Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, 1949, 139 pages.
Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes - Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by Daniel L. Everett, 2008, 283 pages.
Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris, 2005, 295 pages.
Death of a Salesman is not my favourite play ever. (David Mamet's November wins that prize, hands down.) However, as a woman who has a Master's Degree in English from a highly-reputed university, sometimes I get the feeling that there are books that I should have read but haven't. This is one of them, and someday I'm going to have to read Tolstoy, Camus, and Spenser's The Fairie Queen so that all of those feelings go away. Now I've read this play and never need to pick it up again.
It was beautifully, skillfully, written; I'll give it that. It depressed me no end, which was part of the author's intent, I gather, to make one feel hopeless about our mundane lives, and he did that with the gritty reality of his writing. I don't know if Miller himself was a misogynist or whether his male characters were meant to be, but I found it extremely off-putting and rather frightening, the way that Willy talked to his wife, and the way the Loman sons talked about getting women to sleep with them. All in all, I think the play was incredibly effective and well-done, and deserves its hold in the list of plays people should read. None of that means that I have to like it, and I didn't.
I did like Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes; I liked it far more than a little bit. It really rekindled my love of words, of language, surprised me by how much I enjoyed reading about linguistic theory, and woke that longing in me, never far from the surface, to leave this country and live elsewhere among people I have to struggle to understand.
Daniel L. Everett was a missionary sent to learn the language of the Piraha (pronounced pee-da-HAN) in the Brazilian rainforest, in preparation for translating the Bible into their tongue. In so doing, he learned many things about life, culture, and family, ended up teaching linguistics at M.I.T under the leadership of Noam Chomsky (whose theories he disagrees with), and eventually lost his faith entirely and lost his family because of it. Both on a personal level and a scholastic one, this book was fascinating, and whether I was reading about Everett's encounter with huge anacondas on the river, or musing arcane details about linguistic recursion, I was a happy camper while I read this study, and it has been put on the bookshelf that holds my favourite books.
I always feel a little guilty (there's that damned M.A. again) about how much I enjoy reading Charlaine Harris's vampire novels. I really need to stop being such a snob. Her books about Sookie Stackhouse and her host of supernatural friends are so enjoyable, so engrossing, and so superbly written that it's not until after you've turned the final page that you begin to wonder why and how there are so many vampires, fairies, werewolves, psychics, and shapeshifters in a small tract of northern Louisiana. While I am reading her books I put reality on a back shelf and just enjoy. Besides, Harris writes the best sex scenes I've ever read - there's a woman with a talent.
I've only seen three episodes of the television show True Blood, but they were enough to get me extraordinarily attracted to Bill Compton, the male vampire lead, and I have become extremely curious about how they are going to portray Eric, the vampire who was once a Viking, who sounds absolutely divine in the novels. I'll be picking up the first season of True Blood from the library tomorrow, and am excited about watching it.
Dead as a Doornail was fantastic. End of book review; that's all you need to know. Mmmm.