Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I have heard people say that no good book (or movie) can truly be depressing whatever its content because the fact that it exists is heartening or something. The process by which the art evokes the "bad" emotion in the reader/viewer is actually exhilirating. Like sometimes you feel so bad you wallow in it, and it feels good. Like how Requiem for a Dream is grim and nasty but also exciting to sit through and watch again. The Easter Parade is just depressing. Smart and good and also just depressing. Sad people, sad lives, unfulfilled, no catharsis, bad teeth, alcoholism, the men always leave (or beat you), etc., etc. I actually can't think of a more depressing book. I think I'd rather reread Hogg than reread The Easter Parade, although I certainly admired The Easter Parade a lot more.


Paula Bomer said...

I felt the same way for a few days if not weeks after reading The Easter Parade. But then, slowly, my feelings for the book changed.The fact that the son shows so much generosity to his aunt, (at the very end) that he has kindness in his heart for not only her, but his mother (now deceased) too. It is a testament to human strength that he turned out so well. And it is a wonderful meditation on the power of forgiveness and kindness, the necessity of it even. But, if I had read that book at your age, I think I would hav had the same reaction as you. It's not a book for people in their 20s.

I will say I read Disgrace and found it so harsh that I immediately read another book to get "the taste" of it out of my mind. I also never finished Damon Galgut's book, Small Circle of Beings, because it was far too dark for my tastes. I thought The Good Doctor was very good, so I went to his earlier works...couldn't handle it. In that way, I am very much in agreement that certain works are just too harsh. But I don't feel that way at all about The Easter Parade.

N A said...

Interesting. I recall skipping a lot of Disgrace because I was so bored with the musical composition or whatever that the main character was writing. I can recognize the skill in Coetzee's books but have never particularly enjoyed them.

I didn't think The Easter Parade was too harsh, I don't think. I felt about it the way I felt about Mike Leigh movies, except that Mike Leigh movies are pretty boring and The Easter Parade was not. They both depict lives of diminishing returns. And that is more depressing/grim than the self-conscious obscenities of, you know, Hogg or something. I was with some friends recently who told me about another friend we hadn't seen in a long time, someone who used to be a very good friend and very funny. Then he stopped talking to me and most of his other friends. Anyway, these folks said he had showed up in LA one day and hung out in their living room for an evening, sitting on the couch and cracking jokes. "Was he still funny?" I said. They had trouble answering the question. "I don't know... his jokes were funny, I guess, I mean they were *sharp* and *insightful*, but they seemed so directly rooted in his self-loathing that it was just kind of sad," and so forth. That's kind of how I felt about The Easter Parade.

paula said...

The unbearable discomfort of witnessing another person's intense self-loathing? Too sad. I don't think that Yates hated himself, but perhaps you mean the main character in the easter parade hated herself? I didn't feel that way. Anyway, like I said, I don't think it is a book that I would have appreciated in my 20s. Mid-life can - for some people - make certain tragedies, or "tragic" characters -- seem more understandable. In my 20s, real, human run of of the mill tragedy, petty tragedy even, (not removed in the way of Shakespeare or Tolstoy or even Jean Rhys, no romance, no "other time" vibe) probably didn't do it for me unless there was some edge to it, like Bad Behavior by Gaitskill. Although I did like Cheever- read all his stuff in my 20s - but he is not as dark as the easter parade, or his lightness is more discernable. But perhaps it's just my general love of suburban tragedy that made me love the easter parade and see the light in it.

I don't remember being bored watching Secrets and Lies, or Naked, but I saw them when they came out, so I don't remember them really! Although I remember thinking they were good (Life is Sweet, too?).

Re: the above post- I think you made it clear that you agreed with the Diesiewicz article. So what do you think of the Toor piece? She seems to disagree with him and infer that he is a jerk and that it's not Yale's fault. So what do YOU think, N A, of your Yale education? Maybe that's a huffington piece...

N A said...

I admire those Leigh movies but didn't much enjoy them. I don't know. I think both the Toor piece and the Dereszwicz (sp) are right about a lot of things. I think the Toor piece is the correct one *rationally*--all people are complex and have troubles and so forth--but the other, meaner one is the one I felt more. About my education, overall, yes, good. The formal education part could have been better, but part of what was lacking was my own fault. I really did almost no work whatsoever. I regret that. That was lame of me. But I met many interesting people and I wrote a lot and I learned, I don't know, that I can interact with people socially, which is something I didn't know before college.