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I really tanked it with my book blogging this year. I’d like to say I was too busy writing fiction to be writing about other people’s fiction, but that’s not true. Luckily, even though I haven’t written about anything since The Beautiful Bureaucrats by Helen Phillips, it doesn’t mean I have read anything since then.
A huge part of my reading year was comprised of Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels. So many essays and articles have been written about them that I don’t have a lot of original thoughts to add, but writing about them, as always, helps me process them. After a friend at work mentioned that he was having a little trouble getting into the series, I wrote him an impassioned argument for persevering, an argument I basically wrote into being. (And which totally missed that he was midway through the second book at the time I was extolling the virtues of the first.) The gist of the treatise had to do with the experiential aspect of the novels. Part of the first one was a slog to read because it was a slog for Elena, the protagonist, to live. The reader aches for more intellectual fulfillment right along with the character who is earning that interminable series of school marks. What becomes exciting or terrifying or frustrating for her is the same for the reader. It is a visceral text. What the books illuminate about feminism, politics, power, class, motherhood, the lives of artists and much more has been elucidated elsewhere; I’ll leave that to others since this is a year end post rather than a Ferrante post. I should have written one of those in September. Read the rest of this entry »