Monday, August 16, 2010

...if there were enough tarragon around.

Current book: None
Pages read: None

I don't have anything exciting to say about literature in general. Instead, I'll give you an update on what I'm currently reading while we're waiting for Ayn Rand to filter through the library system.

Impatient with Desire, by Gabrielle Burton, which totally sounds like porn, is, in fact, very far from it. It's a novel about the Donner party told from Tamsin Donner's point of view. It's related in journal entries and letters, which normally isn't a trope I'm particularly fond of, but the epistolary form is narrative enough that it works in this book.

Anyway, I'm surprised to find that I'm really enjoying it. Burton does an excellent job of capturing her protagonist's voice, and an even more masterful job of spinning out the suspense about how the party got itself into its famous cannibalistic dilemma. I have not yet been bored, nor have I been frustrated with the decisions of the main character. Frankly, the only thing I've wondered about is why, after subsisting on boiled oxen hides (which I didn't even know you could eat) for several weeks, they didn't eat any of their dead sooner. I mean, I know, I know, taboos, but starving is starving, guys. Tamsin herself is strong, rational, compelling, and even, at times, inspiring. Her story is impressive in that it puts her far ahead of her time in standing up for her own rights, being an independent earner, and even confronting her husband in a public discussion. And all of this in the context of crossing the Rockies by wagon train. I recommend it.

Also, I thought the members of the Donner party were Mormons, which is completely untrue.


  1. It occurs to me that the anti cannibalism taboo has weakened in recent times. At the time of the Donner party, a very strong taboo against it would have been a survival meme. After all, you're embarking on a long, perilous journey, anticipating a high likelihood of food shortage. It would be nice to have confidence that your fellow travelers would find eating you to be out of the question.

  2. I'd agree with that assessment, and, actually, when I got to the part where they were eating corpses, it was significantly more horrifying than I expected. However, if I were on an excursion that had the chance of encountering danger, I'd want to know that we agreed ahead of time that the dead were fair game for food. Lessens the guilt factor, and frankly, is practical. Of course, there's the question of murder for sustenance, but that's a different story.



A Clockwork Orange (5) A Good Man Is Hard to Find (4) A Passage to India (6) A Room with a View (3) A Separate Peace (2) Absalom Absalom (6) Achebe (5) Adams (3) All the King's Men (8) An American Tragedy (17) Atlas Shrugged (16) Babbitt (8) back from hiatus (1) baking (11) Baldwin (4) Baum (3) Bonfire of the Vanities (6) borderline (12) Brideshead Revisited (9) Burgess (5) Burroughs (1) canon (1) Capote (6) Cat's Cradle (3) Cather (19) cheesecake (4) Chopin (4) Conrad (5) cooking (25) Death Comes for the Archbishop (6) DeLillo (6) Dreiser (17) du Maurier (2) Edith Wharton (1) emergency (2) Ethan Frome (1) excuses (141) Faulkner (9) Felicia DeSmith (3) Finnegan's Wake (1) Fitzgerald (24) For Whom the Bell Tolls (3) Forster (19) Fowles (7) Franny and Zooey (2) Go Tell It on the Mountain (4) Grahame (2) Guest post (3) Hammett (2) Hemingway (5) hiatus (4) holiday (5) horrible (4) Howards End (6) In Cold Blood (6) In Our Time (1) Irving (6) James (25) Jazz (1) Joyce (1) Keneally (7) Kerouac (5) Kim (7) Kipling (7) Knowles (2) Lady Chatterly's Lover (6) Lawrence (26) Lewis (13) Light in August (3) London (3) Look Homeward Angel (9) Lord Jim (5) Mailer (7) Main Street (5) Midnight's Children (9) Miller (6) Morrison (1) Mrs. Dalloway (3) My Antonia (6) not a novel (4) O Pioneers (7) O'Connor (4) On the Road (5) Orlando (4) other books (7) page updates (1) Rabbit Run (4) Rand (24) Rebecca (2) recap (1) Rhys (6) Rushdie (18) Salinger (2) Schindler's List (7) Sinclair (6) Sons And Lovers (12) Sophie's Choice (10) Star Trek (1) Stein (5) Styron (10) Tender is the Night (10) The Age of Innocence (4) The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (5) The Awakening (4) The Beautiful and the Damned (8) The Bostonians (9) The Call of the Wild (3) The Fellowship of the Ring (5) The Fountainhead (8) The French Lieutenant's Woman (7) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2) The Jungle (6) The Lord of the Rings (16) The Maltese Falcon (2) The Naked and the Dead (7) The Naked Lunch (1) The Old Man and the Sea (1) The Portrait of a Lady (10) The Return of the King (6) The Satanic Verses (9) The Two Towers (5) The War of the Worlds (4) The Wind in the Willows (2) The Wings of the Dove (6) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (3) The World According to Garp (6) Things Fall Apart (6) This Side of Paradise (6) Thomas Wolfe (9) To the Lighthouse (3) Tolkien (16) Tom Wolfe (6) Triv (2) Tropic of Cancer (6) unworthy (33) Updike (4) vacation (2) Vonnegut (3) Warren (8) Waugh (9) Wells (4) Wharton (4) Where Angels Fear to Tread (4) White Noise (6) Wide Sargasso Sea (6) Women In Love (8) Woolf (10) worthy (25)