Sophie's Choice (was Book Meme)

Ika blake at
Mon Jan 10 08:05:27 EST 2005


>> Which was such a startling juxtaposition of one of my favourite pieces
>> of
>> writing *ever* (the Benjamin - Kyra, have you ever heard the Laurie
>> Anderson song which is basically that paragraph set to music?) with the
>> Styron, which has a very strong claim to being the book I hate most in
>> the
>> world, that I couldn't resist commenting.

> Really?  Neato, I like being a force of serendipity.
> I have heard of the song but have never heard the song.  I'd certainly
> like to.

(I have it on an .mp3 so email me offlist if you'd like me to get it to
you some way - I could email it or burn it to CD, if you like. It's

> But, okay, now I have to ask.  I first read _Sophie's Choice_ when I was
> sixteen, for school, and when my uncle saw that I had to read it, he said,
> "That book has one great major flaw, which completely ruins it for me."
> But, of course, we agreed that he wouldn't tell me what the flaw was until
> I finished the book.  Somehow, he never got around to telling me.  I think
> I did ask him, years later, and he couldn't remember.

Oh no! How frustrating!

> So now I'm
> wondering if you know, since you hate it so much.  I can't say I love the
> book - it has a lot of things that are serious minor flaws (if that's a
> legitimate phrase) - but I certainly don't hate it, either, so maybe you
> can tell me why you hate it, and I'll see if any of it sounds like the one
> great major flaw.

I doubt it, I'm afraid: I read it when I was around eighteen or twenty, I
think, after, like, *years and years* of build-up from my dad ("This is
the best book ever written and it will make you so sad you hadn't better
read it till you're older..." - he used to couple it with King Lear a lot
["King Lear and Sophie's Choice are the saddest books in the world and
you'd better wait till you're older..."]). Anyway, so I'd read and seen
King Lear and really liked it, and Sophie's Choice was (a) a huge
disappointment after all that and (b) perhaps the first book I'd ever read
whose violent misogyny had really upset me. I was going to say the first
violently misogynist book I'd ever read, but that seems unlikely: but it
was the first time I'd ever really taken it personally, so to speak. I
just vividly remember the bit where he's talking about how he used to go
to *dances* when he was a *teenager*, and he describes the *teenage girls*
who used to dance with him and then *cruelly* not allow him to have sex
with them as "loathsome little vampires". Which I found a bit much, given
that I was a teenage girl who didn't *want* to feel obligated to have sex
with every boy I'd ever danced with/said hello to/been female near.

Also, I knew what the 'choice' was and had read Anne Frank's diary and
Maus and so on by then, so I'd seen (what I thought were) better
evocations of the bad stuff that happened in the Shoah.

So unless your grandfather thinks violent misogyny is the fatal flaw
(which I only doubt because my father still can't see the violent misogyny
in the book, and - not to lump all over-60s men into the same category - I
suspect that's to do with his gender & generation), I can't help you,
because I just couldn't see past it at the time (and I don't think the
book is good enough to motivate me to do so).

Love, Ika

"The White Cobra will take great pleasure in the black velvet mole."
- *Avon: A Terrible Aspect*.
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