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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, July 11, 2016

Life After Life - pro and con

At book group last night I was no doubt the hardest on Kate Atkinson, pretty frustrated with her decision to have the protagonist (and some other characters, too) "die" multiple times in her novel, Life After Life; I argued that this technique pushed readers away from the narrative, made us constantly aware that we were reading a "text" and keeping us from committing to, getting emotionally or intellectually involved with the plot and the characters because anything can happen, the author is just toying w/ us. This technique is especially troublesome because Atkinson is so obviously a fine writer - many of her scenes are excellent, and there was universal agreement that the wartime London scenes were fantastic. Authors make decisions about their characters all the time, and I believe Atkinson shirked her responsibility toward her readers. Others disagreed - why can't a novelist do whatever she wants w/ her text, and doesn't the multiple lives of the same character enable us to see new things and to see the familiar in new ways? (No, not for me.) I also asked why the British still seem so drawn to stories about WWII 70+ years after the fact. JRi raised the possibility that it took some time for novels about WWII to emerge, that perhaps it even took a full generation. Not sure I buy that - definitely not re American war novels - but I couldn't readily think of many examples of British war novels from the 50s and 60s (aside from Anthony Powell, and maybe Robert Graves?), though that's not a period in which I'm widely read. (People say the same of Holocaust novels - that none appeared until a decade or so after the war, but I think that had to do more w/ the extermination of so many witnesses and the young age of so many survivors, such as Wiesel and maybe Levi, who were in no way ready to write about his experiences when they were in their teens or 20s. Who is?)

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