Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Sandwich or a Slap Upside the Head?

"Hunger" by Knut Hamsun is an infuriating book, in that the main character is either completely deluded or amazingly generous. A writer in Norway, he is on the brink of starvation, selling his every possession, down to the buttons on his coat, his writing, for tiny sums, and giving a great deal of his minuscule income away. Freezing and so hungry he is delusional, he even goes so far as to request a bed in a cell at the police station, saying he has lost his key and needs a place to sleep, and refusing the breakfast offered. I was frustrated by his lack of self preservation, but I admired his single minded pursuit of a writing career. I wanted to give him a sandwich or at least a coat.(or a slap upside his head) He gives strangers money he cannot afford, and suffers greatly for his generosity. He is a frustrating character, but a very well written one. It is said that this may be an autobiographical piece, and I hope things were not so terrible for the author. Written in the 1890's it is hard in this time of plenty to imagine the poverty and hunger portrayed, but I really liked this classic!

Jane Austin- A Life- by Claire Tomalin was a harder read. There was so much background and family intrigue that made up her life, that by the time I was within the last 50 pages, I swore if she didn't die or do something soon, I would kill her myself! The print was tiny and the prose lengthy, but I plowed through. I do not remember the last time I had so much trouble getting through a book. It was an interesting time, however, hard to imagine being the unmarried aunt in a time when you had to depend on the kindness of brothers and fathers, and uncles for every penny. As an unconventional woman, passing on a marriage to pursue her writing, Jane was brave as well as brilliant. She added her take on life to her writings and left us all the better for it.

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