Friday, November 8, 2013

Eleanor and Park

I  finished reading Eleanor & Park early this afternoon. I really loved reading this book! The author, despite being named Rainbow, did a spectacular job. So many times as I was reading I thought, "Look at that! She got it exactly right here! This situation she describes, that's perfect, that's exactly how it is!" I was so impressed with her ability to capture the moment that it wasn't until I finished the book that I realized ...I had never experienced the moments she was describing. I shouldn't be able to know if she did a good job or not. I have never been an Asian boy who has sometimes wants to wear eyeliner. Or a big, curly-haired girl who has a desperate and explosive home life.  I don't have much in common with the characters in this book at all, other than I also went to high school. But, by the way, I know she got it spot on. Like the way, even though I know very little about gymnastics, I know when a gymnast nails it.

It reminded me of this book I read by J.D. Salinger, Raise High the Roofbeam Carpenters, and Seymour, an Introduction (get over the long double title, it's an excellent book). In it the narrator describes a little girl that walks up to this family looking so sweet and perfect one of the boys in the family, who likes the little girl a lot and is good friends with her, throws a rock at her face. Now that's a terrible thing to do, but when I read it, I totally understood why someone might do such a thing. I might have even done it myself. (Side note, I've thought a lot about why he threw the rock, and here is my conclusion: I think it was because she looked so perfect he was compelled to--the same way we are all a little compelled to step into freshly fallen snow. It's so beautiful we just have to be a part of it, even if the only way to do so is by destroying it.)

That, is what I think of as good writing: when you can stick a stranger into a situation that is totally foreign to them and get them to understand it through another person's eyes. A good author can sink the reader into another person, suspend their disbelief enough to have them feel totally differently about a situation than they normally would--not indefinitely, but enough for the story. Man what talent. And what a gift. This is why reading is such a big deal. You can never be someone else, you can't really, truly understand someone else. Tennessee Williams said we are all sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins. But a book...a book so much more than a movie, or a play, or a conversation requires you to come as close as language allows. We are so lucky to have books.

Well this is a rambling post. I love books. This was a fun one.


Anna said...

It turns out I am not done. So another thing I really liked about this book was how desperate everything was. There is this impending gloom that is constantly edging around all the happiness. But, BUT nothing really horrific happens. I liked this because I think authors often throw in dramatic unnecessary events because they think they need them to elicit emotion. You don't. Life is emotional. You don't have to have someone raped, or beaten up to show that they are being oppressed or desperate.Big emotions are not only the product of big events. This book is desperate, and joyful and even terrifying at some points, but in a real way, not in a fake way.
In comparison, I recently read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and it had some really great parts. The main character is super, really super, but I think the dramatic revelation at the end was unnecessary and kind of belittled some of the earlier awesome moments.

I am done now.

Lisa Lou said...

Bibliotherapy is awesome and liberating.

Jaime said...

I loved this post! I love a good, immersive book for all those reasons, too. I may have to pick this one up! :)

Kathy Haynie said...

Ahhhh….. Thank you. Loved this. I am rather inarticulate lately, and you say this so well.

Katie Lewis said...

Man, this is SO how I feel about Little House on the Prairie. About the Indians, I mean. After reading those books I TOTALLY know what it felt like to be an Indian in the old west. Man. It's like, you know, like I was there.