Friday, March 11, 2011

Reading List Review--The Stranger

There's a movie quote which runs something like, "Why does existentialism have to be so damned depressing? Yes, life is meaningless, and yes, we are all going to die, but is that necessarily a sad thing?"  And while I do agree with some existential tenets, I also happen to agree with this [possibly butchered] quote. Existentialism does seem very damned depressing...when if there really is no meaning to life, you'd think that would make you wanna have some fun....But that's just me, and I digress.

 I think there is, on the other hand, something equally intriguing about being the type of person who is wonderfully grim and blase about the depressing facts of life in general. I confess I rather like absurdism, if only in stories; theories.

Enter The Stranger, by Camus, which I just read this afternoon.

Now, I am no philosopher, nor am I a literary critic of any sort. But I am a devourer of literature, and I like this kind of make-you-think writing. Yet several things struck me about this read.

As far as philosophy goes, you can tell that's what this book is about. It is not character driven. And, sadly, character-driven narratives seem to go much farther in reaching their audiences and in conveying their central theses. So the philosophy part, rather than subtly creeping into the book in little, softly worded monologues and tangential thoughts, is shoved up for the reader as if it were a feast. It's not as if you care for the main character; I don't even rightly remember his name. And I gather that is part of the point. You know; the whole I-am-nothing-you-are-nothing-who-needs-characters-anyway kind of thing.

But that doesn't necessarily mean it's an involving read. *shrug*  Ironically, it was a page turner.

Not sure I bought into it, but I enjoyed it. Just as I realize the shallow-seeming character--who I must admit, is surprisingly relate-able--was purposeful, I also understand that the two-act plot was purposeful as well.

I just can't think of the last time I read something so very clearly split nicely and neatly in half.  Very odd. Also, the best bits of writing--some truly beautiful, insightful phrasing, a real word craft--happen at the end of each sections. In my opinion, of course. I'd have to track down other two-act novels and have a go at them before deciding much about my liking or disliking the application here.

What I did not like was how the book depicted life as something which someone. So passive *imagine my lips curling in disgust*....bleh! Oh, woe is me, woe is me. Life is chasing me down, beating me up, being terrible, and there is nothing I can do about it because nothing matters anyway. Wahhn, whaann. Such utter drivel and nonsense! Gimme a story with people who have gumption, who make things in their life happen, rather than let life make things happen to them. Gimme Scarlet O'Hara as the protagonist of this book. Then again, no; that wouldn't'd have to be Ashlee, all maudlin and faithless in mankind. Scarlet's got too much fire and wouldn't let herself get caught in jail like this dud of a character... See? That's the problem. It's a catch 22 (let's see how many literary references I can work into one paragraph!!); what I detest about the book is its treatment, yet if the treatment were changed it would not be the same book.


So, yes. There you have it. Life be damned. Nahh, I don't quite follow that. I'm more of the there-is-certainly-meaning-in-life-because-there-is-no-meaning-and-yet-here-we-are type of gal. And that's a cheery thought.

Ten points if you name the movie I attempted to quote earlier

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