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review 2018-12-14 17:42
Joan Samson, The Auctioneer (1976)
The Auctioneer - Joan Samson

From Casual Debris.

 

 

Well received critically and commercially upon its initial release, The Auctioneer has since fallen into semi-obscurity. This unfortunate fate is partly due to the author's death shortly after the novels's publication, and the absence of a second book. I understand that Joan Samson was working on a second novel when she sadly succumbed to cancer shortly before the age of forty. While some novels persist in part because they are the author's only published work, such as John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces (1980) and, most notably, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1960; for many years at least, prior to the publication of Go Set a Watchman in 2015), there was no mystique around this author, nor an attached Pulitzer, to help keep this first and only novel in the literary consciousness. Regardless, the novel is still respected by those who have read it, and its near-cult status will ensure that it will continue to be read.

Or so I hope.

The novel focuses primarily on a family living in the fictional rural town of Harlowe, New Hampshire, comprising of John Moore, his wife Miriam ("Mim"), their four year-old daughter Hildie, and "Ma," John's elderly mother. Having lived their entire lives in that community, amid the hardships of rural farming, Samson explores the affects of a charismatic auctioneer, a contrasting outsider, who moves into the community and progressively takes over. By holding regular auctions to raise funds for the benefit of the town, Perly Dunsmore is able to manipulate those funds and the people they are meant to serve. Professing the values of the "old ways" in a town built on tradition, Dunsmore is in fact quite modern and progressive, albeit amoral, in a business sense, as the reader discovers in the latter parts of the novel.

The Auctioneer blends many elements into its narrative. It acts as mystery, thriller, horror and even family drama. The scenes of basic survival, as the family members struggle to maintain their livelihood when they have been stripped of most of their belongings, is for me the most vivid. With family dynamics at the fore of the drama, Dunsmore appears seldom in the novel, which is to the story's benefit. Dunsmore unleashes the tensions, but most of the drama is located within the family and within the community, only highlighted and elevated by the presence of this daemon-like figure, who at the end proves all-too human. The real daemon is that aspect of humanity that can allow such usurpation, and it appears Dunsmore's downfall is a result of the members of the community finding themselves in the same building facing that man, as only then do individuals find the courage to fight back.

The ending comes across as a little too convenient, and reveals an odd flaw in Dunsmore's otherwise perceptive understanding of human nature. Yet the novel is not about the ending, and it does not detract from the challenges Samson has set for her characters. These characters are well delineated, strong despite the predicaments in which they find themselves, and it is this strength and drive for survival that renders the situation so bleak, since they are unable to oppose the auctioneer. In particular it is the women in the novel who are both driven enough to fight back, while being rational enough to hold back, as they must defend the family unit. The men are driven more by vengeance, or frozen by the apathy of frustration and hopelessness.

Though the novel enacts a specific period with well-defined characters, it can nonetheless act as allegory. The auctioneer himself is the state rendering its citizens dependent on its continued presence, replacing a mild form of government with a kind of modern, capitalist totalitarianism. The pretense of communal ownership is false, and glaringly fails as its members are robbed of what is essentially theirs.

Also prevalent is the threat of urban sprawl, as large cities, in this case Boston, are overgrowing and becoming stifling to humans who long to connect with the peace of a past, uncomplicated life. Or at least what is envisioned by the urban mass to be an idyllic return to nature, ignoring the hardships that Harlowe's inhabitants have been struggling with for generations. The idea of urban sprawl threatening these communities and this way of life is splattered throughout the novel, as we learn more of Dunsmore's ultimate plan, not just for Harlowe but for the surrounding communities as well.

However one would wish to interpret the novel, it is a powerful work that is deserving of a read, and a later re-read. The weight of these ideas packed into a suspenseful novel adds to the tragedy that Joan Samson was not given the opportunity for a follow-up. Regardless, we should be grateful she has left us with such a profound work.

Source: casualdebris.blogspot.com/2018/12/joan-samson-auctioneer.html
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text 2018-12-04 14:38
Good Story and Good Characters
Jane (I'm Still Single) Jones - Joan Reeves

Jane stared at the plastic tag and said she refused to wear it. She wasn’t some boy crazy teen, or a desperate woman on the make. She was a successful business woman.Jane was a textile designer.  So what if she wasn’t married. Jane was at her ten year HS reunion. Often Jane joked with her family she traveled through a time warp from NYC to her sleepy hometown in Vernon, Louisiana. In NYC she was J L Design in her hometown she was Jane Louise. Than her best friend from HS - Amber grabbed her arm and spun her around. She asked Jane if she was excited. . Jane had been following Amber’s lead since they were kids. Amber was the impulsive adventure and Jane was the impulsive adventure and Jane was the careful analyst. Amber put the tag on Jane and Jane just left it there. The reunion was a perfect chance to catch up with Amber.Only with Amber Jane confessed to her growing dissatisfaction with her life. Lately she thought about a home and children and not in a loft in NYC. Jane admitted she never knew how much she loved “home” until she left. Jane had shared everything with Amber since they were kids.  Jane thought Amber would tell her if he-Morgan- was going to show up. Morgan was the most famous alumnus of the from that HS. He went out in the world and made millions.Another friend Felicia said she was looking for husband number three and pointing herself toward Morgan. Than Amber jumped in and asked if she forgot to tell Jane Morgan was coming to the reunion. Jane decided she would leave. Jane had just said she wasn’t impressed with Morgan when Morgan spoke behind her. Morgan had been Jane’s secret boyfriend in HS. Jane had never forgotten him or his kiss. Something had driven them apart in the past. Little does Jane know Morgan still had feelings for her just as she does for him.

I enjoyed this book. It was a quick, easy, fun read with some drama thrown in. I thought Felicia was just to forward towards Morgan it annoyed me. I did find this predictable. At times I did get annoyed both with Jane and Morgan. I did like the pace and plot. I would have liked the book to be a little longer to show more of Morgan and Jane together. I loved the characters and the ins and outs of this book and I recommend it.

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review 2018-12-03 01:56
Joan Of Arc's inspirational life story shines through in this unique novel told entirely in verse
Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc - David Elliott

This book is exquisite. ‘Voices: The Final Hours Of Joan Of Arc’ has brought life once again to one of the most unforgettable and extraordinary female warrior icons. Everyone knows her name, but do they know her story?

 

Told in verse, in different medieval forms of poems, ’Voices’ is so unique (some stanzas are shaped like the subject that is ‘speaking,’ ie the sword or the crossbow). David Elliott has written such a compelling account of Joan’s short life from her beginnings in Domrémy, to her visions of the Saints, the battles she led against the English, and her eventual capture and execution. The encroaching ‘Fire’ poem that repeats throughout the novel is particularly clever and impactful.

 

Back then in 1430 France (when she was captured and put on trial), Joan was viewed with suspicion and as an affront to the Crown because she dressed in armor and wanted to ’look like a man’. She didn't believe she should have to stay at home ’to sew and mate’ when a war was being fought, simply because she didn't want to, never mind her sexuality. Her story has always been known as one of the earliest examples of a woman standing up against misogyny, against a patriarchal system that didn't make sense to her, and because her beliefs simply wouldn't allow her to sit down and accept what was happening around her.

Joan’s voice and perspective come through clearly in the novel as brave and courageous, with the right bit of stubborn. She questions the system and pursues her objectives, which give the novel an obvious ambiance of inspiration throughout. I only really wanted more from the novel when it came to the trial and perhaps the very end of her life.

Joan became a Saint after her death and was declared a martyr for everything she gave for ’God and country’. I did appreciate the epilogue and author's note at the end of the book; it seems this work was a labor of love and I enjoyed reading about its inception.

 

Joan of Arc is a historical figure who is infamous because of the brave, short life she lived, with such a tragic death, and I think Elliott has written something brilliant here that can draw many people in to learn more about her.

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/40796139-voices
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review 2018-11-18 14:45
Keep On Trying: "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" by Laurence Sterne
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman - Joan New,Melvyn New,Laurence Sterne



(Original Review, 2002-06-20)



Many very good books are not difficult to read--at least for the people who read them and have read them. But books can become difficult when difference of culture, or viewpoint, or language, or elapsed time intervene. Dickens is more difficult now than 150 years ago, and part of the reward of reading Dickens is the learning of how British society has changed. The difficulty of reading Virgil might include learning some Latin; the difficulty of reading Dante might involve at least a parallel text edition.

 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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text 2018-10-28 15:27
Reading progress update: I've read 5 out of 224 pages.
Repeal The 8th - Emmet Kiran,Aisling Bea,Tara Flynn,Lisa McInerney,Louise O'Neill,Caitlin Moran,Anne Enright,Sinéad Gleeson,Una Mullally

This anthology is perfect for research purposes and was just published! It comprises the literature, personal stories, opinions, photography, art and design produced by the movement that catalysed 2018’s momentous referendum.

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