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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Monday, March 14, 2016

Ferrante volume 2 - losing its steam

Ferrante's volume 2, The Story of a New Name, is grinding its gears a bit - one-quarter of the way through and, after a promising start that included some of the most vivid writing in the series (so far), we seem to be tilling the same ground again and again: Lila is smart, rich, sexy, unhappily married, and the sometime narrator, her best friend, Lena, is not quite as smart or sexy and constantly in Lila penumbra. Among the plot elements, there's a big to-do about whether the new shoe store can use a blow-up picture of Lila in her wedding attire as a promo for its line of shoes; after much back and forth - why are shoes so goddamn important to Ferrante? - Lila (and her husband, Stephano) agree, though Lila does some weird cutouts to give the portrait a contemporary, fragmented look. Meanwhile, Lena: at times she thinks she'll resign herself to marrying Antonio (they are still teenagers - one of the astonishing things about this novel, how young these children are to get married and make life decisions) and work at his family gas station - no reader can imagine that this will be her fate - and she yearns for the radical, intellectual Nino (?), who is in love with another girl. Lena does something really stupid: goes to Antonio's arch-enemies, the Serrano bros., for help getting him out of military service. When A learns of this he is infuriated and says he will serve in the Army no matter what. How could Lena not have seen this coming? I keep hoping for more, but, all told, it's a good, gossipy novel and over time you get to know the main characters better, of course, but seriously, is this really great literature, or even literature? The writing is so flat and unengaged, the narration so nonreflective, there's minimal description or mood or nuance - just one event after another. Bring on the mini-series.

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