In the time I’ve been away, I’ve finished two books, started two and bought two, adding to my May purchase count.
The two books I finished reading were Nick Hornby’s Polysyllabic Spree and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Hornby’s book was great. It launched my own Polysyllabic project and I learned that Hornby has an austistic boy, as I do. He noted several books–personal narratives–that I may want to look up. I don’t know much about my son’s autism and I’d like to learn more.
Cuckoo’s Nest was OK. Given that the narrator is Chief Bromden, who is probably schizophrenic or some form of parnoid-delusional, makes the story difficult to trust. However, it’s a novel about power and the abuses of power. When Randle McMurphy comes to the institution, he tries his best to disrupt it, and succeeds fairly well. But, Nurse Ratched, representing the powerful, waits him out until he falls well beyond his boundaries. I can see how this novel (one of the 100 novels I’ve chosen for my 100 novels reading project) was important to the Sixties generation; it checks injustices and offers wildness. McMurphy is sort of a prototype of a combination hippie and biker, the rebel with a vague cause of seeing that the patients get somewhat better treatment, but even more that they subject themselves to his charismatic ego, which Ratched catches as his weakness. She thoroughly undoes him and subjects him to lobotomy (sorry for the spoiler), while at the same time, she gets comeuppance. In the end there is no real victory for either of them. Bromden escapes, but what does he have to look forward to? More paranoia? A life on the streets?
The two books I’ve started are Edwin Shrake’s The Borderlands and Robert Olen Butler’s From Where You Dream. Shrake is a Texas novelist and this is a historical novel set in the early days of the Republic. My colleague Clay recommended the novel, and I’ve been catching up on my Texas literature. This will be part of my 100-novels reading project.
WLT: A Radio Romance by Garrison Keillor
From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler