SPOILER ALERT: Spoiler Alert in place for The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Do classics need spoiler alerts?
I am a sucker for star crossed lovers and romantic era stories. I thoroughly enjoy the classics. Wuthering Heights is my all time favorite novel very closely followed by Little Women. Frankenstein was chilling and Dracula genuinely scared me. Three of the four books I just mentioned were written by women and maybe I am biased. Werther is not going to make my list of top ten and least of its problems is the misogyny. It may be obvious to point out that a novel written in the late 1770s is misogynistic but I feel a need to mention it to maintain a holistic review.
I really enjoyed Goethe’s writing style, I am definitely open to reading other books by him. I wasn’t too upset by the plot either. Considering it was the first of its kind, the plot has been very well paced and comes along quiet well. What I didn’t enjoy is the character of Werther himself. The first half Werther is at least tolerable but the second half Werther is insufferable. He is nothing but a creepy, whiny stalker. His infatuation with Lotte is sudden and obsessive. Though Lotte’s personality and beauty are described in great detail, she comes across as nothing but ditzy. Albert is there.
I liked the descriptions of nature – the linden trees, the mountains, the suicidal ideation but was put off by all the Christianity. I was impressed by the observations of class behaviors especially because it was written in a time before class was even a thing. Werther’s isolation makes you sympathetic until he starts ranting about how all the people around him are foolish. He seemed extremely pretentious for someone with a low self-esteem. His suicidal ideation is very characteristic of the Romantic era and I think the Werther mania that followed the publication of the book emerged from this ideation.
To summarize – Albert is no Edgar, Lotte is no Cathy and Werther is no Heathcliff.
Spoiler Alert: This is a review for Roxane Gay’s Hunger. There may be spoilers.
A lot has been said about Roxane Gay’s memoir, a lot of praise and a lot of acclaim. All of it is more than justified. I have been a huge fan of her writing since I read Bad Feminist. Hunger is on an entirely different level. Her writing is raw, you feel her pain and her journey. It makes you uncomfortable, sad, empathetic, empowered and also vulnerable all at the same time.
One of the most important things I think the book deals with is the result of trauma over several years. We always hear about these ‘success’ stories – how so and so went through this horrible event and are now healthy, how they survived and put the past behind them. We hear about the immediate effects of trauma. We rarely hear about how trauma breaks you, the very different destructive ways that it effects you. We rarely talk about trauma being carried into adulthood, being triggered several years later, about the phantom pain that is both constant and absent.
I know she wrote this book to tell her story. Learning her story has helped me so much in dealing with my own truths. To know that there is someone out there who may have experienced some of what you are experiencing provides an unknown type of support. It gives you a new perspective when you read someone put your thoughts to words – reading her thoughts about her self esteem, her self image shook me out of my spiral. She put to words the thoughts my brain and my soul spout everyday, and to hear them from somebody else’s mouth made me realize how badly I was treating myself.
I fall under the category of someone that is “forty, fifty pounds overweight”. Yes, I have not had her experiences first hand, but I was able to relate to: her relationship with food; her struggles of sharing space in this world; her wanting to be invisible, but also wanting to occupy space; and her being a feminist, yet not entirely being able to shed the pressures of societal expectations. I understand how my weight is a ‘family problem’, how the concern from loved ones only turns into more baggage you carry.
We as women have hard enough of a time being comfortable in our bodies – add to that the constant expectations from society, family, self can be debilitating. I am thankful for Roxane Gay, I am thankful she told her story, I am thankful I am able to read it and I am thankful for her thoughts that influence so many girls and women out there – me included.