Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mini-Reviews: More Fiction

I read the first two of these at the end of the semester and lacked the energy to write longer reviews. The inclusion of the third is simply laziness.

Emma by Jane Austen (1815; Norton Critical Edition 2012)
Not my favorite of Austen's novels, but a decent read. I didn't particularly like any of the characters, though Emma eventually grew on me. It was interesting to see how all the romances played out, because I had pretty much everyone pegged with the wrong person at the beginning. The reading group billed this as "proto-feminist," so I kept looking for such messages while reading but didn't find a whole lot; instead, it just kind of confused me on Austen's intent in writing.

Without a Net by Ana Maria Shua, trans. Steven J. Stewart (July 2012)
This is a collection of 99 of Shua's "microfictions," a writing form with which I was unfamiliar. The stories all have a circus theme, but there's some really cool deeper messages in a lot of the stories about the human condition, the relationship between author and reader, etc., plus elements of surrealism and fantasy. With every story only a paragraph or two long, I felt like a lot of these cool messages struck me for only a short time, and then I was moving along to the next page. What Shua is writing is neat, but it's too brief to leave much resonance.

The Lais of Marie de France trans. Robert Hanning and Joan Ferrante (12th cent.; trans. 1978)
This book proved to be a nice break from my classics slump - I would love to find more collections of lais! This translation is great, very clear and easy to read. The lais (like short stories in verse, often relating to Breton folklore and Arthurian stuff) are enjoyable, and I found them quite fun in connection with my Arthurian lit course this semester. The similarities to folkloric styles and motifs were also a draw.

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