Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Books #14 and #15

Yay! I canz read growed up books!

It's fitting that Mr. Toibin opens this collection of short stories with an excerpt from Henry James's notebooks, because he's very much a writer in the same vein as The Master. I don't mean stylistically, because James wrote much more convoluted and intricate sentences. While James would have been aghast at some of the frank sexuality in these stories, I think he'd recognize the trans-Atlantic nature of many characters in them. James specialized in innocent Americans going to the Old World to be victimized by wicked old Europeans; Toibin writes about Europeans who've escaped to the New World, and find themselves displeased at going home.

Toibin can capture a person's consciousness quite as readily as James did; he writes gay and straight, male and female with equal conviction and compassion. I've read The Master and Brooklyn, and was not a bit disappointed by these tales.

I assigned this novel to some of my higher level kids over Spring Break--I think it's quite good. Jethro is a youngin in rural Illinois when Civil War breaks out and rends his family in two. His path to maturity includes running a mule team and wagon to town alone, facing down accusations that his family harbors Southern sympathies, and writing a letter to Abe Lincoln about a complex moral issue. That's all I'll say about this book, which deserves its reputation as a classic YA novel.

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