If there’s one thing I’ll never forgive Stephanie Meyer for (besides general misogynistic grossness), it’s ruining the Brontës for me.
Let me tell you a little story, in belated honor of Valentine’s Day. I did not read Jane Eyre until my sophomore year of college. I read it because I was required to read it for a course, and if I hadn’t been forced to read it then, it probably would have been years before I got around to it. I had read (and adored) Wuthering Heights, but the things I liked about Wuthering Heights were not things I expected to find in Jane Eyre. I thought at the time that I only enjoyed love stories with a twist. Star-crossed love, obsessive love, unrequited love—they all fascinate me; what I didn’t like (and still, for the most part, don’t like) in a story is happily-ever-ever love. I knew Jane Eyre was more or less a happily-ever-after kind of romance, and as a 19 year old with pretensions of academic seriousness, I didn’t expect to like it. Continue reading
Generally speaking, I’m wary of attempts to defend literature (or the humanities generally) on utilitarian grounds. It’s not that I don’t think studying literature can be useful; I think—naively, maybe, but honestly—that it can be transformative for both the individual and for society at large. That said, I would still argue that studying it is worthwhile even if it weren’t, strictly speaking, useful. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pleasure or even escapism, and frankly, the entire idea that the primary goal of education is utility strikes me as puritanical (sometimes literally—the increasing pressure to make education wholly vocational feels deeply intertwined with the Protestant work ethic). Continue reading
Here’s a bold statement: reading Your Face in Mine made me want to crack open my long-neglected copy of Derrida (or, perhaps, my less neglected—but no less dense—copy of Judith Butler).
To those who aren’t theory junkies, I say: don’t worry (and I sympathize). It is entirely possible to read and enjoy Jess Row’s debut novel without a background in deconstruction. It is, however, a mark of Row’s strength and ingenuity as a writer that he is able to engage with some very complex philosophical thought while steadily sharpening the novel’s gripping, thriller-like edge.
This is, of course, to say nothing of the fact that Your Face in Mine is a novel about race written by a white man. As you might expect, reviewers have been quick to trumpet Row’s daring. Continue reading