Weekly Geeks Answers – Round Two
Posted July 21, 2008on:
The Lydia Millet questions
I just recently read a Lydia Millet novel. What’d you think of her? In the one I read, the characterization was brilliant, although her writing felt heavy at times.
How were Millet’s characters in the novel you read? How well were they drawn? Did you find yourself attracted to some while repelled by others? – kelskels
That’s a trickier question than you might expect. Her characterization for the kind of novel she wanted to write was excellent, IMO. In one review (via Soft Skull)– the only one you need read on this novel, btw, as the newspaper ones were pure pap for the most part — the critic wrote that “Millet delivers a novel that strips a character of all pretense, custom, habit and certitude, even of personality, to leave an entity that moves blindly forward in a world of blunt instinct.” I agree completely but it left others complaining that they weren’t the “fully dimensional”, proper rounded characters that all novelists must write all the time to be considered any good. Far be it from me to declare such critics flapping philistines with woefully limited ideas of what fiction is, may they please spare the public their editorially approved opinions but…*ahem* yes, I thought How the Dead Dream did well on that score. I too found her writing heavy at times the first time around but on a reread lost all sight of what I found problematic in the first place…until I picked up My Happy Life, another of her novels, which threw all that heaviness to the fore so I had to put it down and give myself a break.
Yes, I felt that pull and push to certain characters…did you read How the Dead Dream too or is this Millet’s general style? 😀 It’s like you’re in my head.
“How the Dead Dream” is a book I have been meaning to read for some time now.
Who this book would speak more powerfully to. Do you believe that animal lovers/owners would connect with the main character more so than non-animal people?
Did this book make you think about the differences in how people treat their human family members as opposed to their animal family?
What do you think is the main message Millet is trying to get across to her readers? – Joanne
While the main character may be more appealing to animal lovers I don’t think he would connect to them anymore than other readers precisely because he’s not a typical animal lover. Indeed for most of the novel although he becomes more conscious and concerned about others and the wider world he doesn’t develop in a clear cut, “let’s join PETA” manner.
No, the book didn’t make me think about how persons treat pets differently from relatives…. I think one of Millet’s main purposes in writing the book was to change environmentalism’s image to the average person. She wanted to sap it of its sentimental, “hobby” like status where people cry over cute pandas and instead highlight how it is as serious, and vital an issue as oil prices or health care, say, which are seen as more general “issues”. Especially when it comes to talking about animal extinction.
What’s Literature and Knowledge like? Easy to read and understand? – Maree
Ummm…I would say it’s only easy to understand if you’re used to reading university-level texts on abstract matter like theory. That being said Dorothy Walsh is meticulous in defining her terms and building her argument careful from chapter to chapter, anticipating questions and answering them well, for the most part, and avoiding silly jargon. She writes so clearly, with a touch of humour that it’s a book I’d recommend to those who wanted to dip their toes into books on literature and aesthetics but are unsure of where to start and are afraid of being overwhelmed.
Was Nick right to sacrifice his vocation (teaching, scholarship) for a life of beauty and pleasure? Why do Nick and the MP argue about Richard Strauss? – Amateur Reader
You know, I don’t think it’s a question of right or wrong since poor Nick didn’t even seem clear on what the heck he was going to write for his doctorate. He was clear about it except when he had to explain it to others — and maybe he was just shy, poor thing — but I say that if you can’t string two clear sentences together on your thesis you’re in trouble. Much easier to cut and snort. (I know that sweet Nick thought that no one would understand his oh so literary topic but I call BS.) He did get a whole (ugly) building out of it!
Nick and the MP’s musical arguments are symbolic of the British government’s oppression of homosexuals. Strauss controversially supported the Nazi regime who were famously homophobic and Gerald, a Thatcherite, no doubt supported Thatcher’s anti-gay legislation she established in the 80s.
(I went for the most outlandish explanation I could think of. How did I do?)
Have you read any of Dubus’ novels? Which form do you think he masters, or is he skillful with both? Which was your favorite story from this collection? – Dew
Dubus only wrote one novel, an early one, which I’ve rarely seen mention and so am not much interested in. He (and I) consider him to be a short story writer. It’s his son Dubus III that’s known for his novels.
My favourite story from that collection is probably the first one “Killings” which, to my surprise, was adapted into a movie.