Friday, December 2, 2016

ReadAlong post from Paris. . .

I hope you're not becoming too impatient with my posts pleading for your patience. I've obviously bitten off more than my traveling self can chew -- or write! -- with this ReadAlong (plus the whole idea of two blogs is a bit goofy, isn't it!)

This is our last day in Paris, though, and I'm grabbing a few minutes to write this while my husband finishes his coffee downstairs. I finished my rereading of Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend and scribbled a few notes in the margins as we rode the train here from Bordeaux (and I also spent some time reading Lauren Groff's Arcadia, which I've enjoyed and which has provoked some thinking, some reminiscing, but which I've also found a bit forced toward the end -- any of you read it?).

I'll do my best to write a wrap-up post on MBF when I'm settled back home, but I wanted to pop in here quickly just to make sure you've all seen my post (over on my other blog) on our quick visit to Naples. I'm still thinking about how much this accorded with and how much this changed my vision of Naples as Lenù/Elena knew it and I hope to write a bit more about that later.

I also wanted to say that of those last 30 or so short chapters, what truly surprised me in my rereading was realising that the title comes from something that Lila says of Lenù when the latter claims that she will be finished school at a certain point. Lila responds that Lenù can't stop because"you're my brilliant friend, you have to be the best of all, boys and girls." In case you want to check out that passage, it's on page 312, if you have a print copy of the book; Chapter 57 if not. The paragraphs that follow are extraordinary as well -- note the distance, in them, of Elena's use of the distancing second-person pronoun to refer to her young self.

I must say that this discovery has me rethinking the series quite significantly. Let's discuss that, can we? I'll be checking in for comments regularly although it may take me a little while to write here again.

16 comments:

  1. What???!!!??? Oh no! You missed that most important line? Now I'm worried none of my comments and thoughts about what these books mean have made sense to you...I'm going to come back in a bit but am absolutely chuckling about this. If we were in fact sitting at a table drinking wine I would be alternating between covering my laughing mouth and clutching your arm while shaking my head...

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    1. I know, right?! But honestly, this is why I wanted to reread the series. And I can tell you that I would never write critically/academically about any text without rereading it a few times, making notes, copying out passages, etc., etc. The first read through I often cut myself quite a bit of slack, reading for plot, character, obviously structural and stylistic elements, tone, etc., but with an eye generally to whether or not I will reread and if so, what I might be looking for second time 'round -- some favourite texts I'm still discovering new elements the 7th or 8th reading, especially if I'm teaching it again...

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    2. I hope it didn't sound like I was criticizing...I know you are very diligent...it just felt like one of those crazy conversations where you're talking about two totally different things and then you suddenly realize....whoops! It does change everything doesn't it?

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    3. Not at all (and I hope I ddidn't sound defensive) -- we've developed some trust over your time commenting here, and I think I received this just as you meant it. And I'm going to go back and reread all your comments here to see how my new appreciation lets me better get what you were saying.

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  2. I'm back, and have recovered from the shock. I have done that (missed important passages) so many times with my crazy fast-reading ways; I feel now I am in very good company :)

    I will go back and reread those pages to prepare for the next discussion. I have been reading The Sleepwalkers (a history of the time before WWI). When I don't understand something, I need to study. And this shifting of the zeitgeist...

    Yesterday I picked up Frantumaglia which I have had on hold at the library for quite a while. I think it just came in as the book does not seem to have been read. Hopefully we can discuss it some day.

    Travel safely...welcome home...

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    1. Just checked the reviews of The Sleepwalkers, and I can see why you'd be reading it now. I remember some of this from history courses, echoes of which, quite honestly, are disturbing these days, the zeitgeist, as you say...
      I've got Frantumaglia on hold as well... and I remember that nyreader, who comments below, said a few words about it here not long ago. I'm still going to read it though. . .

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  3. Here's the thing, as Alec Baldwin would say: we each read our own books. We bring things to the page, we leave things on the page and we take things from the page. There are really important lines left there by the author and really important lines we pick up. They may not be the same.

    nyreader


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    1. Somehow, this comment has shifted something big for me in my reading of the novel. I recognise how much Elena resonates with my own inability to see my strengths, always comparing them to others who are surely **er or **er....so that it may not have been accidental that I couldn't take in Elena being the "brilliant one" (however reliable that attribution of Lila's, relayed through Elena, was at the time, and as remembered). Lenù and I are different in so many important ways, but in some very central ones, I identify closely with her (and envy, in some ways, the single-mindedness and even ruthlessness she arguably develops to become the writing narrator she is)

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    2. I generally read solo (for both personal and professional reading) and shy away from book discussions as they are a sort of busman's holiday for me. This online experiment has been both useful and enjoyable and I am flattered to have said anything here that may have been useful to you! I DO live in terror--while reviewing fiction, in particular--that I have missed "the" point/"the" sentence/"the" symbol/"the" motif of it all. Then, I remind myself that we read to edify and amuse, not torture, ourselves.

      nyreader

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  4. I agree that "we each read our own books". That's part of the joy of reading, and also sometimes the frustration and the fun when discussing with a group. We each have our own personal relationship with the characters, the setting, the plot. the issues, etc. Mater, your Naples experience and photos were touching to see, in view of the story we've been reading. For me, Lila is not the heroine of this first book, but I find her power fascinating, yet tragic, and something she is not fully in control of yet. The relationship of the girls is what it's all about for me, and there are strong elements I recognize from my own childhood and adolescent relationships in Ferrante's writing. By the way, I did not enjoy Arcadia by Lauren Groff. Some of the experiences described felt too close to home, having lived through that era in the same time frame. I'm wondering if her other books are similar?

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    1. Thanks for this, Gail. It is, yes, part of the joy of reading that we each read our own books. When I was teaching, an additional joy for me was helping students see how their particular point of view influenced the text in front of them such that their readings could be so different -- and how to reconcile that with what existed solely (?) on the page that we could all meet at, how benefit from each other's readings without surrendering our own perspective yet without dishonouring what the author has written.
      As for Groff, I enjoyed much of the novel -- quite loved some of the characters and recognised the accuracy of other less likeable depictions. I didn't get as excited about the structure and style as much as I did to her Fates and Furies, which is the only other Groff I've read, and by the end I found Arcadia too tendentious to recommend it widely, but I'd pass it along to anyone wanting a well-written, fairly light but thoughtful novel, especially about that Arcadian impulse of the 20th-century, which is seeing such regeneration these days.

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  5. I'm late for the party here and my yesterday's comment get lost (something is happening here and chéz Hostess),sorry
    I like rereading,it is a different kind of joy and one could see things more clearly or different
    One of my thoughts stays the same and I'll repeat it:
    The brilliant friend decides to reinvent herself and leave the neighbourhood ,while the other-brilliant,too!- stays trying to change and conquer the neighbourhood (was there any other possibility for her?).
    The end of the first volume is eye-opening for both of them (as well as for us),they could imagine their fates (and furies ) in the future
    And the Nino character....cherchez l'homme!
    I would like to read Lila's side of story , wouldn't you?
    In Fates and Furies it was the second part,Hers,that made me change my opinion of the book.
    Dottoressa

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    1. So sorry to lose any of your comments -- they're always so worthwhile!
      Yes, rereading is a different kind of joy -- I'm thinking about this as I unpack my boxes of books and remember why I've kept so many...
      Cherchez l'homme indeed. . . what a character he is, representative of the derailing man in the lives of so many bright women. . .
      Yes, me too with Fates and Furies -- it flips so brilliantly in the second half.

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    2. Dottoressa! Signora Ferrante herself has (sort of) answered you. I have been reading Frantumaglia and she says (p 360) 'in the first draft there were long episodes written by Lila but I later excluded this path. Lila can only be Elena's tale: outside that tale she would probably be unable to define herself.' I am dipping into the book at various places and then mulling over what has been said; for me it is better suited to that than a read of the sections as they are presented. Sadly it's a library book so I won't have it much longer.

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    3. Thank you Georgia,didn't know. But what a characterization of Lila,don't you think? It is something Maestra Olivieri would said about Lila.
      With all the other attitudes of mine about Lila (this sentence construction seems bad written but you'll understand the meaning) I feel such a waste of intelligence and beauty,but than-it is a life!
      I've read some not so good reviews of Frantumaglia but after yours I'm going to read it
      Dottoressa

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    4. My library hold of Frantumaglia just got to the top of the queue, so I'll be reading this now as well, crossing my fingers I can find time for it before it has to go back (a limited loan of 21 days, and I'm already gone through 4 of them without a chance to peek at it).
      Can only agree with what both of you say here, or at least what Georgia quotes Ferrante as saying -- it seems impossible that Lila could put together a cohesive narrative -- and, of course, her desire at the end to erase herself leaves no room to leave anything behind. But yes, such a waste -- so many bright women lost this way, not just in Italy, obviously....
      I've also read lukewarm responses to Frantumaglia but just can't resist dipping into it, at least....

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