||[Mar. 17th, 2010|12:22 am]
Gary Alan Fine's Manufacturing Tales
This book caused me to implement a new rule: I'm allowed to abandon at least one book a year with cause. This book is a compilation of journal articles, all by the same author, about the study of modern American folklore. I was actually given the book by the author, who I did some research for one summer, and so cutting it loose was a bit disappointing, but I just couldn't shake the two big problems. The first problem is that I am not a professional folklorist, and so the commentary about how things are done or should be done in the profession is completely uninteresting.
The second problem is that the book is showing its age: it was published in 1992, and both how folklore is transmitted and the theories about social information exchange have advanced by leaps and bounds since then. The article that really brought this home to me(and thus the last one I read even part of) was about stories circulating through a pre-adolescent suburban community in the late 70s, where I could tell that not only was the theory primitive to what I had studied in social capital(though seeing the natal forms of some influential theories was sort of neat), but that there was no chance that the same information systems were still in place.
Elie Wiesel's Night
There are three problems with this book, one major and two minor. The first minor one is that this is obviously a work in translation, in this case from French. The prose just doesn't feel natural in English most of the time.
The second minor one is the problem of Elie Wiesel's memory: this book wasn't written until at least 10 years after the events it depicts, and I get the sense that a lot more terrible details would have been included if it had been written in, say, 1946. And the book could use those details, because at 109 pages, it feels very short. I finished it in a day.
The big problem is one that I think most modern readers will face: the feeling that I've seen it all before. While Night might be one of the grandaddies of the genre, I grew up reading several brutally vivid personal accounts of the Holocaust, and also experiencing it though other media, like comics and film. Heck, I've been to a concentration camp. Thus, while the events depicted in Night are horrible-a night death march through falling snow is particularly vivid- they weren't much different than what you would get in any other treatment of the subject, and that greatly diminished the impact the book could have on me. So, in short, go watch Schindler's List again rather than reading this.