A Different Take On Mainstream



       Well hello there!
Now that I’ve gotten the disclaimer out of the way, I have given myself free reign to be as obnoxious as possible. (Tee Hee). So if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I have lost all faith in Postmodern literature. Otherwise known as anything written in the 21st century. Ok fine, thats not necessarily true– I think children’s literature is just fine; however, the quality of wording, plot, characterization–depth— everything, just drops when we hit young adult and surprisingly, even adult novels. I have absolutely no idea why children are allowed to believe within their stories that anything can happen, that our imagination can take us to places beyond our limits, yet when we reach young adulthood– a time usually reserved for introspection and experimentation, we are suddenly led to believe that the world revolves solely around the opposite gender, physical activities one can partake with the opposite gender, and beer. I mean sure, somewhere in there the author throws in a few words about the upcoming event called Adulthood. And perhaps the author may include some sketched out themes of Good vs. Evil, or Coming of Age,  but the sad over all reality of today’s literature, is that the Postmodern Era underestimates our intellectual capacity. In other words, they think we’re dumb. Gone are the Catchers in the Rye, the tortured Gatsbys– no more discussions on murdered mockingbirds, now all we have are apocalyptic mockingjays. In essence, the books that have been coming out recently for teens and adults alike, do not allow us to think properly. These are stories that ask us no questions, that leave us with no discussion and barely any feeling. Like a piece of empty synthetic candy, it’s on our lips for a moment, and the next second, it’s totally gone. However, like everything else in this world, there are exceptions to the rule. And I have made it my mission in life to hunt down and read every single Postmodern book that waves the banner of book snobbery. So with out further ado, here are five of them:

 You should know, this book is absolute poetry. The Book Thief is written within the point of view of Death— who narrates the  tale, often lacing his own whimsical yet worldweary comments into the story; a story of a young WWII girl named Liesel, who lives on Himmel Street, Munich, Germany. She likes to play street soccer, steals books from forbidden places, and hides a contraband Jew in her basement. This quiet, yet epic tale about human character is written like a composition of silent music. Zusak takes care to place each word within an artistic format, so that his sentences are almost breathed into existence. “Curtains of rain hung around the car”, “The day was gray, the color of Europe”. 
                                          Why This Deserves The Title ‘Intellectual Novel’:
       This novel is less a story and more a sketch on human character. Even Death itself, towards the middle of the novel, announces the future death of one of the main characters—why? For even Death says so himself– that this is a story that is less about what happens, and more about the people it happens to. Zusak takes the medium of the novel, and transforms it into a vessel through which he discuses the very real human reactions to the grotesque and inhumane events of the holocaust. Through this simple yet poignant story, set during our not so distant past, Zusak raises the very striking question— how do we as human beings react when we are directly faced with injustice?  

 Meet Renee, a 50 year old widowed concierge catering to the fashionably rich of Paris. describing herself as “short, ugly and plump”, Renee weaves a facade of flickering TV lights, a nondescript cat, and slippers she wears for the sole purpose of their absolute working class “cliche”. Yet behind her papery thin disguise, beyond the lights of the television, Renee delights  in the tastes of aestheticism. Leo, her cat is called– after Tolstoy of course– and for every persnickety tenant whose eyes glide over her like the working class woman she appears to be, Renee formulates yet another philosophical discussion on life, beauty, time. Philosophies that remain tightly locked up within her– addressed to no one– because life, according to Renee, is quite easier when people stay in the boxes life has created for them. 
       Then there is Paloma– a 12 year old girl who lives in Renne’s fashionable building. Overly intelligent, and already world-weary, Paloma comes to the conclusion of life’s ultimate pointlessness, and decides to set fire to her own apartment, thus committing suicide–dramatically. Yet before she does so, Paloma decides to compile a notebook of “profound thoughts” about the world, and life– so that perhaps she can discover a reason why life is worth living. 


— Right, so I wasn’t able to get this book from the library, and it was slowing down my blogging process, I mean come on, this post is already late as it is, so how about I do a book review post on it instead, kay? Just take my word for it– this book is very special and very thinky. 


 This story is about a 19 year old Cab Driver named Ed. Ed is absolutely ordinary. Nothing special about the guy. His younger brother is in law school. Ed’s story begins with him on the floor of a bank, a gun pressed to his temple. Somehow, Ed always seems to be at the worst place at the worst time; of course he had to go to the bank just when a gunman wants to rob it. And to make things worse, the gunman is downright useless as well. Somehow, and Ed really can’t begin to explain how, Ed manages to turn the gun on the gunman, and call the police before anything else happens. He is proclaimed a town hero. The next day, he gets a playing card in the mail. The playing card has three addresses, and three times written next to them. They beg a peek—just a glimmer of a visit. Yet when Ed glimpses the lives behind the addresses on the playing card, he embarks ( I hate that word btw) he ventures on a journey of self discovery— one that forces him to realize that nothing is ever ordinary— especially himself.  

       This book forces you to view the extraordinary within the mundane. Through a pack of anonymous playing cards, Zusak weaves a story about belief in human power—the raw energy of our own potential. Though Ed is merely the messenger throughout the novel— only carrying out the missions written on the playing card, by the end of the novel Ed realizes that he is not only the messenger— he is the message. For by transforming other people’s lives, he transforms his own in the process. 


       Ellen Raskin once wrote that she writes for the child in herself. However, Ann Durrell, the resident Westing Game forward writer, disagrees, stating that Ellen always wrote for the adult in children. Raskin’s writing is never toned down to fit smaller ears–though the plot may be whimsical and twisting, The Westing Game is very much a study on human character. The story begins with the  sudden death of multi-millionaire, Sam Westing. His will dictates that all of his remaining relatives, all of whom for some reason, happen to live in the same building complex– Sunset Towers– should be present for the reading of his will. Through his will, transcending his death, Sam Westing sets up an elaborate game for the inheritance of his wealth– 200 million dollars. The heirs are then paired off, and each given one clue to solve the question that will win them his entire inheritance– who killed Sam Westing? This novel is initially intended for children. However, through the characters that play the twisted Westing game, Raskin creates a dialogue of humanity, using their voices to touch upon themes such as closeted racism, social class, and the precariousness of human relationships. I have only one thing more to say– let the Westing Game begin. 

Right then,
I hope you enjoyed my weekly ramble. This took way too long to post. Sorry. Am learning. I am so worded out I have nothing more to say except FOLLOW ME EVERYWHERE. 

Cynical Duchess

What’s a book that makes you think?
Leave a comment below!