Tonight, I am once again thankful for my reader’s group (no longer a book club; it was decided that reader’s group sounds much more sophisticated. I did not make this decision, by the way).
I know, I know…I’ve been thankful for my reader’s group before. But this time I am thankful because it really was an enlightening meeting.
You see, tonight we read The Hour of the Star by Brazilian writer, Clarice Lispector. This was not an easy read. While only being 86 pages long, it was a deep and confusing narrative.
For example, from page 25:
“She wasn’t even aware that she was unhappy. The one thing she had was faith. In what? In you? It isn’t necessary to have faith in anyone or anything–it is enough to have faith. This often endowed her with a state of grace. For she had never lost faith.
(The girl worries me so much that I feel drained. She has drained me empty. And the less she demands, the more she worries me. I feel frustrated and annoyed.)”
Let me break this down. See if you can follow.
This is a novel written by Clarice Lispector narrated by a man, Rodrigo S.M. who is telling the story of a woman, Macabea, who is the thinness character I’ve ever read, a character who literally doesn’t have any depth, though maybe she does. The narrator, Rodrigo, also tells, throughout the novel, of how difficult it is for him to write the story of Macabea. In the meantime, the novel is also a philosophical treatise on: the state of poverty in Brazil, life and death, existentialism, and what it means to create art.
Confused? Yeah, I was too. So I was extremely excited to see what everyone else thought of the novel. How they interpreted it. Because, to be honest, I could not figure out the overall point of this novel. While there were definitely beautiful moments (I happened to love the character of Olimpico), the whole novel seemed really lofty and disconnected.
And so my reader’s group helped me understand. This is some of what was discussed:
narrator vs. character: who is more real?
Listen, I’m a non-fiction writer. This is what I do; this is what I teach. I am not knowledgeable about the craft of fiction writing. So I practically need a dictionary to keep up with our conversations and I have to reach into the depths of my memory from graduate school to remember what post-modernism even is, let alone post post-modernism. And while, at times, I was lost in my own meta-narrative, I did understand much more of the novel after our meeting.
The consensus? No one really liked it. THANK GOD! So even after a lively discussion–even a discussion that pointed out some really beautiful parts–we all agreed that it was a novel that perhaps tried too hard. But we did all appreciate the effort.
So tonight while I’m thankful for my reader’s group, I’m thankful even more for our enlightening conversation. I felt much more intelligent after our discussion.