Sunday, October 2, 2011

Jenny's Book 10: Seeing


If I were to make a list of the most unforgettable and harrowing novels I've ever read, Jose Saramago's Blindness would definitely be in the top 5.

We've discussed before how easy it is to forget the salient details of the books we've read. I can look at a book and know that I've read it have only the vaguest recollection of the major details. Plot, character, setting, it all just blurs together at some point. And then there's Blindness. I have vivid--VIVID--recall of certain scenes and characters from that book.

I read it back in what must have been 1998, because it was my first year at that dingy little middle school in Berkeley. There's something about that book that has always stuck with me. I know that you've read it, and I believe we talked about what it all means.

Needless to say, I picked up the sequel, Seeing, at some point. My copy of it is a hardcover, but I honestly don't remember if I bought it right away when it came our or at some point later. I've never read Seeing because I knew I'd want to reread Blindness first. I was curious about the accuracy of my memory, but mostly I'm interested to see if it has the same effect on me. Some books gain emotional power with rereading, while others lose their magic. I wonder which category Blindness will fall into?

I actually started Blindness today and am about 60 pages in. So far, it's just as engaging as I remember. Already my experience of reading it is very different. One particularly poignant realization is about the first man to go blind. He's 38. This would have meant nothing to me when I read it at 25. But I'm about to be 38 in just a few weeks. Something about that gave me the shivers!

Also, as I was looking for images for this post, I realized that they made a movie about Blindness. I bet that is one bleak motherfucker. I think I'll skip that.


* This might make for an interesting blog post. What are the most harrowing novels you've ever read? For sure Toni Morrison's Beloved and Cormac McCarthy's The Road would be on my list.

1 comment:

  1. I actually don't remember Blindness very well... except for the a few particularly harrowing scenes and also... the mental images of the conditions of the building they were in. That stuck with me.

    A couple of years ago, Judy was here and looking for a read and I gave her this book. I told her it was really difficult and gave her the appropriate warnings and she went for it.

    As she was reading it, she mentioned two things to me that I absolutely did not remember about the book: 1. None of the characters have names and 2. It's pretty much a wall of words, with very few paragraph breaks, little punctuation other than periods, etc. And I thought, "Wow. That really must have been a good book for me to have read it and loved it." Because those two literary techniques would normally drive me batshit.

    When I saw that they were making a movie out of this book, I immediately said, "No. Fucking. Way." I maintain this stance.

    As for harrowing novels... I don't think I can contribute much to that discussion, because I generally stay away from books one would call "harrowing." ;) I've been struggling with Hunger Games -- I feel like everyone I know is recommending those books, but I don't think I can take it. Someone said, "It's YA. How bad can it be?" Oh, bad. I'm a wuss.

    I'll think about this question, though -- I can probably dredge something up.

    Oh, yeah. Just thought of one.

    Flowers in the Attic.