MonthFebruary 2017

Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates

Black WaterBlack Water by Joyce Carol Oates

Cautious interwinement of different time modes and perspectives held a lot of promise. Parts of the plot were carefully strung into a captivating, fight-for-breath whole. Along with the lack of misplaced words and clutter, it was what made the flow neat and tidy, but also what opened the possibility of its pitfall. By definition, stringing pieces in a sequence involves staying within the narrow line and connecting similar components. The same happened to the story – the auspicious start did not progress and evolve, but only invoked a complementary platitude.

The purpose of books based on true stories, is to give us a possible narrative behind the bare facts. Instead of plausible interpretation and deeper understanding this one delivers only more cliches and pompousness. It felt as if the author had mistaken an image of an all-American gal, with unresolved daddy issues and girl-power ambitions, for a person. The protagonist and her relations had no uniqueness that would make them convincing, but remained the manufactured products waving from the billboard, that one sometimes wants to get to know, but never can. Yellow pages of an artsy journal would have as much effect. Life can be but a series of coincidences and its end a peak of absurdity, but at least it has some moments of significance, which is a fact this book desperately tries to avoid.

The Nun by Denis Diderot

The NunThe Nun by Denis Diderot

Through the halls and cells of a convent, guarded by high walls and austere religious customs, we follow a young nun making arrangements to escape a future that was imposed on her. She has a knack for logic and no ear for vocation, so she is not able to find any justification for all the suffering and pious rules that govern her. In her fight for freedom she uses all the means of revolt there are: open protest, rigid obedience, lawsuit, relocation etc. Embracing her destiny is not a viable alternative and even an ungodly reader prays with her that it will not become one.

Our habits and rituals may seem ridiculous to an outside observer, all the more so, when there is no reason behind them. The church’s aberrations are rarely so vividly coloured as in the journey of this nun, who happens to find herself surrounded by odd habits of nunneries and can’t make sense of them. She is as close to a spring of meaning as it gets and everything she encounters forces her to drink from it: old traditions, that must have some sense to have lasted for so long and to be so highly respected; the lives of fellow nuns that must be meaningful in some way. Nevertheless she finds none for herself and remains detached. There’s no hidden, internal logic of such a closed system, just an obliviousness to the general laws of the world.

Although this novel is an epitome of all the wrongdoings of religious institutions to a degree that it made me laugh, I still felt a bit cheated by the final twist; but in a most charming way there is. I wanted to go back in time when stories emerged in passing and there was still as much effort put in personal pursuits as it was in professional ones… If, of course, such a time ever existed and it was not reserved for the chosen few who might as well be living today.


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