100 in ’11: McCourt, Rand and Tartt

Angela’s Ashes / Tis / Teacher Man – Frank McCourt

Summary: Dirt-poor family with deadbeat drunk dad struggle to survive.

Frank McCourt’s memoirs of eye-watering poverty in Ireland had me bawling over my Sunday roast to T about the big bad English and the horrors of blind religion. (I’m not bashing Catholicism, but I am critical of drilling the mortal fear of sin into every child, while teamed with a woeful lack of education in some of life’s most vital matters. A recipe for disaster and unhappiness.) Those bloody Poms! I ranted to him. I can’t believe they did that to you! Oh, there was no shortage of things to get riled up about. The useless, drunkard men, for example.

Two passages in particular stood out for me: the first is the part where Frank recalls licking the grease off the newspaper wrapping that had held some fish and chips; the second almost physically hurts me to type out, so deeply did it affect me – the dinner of corned beef which turns out to be nothing but a lump of grey fat with a tiny “nipple” of red meat on top.

Food is such a central part of my life. I know that there are people, children elsewhere in the world everyday who don’t have enough to eat. And starvation hits you over the head all the way throughout Angela’s Ashes. More than the filth, more than the alcoholism, the hunger was what broke my heart chapter after chapter.

Oh, and as for the other two – while enjoyable, I could take or leave them.

Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

Summary: The world is going to hell and only the ruthless but brilliant capitalists can save it.

Forget 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World. Atlas Shrugged is in my eyes the ultimate dystopian novel. If ever there was proof that anything in extreme is to be avoided, then surely it is to be found in Atlas Shrugged. I’ll admit, as a lefty-leaner, I was horrified to realise just how much I sympathised with Rearden and Dagny at times – how logical and reasonable their thoughts and actions were, in comparison with their moralising, feeble counterparts. But seeing both sides of the coin is one of my strengths (weaknesses?); I’m all about cognitive dissonance. Chilling, terrifying, amazing.

The Secret History – Donna Tartt

Summary: Rich, bored, unhappy students who don’t fit in run wild, go too far and end up killing someone, secret-society style.

I have seen this book described as summing up the liberal arts college experience. Well, we don’t have those here. I never even lived on campus, so I’m pretty poorly equipped to speak of such things. This is a tale for misfits, of pretension, of sheer stark raving madness, IMO (the shenanigans they get up to must be read to be believed, and what’s scary is that in context they don’t seem half as insane as they actually are). A tale of money and drugs and aimlessness. Sort of like Atlas Shrugged, I greatly enjoyed it but am still not exactly sure what to make of it.

7 thoughts on “100 in ’11: McCourt, Rand and Tartt

  • Reply Serendipity May 18, 2011 at 13:14

    I’m going to have to put Atlas Shrug on my reading list!

  • Reply fabulouslyfrugirl May 18, 2011 at 15:04

    I have heard so much about Atlas Shrugged. I’ve been finding it so tough to get through books lately (read: working too much) and those tiny words in that thick book is daunting.

  • Reply Clare - Never Niche May 19, 2011 at 03:56

    I remember reading Angela’s Ashes in high school and it made me so hungry reading about how hungry they were. :/ That’s all I remember about it.

  • Reply First Gen American May 19, 2011 at 04:15

    I remember reading the secret history in college and remember enjoying it. Ironically, a liberal arts friend of mine was the one who recommended it.

    Angelas Ashes was great and heartbreaking. Great book, but you have to be in a certain mood to read those types of books.

  • Reply Emily Jane May 19, 2011 at 12:49

    I’ve always avoided Angela’s Ashes because I just KNOW I will bawl for days!! Atlas Shrugged totally sounds like my kind of novel – thanks for the recommendation!

  • Reply Wifey of a Roadie May 20, 2011 at 13:17

    Oh the hunger! I can totally understand how that can stab deep. We weren’t rich growing up but my father always made sure we didn’t go hungry. Can’t stand to see starving children or anyone starving for that matter.

  • Reply From contemporary to classic | Musings of an Abstract Aucklander February 2, 2012 at 20:56

    […] year I ventured into some of the most challenging reading territory I’ve ever tackled. Atlas Shrugged. Madame Bovary. Love in the Time of Cholera. The Master and […]

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