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BOOK REVIEW:

Incidental inventions

Call Number: 
858 F373

Over the past few years Elena Ferrante has become very well known for her Neapolitan Novel Series, and for the recent television dramatization of the books, which LAPL owns:  part one.  Season two begins March 16 on HBO.  She has written other novels which can be found here. In 2017 The Guardian Newspaper suggested that Ferrante write a weekly column. Initially she was "flattered and at the same time frightened ... afraid of the weekly deadline ... afraid of having to write even if I didn't feel like it ... In the end, curiosity won out."  It was not the type of writing she had done, but she was open to the proposal if the newspaper would send her a series of questions.  The short, pithy and often humorous columns are arranged chronologically: January 20, 2018 - January 12, 2019.  Some of the titles are enticing and provocative. In  these short pieces Ferrante's perceptions about life are just as sharp, surprising and candid as they are in her novels.

With deliberation and humor, she discusses "Odious Women" and why they are that way. "Is it possible, people say to me at times, that you don't know even one bitch?  I know some, of course:  literature is full of them and so is everyday life. But, all things considered, I'm on their side." However there is more to this essay, and it is about how women live in a world of men, and what the implications are for both men and women interacting professionally and privately.

Ferrante makes all of us think about the overuse of "The Exclamation Point," in which her stand against this punctuation mark takes on political and literary significance:  "But I still think that 'I hate you' has power, an emotional honesty, that 'I hate you!!!' does not ... At least in writing we should avoid acting like fanatical world leaders who threaten, bargain, make deals, and then exult when they win, fortifying their speeches with the profile of a nuclear missile at the end of every wretched sentence." 

Other topics analyzed are the nostalgia that some young adults have for days gone by, when there were rules to follow, and people knew their place. Ferrante responds that some of those implicit rules had racist and sexist preconceptions about others; on being pregnant, she confesses that she was " ... a terrible mother, a great mother," and had a problem adjusting to being pregnant because it took her away from her "passion for writing."  However, after adapting to her situation, she found that, " ... nothing is comparable to the joy, the pleasure, of bringing another living creature into the world." Other topics are about poetry and prose; the weather; jealousy; some background information about the themes in the Neapolitan Novels. As with her fiction, there is nothing ordinary in any of her points of view, and readers will be startled and delighted with Ferrante's perspectives. One sentence exemplifies Ferrante's originality, "The future that interests me is a future of absolute openness to the other, to any living being, to everything endowed with the breath of life."

For those who appreciate and love her novels, a new one is due in June 2020, The lying life of adults.

This book is available in e-Media.

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