel less guilty - I'll just read one and get back to it, I'll think. Of course this is just a way to deceive myself, but I'll be voluntarily deceived if it means I get to enjoy stories such as these.
Speaking of things that make me feel guilty, I regret that up until now I had not given any more attention to Salinger ever since I read The Catcher in the Rye. To be quite honest, I think I have enjoyed these even more.
Short stories are better than novels in the way that they can condense much more oddity in an ending. It's what's left unsaid that quite jumps at you. You feel funny for a moment. But then you come to a realization. And then you feel pleasurably alienated. And there, there is where reflexion gets made.
And Salinger does this masterfully. He knows just where he wants to go and carries it off with precision.
Nine Stories wins partially over The Catcher in the Rye because it allows us to truly perceive the breadth of talent this guy had. His sentences flow so smoothly, his descriptions are so visual, his themes so various and relevant; there is really no end to the ways Salinger can be praised.
My favourites: A Perfect Day for Bananafish (I mean, of course!), The Laughing Man and Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes. But to be honest, there is something in every one. You should read them asap if you haven't.
People that love The Bloody Chamber, this is for you!
Want to squeeze those good ol' fairy tales into juicy new perspectives? Emma Donoghue (well-known for the still-to-read-by-me Room) does a terrific job at this. She breaks with heternormativity and patriarchy by providing alternative readings of stories (by changing the narrator) or even meddling now and then in the original plot. As far as retellings go, these are amongst the best I've come across.
The Tale of the Shoe
The twist in this retelling of 'Cinderella' (which I'm not revealing in this review) is subversion at its best. The fact that is so subtle makes it even more special and effective. Because, let's face it, it makes perfect sense.
The Tale of the Apple
As a kid, my favourite fairy tale was 'Snow White'. I often question this preference of mine as a grown-up, much as I question my preference for pink and pretty dresses. Because what does it teach young girls? Hide away from your problems? Clean some dwarves' home while you're at it? Be ridiculously naive? Because that's all Snow White does. Donoghue's version, though, makes me less guilty I like the story. I even dare to say it makes much more sense than the original, because let's face it, the prince was only called there for a patriarchal deus ex machina ending.
The Tale of the Voice
This version of the 'Little Mermaid' is absolutely beautiful and perhaps my favourite story in the book. The price to pay for love should never be your voice; that is a false form of love. And I have never heard this lesson so well articulated as in Donoghue's reshaping of such a sad, sad tale as the original 'Little Mermaid'.
The best thing about these tales is that whatever happens in them - be it good, be it bad - is entirely because of each protagonist's own choices. That's what tells them apart from the original tales in which a ruthless society-driven 'destiny' reduced them to pawns in a game of chess. But here, queens are truly queens. And they know what they're playing at.
I often avoid 'cancer books'. In reality, I avoid any book that I know will make me sad just for the sake of making me sad. Books can actually make us feel empathy, and that is a good thing, but I find that most books that attempt this actually fail, or were simply published for the profit (because everyone loves to read them tofeel that they truly are empathic), and in the end don't achieve anything but the tears of easily impressionable readers (which annoys me because it's not like they didn't know before people were dying in these conditions - where are the tears for the real people?).
I don't know why I actually decided I wanted to read this one. Maybe because everyone seems to love it? Maybe because I like reading YA once in a while? Because the film just premiered? To see if the empathy really worked here?
It doesn't matter now. I read it. While I was reading it, it became clear it wasn't just me feeling mysteriously compelled to reading this, since people kept asking what I made of it. From the start (maybe it's not fair that I condemned it so soon, but still), I knew it would be a 3.
Because it's wonderful that the book humanizes cancer patients. But really, that is what I expect any book dealing with the subject to do. And at some point, both Hazel and Augustus were so humanized they resembled demi-gods. No, not even the smart kids that I've met throughout my life actually reach that level of smartness. And 'cancer perks' are definitely a thing, but I think the Amsterdam trip was a bit overboard. There was some bad, bad plotting all over the place.
And my final complaint, I didn't cry at the end. Other reviewers promised I'd cry!
I did feel a wee funny and depressed towards the end. But that's simply because of Green's annoying insistence in rubbing the wound. Like he kept saying, remember, this is a really sad book!
Overrall, it's definitely a good book - to an extent. The only reason I am enumerating all the things that bugged me is because the ratings for this are ridiculously overhyped and I am pretty sure that is because it is a 'cancer book'. Forgiving minor narrative issues just because it is a 'cancer book' goes precisely against what Green was attempting with the book itself! Rating a book 5 stars on Booklikes should not be on the cancer perk list.
Now that I'm done with my ranting, I am actually really looking forward to watching the film.