Monday, January 2, 2017

Finished My Name Is Lucy Barton

It's frankly a weird little book.

There's something about contemporary fiction that just doesn't do it for me. The spare minimalism is one thing. The Elizabeth Strout book reminded me of Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005 (similarly spare and minimalist).

Elizabeth Strout photo download_zpsgwtdxnju.jpg 
Strout's book is much better, thank goodness. With My Name Is Lucy Barton, I can actually recall the story, the tempo and crescendo, of the novel. There was a kind of emotional gut punch near the end there, so I can see why the book got prodigious praise. I mean really, it got a ridiculous amount of praise for such a slim novel. Indeed, its slimness seems to be one of its main virtues. I guess critics thought Strout packed an emotional wallop for such a tiny tome.

The other thing is the obligatory politically correct left-wing politics. The main character Lucy lives in New York City, after having grown up in poverty (and family household abuse) in Illinois. It's thus got the sensibility of the East Coast leftist elites, a sensibility that's just been rejected at the ballot box with Donald Trump's election in November.

But then, I found out about the book at the New York Times, so I'm only inflicting punishment on myself.

I don't want to overdo it, though.

As you know, I just love to read. The book has its moments. I just think it's popular because it checks all the right leftist boxes. It name-checks homosexuals and the AIDS crisis, making the reader get all emotional for the "toll" on the victims, as the novel's flashbacks are set in the 1980s. And there's also the au courant feminist epistemology. The book makes it cool for marriages to end in divorce. You know, the demise of these unions is all about feeding the "me" culture. Marriages aren't about struggle, emotional toil, and the hard work of making relationships work --- to say nothing of sticking it out for the children. I mean shoot, when Lucy bails on her marriage, she knowingly bails out on her children, despite the umpteen times she expresses her everlasting love for them throughout the story. Strout doesn't dwell on that (and on that inconsistency). She doesn't dwell on how Lucy might be screwing up her kids to feed her own happiness. It's a "me" thing, you see. Lucy's sad about her divorce. Sure. That's part of the emotion of the book. But there's not much internal discussion of the sanctity of the marriage commitment in terms of family and the integrity of the matrimonial vows. That would be "old fashioned," you know.

In any case, it's best to be well-rounded, which is why I read all this stuff in the first place. It certainly gives me something to blog about. And of course I can drop names with my leftist colleagues. When I do I'm usually way more well-read than my college's hipster leftist professors.

So, if you're up for a quick read, and a fairly pleasurable one, all things considered, check it out.

At Amazon, My Name Is Lucy Barton.