Monday, July 13, 2009

Short Reviews

Short reviews for these, they don't deserve (or in P&P's case) need any more.

32. The Shoemaker and the Tea Party by Alfred P. Young

This was for my History of Boston class. It's about a shoemaker named George Robert Twelves Hewes (I believe he was a twelfth child) who witnesses the Boston Massacre, is a significant participant in the Boston Tea Party, and fights in the continental army. He was poor all his life and gained recognition in his nineties for his actions in the destruction of the tea. Two biographies were written about him near the end of his life, and he finally gained fame and his veteran's pension.

Young argues that the phrase "Tea Party" wasn't in official (that is, written) use until Hewes' biographies came out. He talks about politics during and after the Revolution, and how more prominent citizens of Boston wished to forget how they used working class rabble to destroy the tea. It's all about class struggles and selective public memory and blah blah blah. Very technical. I'm interested in history, but really, this seems to me a minute and boring point of argument. I would've rather just learned about Hewes' life and made my own interpretations than having Young's complex, and I'm not sure altogether sound, opinions thrust on me. For Revolutionary historians who really like to nitpick.

33. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

What is there to say that has not been said before? I still don't like Mr. Darcy, though I may have come to see why so many women do. His turnaround at the end is at least mostly genuine, I believe. And Lizzy's feelings for him are well developed, if, I think, wrongly guided! Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine are hilarious as per usual. It was great having people to enjoy that with.

I've come to a different understanding of Mr. Bennet too. I didn't like him as much after seeing how he neglects his family, but at least he comes to realize it. Mrs. Bennet is more of a shocking fright every time. I still sympathize with Mr. Bennet over her. I liked the multiple asides on the Bennets, their relationship and interactions are almost as great as Darcy and Elizabeth's.

Well, there's your Austen gossip for the day.

34. Everything Matters by Ron Currie Jr.

Currie introduces a fascinating concept-a young boy is born with the knowledge that human life on Earth will be destroyed by meteorite when he is thirty-six years old. Knowing this, does anything matter? The optimistic answer, of course, is in the title.

I won't spoil the twist, but I will admit I was disappointed. I think the overall concept is good, but since it is a novel rather than a short story, it needed other ideas to move it along. Instead, Currie focuses on the characters, but he writes them almost one-dimensionally. The extensive use of drugs in the novel is more blase than edgy, and he doesn't even address the moral or perceived moral issues associated with drug use ( I wouldn't have cared what the stance was, I just wanted him to take one). There is just a lot of telling rather than showing, and a lack of complexity, in characters and plot, that again, would have been more appropriate to a short story.

The most amusing character, I thought, was Junior (the protagonist)'s older brother Rodney as a nine-year-old cocaine addict. When Rodney suffers a contrived brain injury from the cocaine use, he's rendered docile and uninteresting, save for his remarkable baseball talent.

Does everything matter? This book doesn't have me convinced. And after all, that's the point, isn't it? The "proof" is interesting and certainly with merit, but I would have enjoyed a more philosophical answer. I am surprised that Everything Matters was as well received by critics as it was and I don't think it deserves any 'best of 2009' awards.

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