Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Tolstoy Lied

OK, so Becca didn't like this book much, but I actually thought it was a fun read. No, the tenure battle wasn't particularly convincing (the process just didn't ring true to me), and one of the friends--for me, not the gay colleague but the actress-friend--was a bit too much, but I liked the main character and found her "love" story intriguing enough, and her "work" story compelling. A friend recommended the novel on the strength of the crazy grad student plot, and that did work for me: the way the colleagues battle by proxy through the grad student, the way the grad student herself participates in their battles, the way each small utterance takes on such great significance...yes, I bought it. And I'm intrigued, too, by the idea that we don't know how to talk about happiness. A professor at UCLA tried working on happiness some years back--and, you know, I don't know whatever happened to that project! (OK, it came out in ADE Bulletin...) Mark and I often complain that all we do is complain (yes, we're aware...)--but, really, what are literary critics trained to do except spot problems? Student writing or literary reading, we go for what doesn't work, having a much harder time with praise than blame. So I like the idea of trying to trust happiness, trying to look for the ways that story can be told. No, I don't think this is the last word on it--but then again, have we had the last word on tragedy yet?

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