The best books we read in 2016

Janes

Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

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I’ll be honest: I expected to hate Sons and Lovers. I wanted to finally read D.H. Lawrence for the first time, but a 19th century novel about a young man who is emotionally stunted by his overbearing mother sounded far too pseudo-Freudian for my taste. But I was surprised to find that within the first fifty pages, all of the characters were meticulously drawn at a nearly Jamesian level of psychological nuance, and that the “overbearing mother” was the most sympathetic and fascinating character of the piece. Sons and Lovers is, ostensibly, the story of a young man’s coming-of-age, but really, it’s a story about the fallibility of family bonds, in which they are as fragile yet sticky as strands in a spider web.

Acquired: at a flea market in Iceland, where Sons and Lovers was the only Lawrence novel they had. Continue reading →

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Links We Loved This Week — 9/30/16

 

Svetlana Mintcheva, writing for Salon, manages to tackle the Great Lionel Shriver Internet Meltdown without herself melting down, articulating a nuanced but still socially responsible take on the responsibilities of fiction writers:

Whether they succeed in communicating empathy and in creating a character that is complex and true, depends on the capacity of the writer as a writer and his or her creative integrity, not on the person’s skin color, sexuality or cultural background.

Do you follow Rabih Alameddine (author of one of my favorite-ever female fictional characters) on Twitter yet? The New Yorker wrote an interesting piece about his process.

Not technically a pop culture related piece, but by one of our favorite novelists: Michael Chabon wrote a devastatingly beautiful piece about his teenage son’s love for fashion, for GQ.

In case you missed it, the New York Times published an exquisitely mean review of a new Jane Jacobs biography, including jabs like this:

It often seems to be muttered as much as written, like one of those garbled subway announcements you cannot understand but suspect might matter.

 

When Men Write Women: Success Stories

I think of a man, and take away reason and accountability.

Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets

I’ve had dozens of moments when I’m reading an otherwise great book and a woman says something, or does something, that jolts me out of the world I’ve been inhabiting and reminds me that the author has his own particular notions of women, and not necessarily correct ones. From female characters who fulfill some male fantasy of what women should be like (hot, mostly), or who have no depth at all beyond their looks, to those who have one highly stereotypical personality trait whereas male characters are fully-rounded: the sins committed by authors of all stripes against female characterization are varied, and unfortunately, still frequent.

Sometimes it seems that the feminist internet has rightly given up on even encouraging men to write women at all; if we want a great female character, we assume we’ll need to read Chimamanda Adichie, Willa Cather, Claire Messud. But every once in awhile, a gifted male writer will come along who has an understanding of the unique power structures that affect women, but also is capable of infusing the same vision of humanity into his female characters as he does into his male characters. Here are a few of my favorite female characters written by men. Comment below to share your favorites! (Or to rant about the worst failures. We love rants here at Adversion.)

Aaliyah Saleh, An Unnecessary Woman – Rabih Alameddine

The inspiration for this post, Aaliyeh is the mid-seventies woman with blue hair who narrates Rabih Alameddine’s novel.

Continue reading →