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Editorial Reviews. Review. Joyce meets Hume. Stylized modern free-form poetry is seemlessly fused with a philosophical assesment of postmodern society.
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All evening, I've felt myself digesting it. Felt it seeping from my brain into my blood. So, much of my adoration comes from a craft standpoint. I've read a few reviews complaining about Banks' style and I will say that it's challenging, but really only at the beginning. When I took Jonis Agee Okay The novel is a house, she said, and "long front porch openings" spend too much time outside the house, afraid to go in and, instead, describe, at length, the walk up.

Introduction

I'll admit, I tried reading this book a few months back and couldn't get through the first two pages. But I saw Paul Schrader's film adaptation and found myself thinking about it nearly every day. I can honestly say that the story haunted me. It kept playing in the back of my head. And the last line The ending is there, in all it's depressing, heartbreaking glory. Schrader's 'Affliction' is faithful to Banks' book in every detail; it speaks, I think, to Banks' talent that someone me can know what's coming and still be riveted on each page.

Sure, there is more than a little myth-building going on. And that may be Banks' downfall and, quite possibly, his voice. Shortly after watching Schrader's film, I borrowed a collection of Banks' short stories from my friend Gunter, and had the same problem with the openings to those stories.

I couldn't get 'in.

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I ended-up thinking he was probably more than a little pretentious. Looking through his work, his other novels, I'm more than a little overwhelmed at the idea of touching another one. But this story, the story of 'Affliction,'--not the rise, but the horrible fall of Wade Whitehouse--is too good to stop just because, sometimes, Banks' artistry gets in the way. I also think the myth-building may be necessary, given Banks' choice of narrator--Wade's educated, history teacher of a little brother, Rolfe. I've read more than a few reviews of 'Affliction' labeling Rolfe's narration as dull and overly-detailed.

And, to be honest, there were times when I thought that Rolfe could simply be Banks himself. But there is, I think, a point to Banks' choice of Rolfe as our storyteller. I'm not sure what the point is yet, but I know it's there. Rolfe, as a student and teacher of history, is trying to relate the history of a family he long ago and justly abandoned. And through Rolfe, Banks is trying to tell the history of violent men at large. Sure, this is heady stuff. It's more than a little ambitious; but that's what I like about 'Affliction. You could probably label it "the great American novel," and I doubt you would be wrong, at least in regard to Banks' intentions for 'Affliction.

I love but also dread, because it ties my damn stomach in knots when a character starts down a path that ultimately leads to bloody tragedy. Again, I knew what was coming but I still found myself biting my coffee stirrers, balling my napkins, chewing the insides of my mouth, hoping, praying that Wade would make it out somehow. I felt the same way reading A. Homes' 'Music for Torching,' another great novel with a similar gosh-bang-wow of an ending; I think, though, that Banks has a lot more compassion for his characters than Homes does. WIth Homes, I'm always wondering if I'm not being let in on the entire joke that fact that a novel like 'Music for Torching,' might be, to her, a satire instead of just dead serious kind of pisses me off--but I could just be an idiot.

At least with Banks, pretension and all, you get serious treatment of complex characters. That's what I like about 'Affliction' the most--Banks never lets you think, even for a second, that the citizens of Lawford, New Hampshire, are anything but real people. And that's what makes Wade and his environs all the more terrifying. The characters, the story, how Banks' people speak, they are never trying to make a statement or represent a certain condition. In the act of being, though, they make broader statements about the human condition. I feel like I'm writing in circles.

I'm indulging in a little pretension myself. So I'll stop and just tell you, point-blank, go and read 'Affliction. View all 4 comments. Small town New Hampshire police officer and local well digger Wade Whitehouse is having a crummy week. A crummy week following a crummy life. Overall a powerful novel, with some great characters, dialogue and absolutely fine writing. Then why did it take me three weeks to finish this novel?

Told through the point of view of Wade's youngest brother Rolfe, who has pieced the events together in so horribly an obsessive manner that he can imagine what Wade was eating, thinking and f From Casual Debris. Told through the point of view of Wade's youngest brother Rolfe, who has pieced the events together in so horribly an obsessive manner that he can imagine what Wade was eating, thinking and feeling throughout these tragic events. Rolfe's obsession came about as a result of wanting to understand the horrible tragedy that Wade's life had become, and to come to terms with those final hours leading to horrible acts of violence.

An ingenuous method and wholly believable, yet what slows down the narrative is the vast amount of detail, often repetitive, that I felt were not only needless, but intrusive. Reading through these details I found myself skimming, my thoughts drifting off, wondering why the narrator is so desperate to pound certain points across, as well as certain minor details. The more he pounded, the less I was inclined to buy into his theories, as though we were kids in the schoolyard and he wanted so badly for me to believe his incredibly tall tale that to help convince me he was being insistent, nodding his head aggressively and staring at me as though daring me to disbelieve.

Yet because I trusted him at the beginning, this insistence was simply annoying, and I wanted to tell him to just go on with bloody story already. How exhausting, to the point that I was longing for the schoolyard bell to ring and quiet the little bugger. And yet it is a powerful novel with some great moments. I just wonder if there's an abridged version available somewhere Aug 24, Julie Christine rated it really liked it Shelves: This is a dark, disturbing book but so compelling. Wade Whitehouse is caught up in a maelstrom of violence and self-destruction that is certain to end in a horrific last stand.

The story is told with great care by his younger brother and is set in a New Hampshire town in the midst of a shrill winter. Banks once again holds me in the spell of his masterful prose. Nov 17, Ubik 2. Apr 22, Joey Gold rated it really liked it. I half-expected something like "Mystic River"; a manly tale of complex relationships against a gritty scenery.

This book, however, is different in the way it goes deep into Wade, the main character. Although the landscape is rough and bleak, the way Russell Banks explores Wade's psyche is anything but virile. The atmosphere is pessimistic. Even when an occasional bright color beams its way in, such as the presence of Wade's joyful girlfriend Margie or that of a Halloween party, the tone and the rhythm of the language is always quite dour. Self-pity is in my opinion the main venom that causes Wade's misfortunes.

Throughout most of the book he tries to ignore an ongoing toothache. I think this pain symbolizes the sort-of "macho" modesty Wade is afflicted with. I think there's a Walt Whitman element in this book, in the way Banks treats nothing as obvious or trivial. In other words, he "gets" into details; techniques of snow plowing, histories of statues, sudden brief biographies of minor characters.

These passages add to the atmosphere but aren't strictly related to the storyline. The novel "Stoner" by John Williams is a great example of how to incorporate, or "sneak in" indirect details without distracting or overwhelming the reader. Glenn Whitehouse, Wade's father, is a fantastic character. Along with Wade, Glenn is the most complete character in the book. Most of the supporting cast, such as Wade's younger brother and the narrator , Lillian — his ex-wife, Jack — his workmate, etc. Glenn, on the other hand, hardly utters five sentences in the book and maybe a dozen or so muttered curses and raging snarls , but leaves the biggest impression.

Needless to say, this is an imperfect yet powerful book. If it were a piece of music — maybe "Nebraska" by Bruce Springsteen or a great Neil Young song comes to mind. Something that is recorded with a rough, ragged sound but nevertheless has undeniable emotional energy. Leggendo il meraviglioso "Tormenta" di Russell Banks ho riprovato vividamente quella sensazione di inconfessabile ammirazione preadolescenziale, finalmente libera dal protetto perbenismo dell'educazione provinciale e rivisitata alla luce dell'esperienza di un adulto.

In ogni caso si tratta di un romanzo che consiglierei senza dubbi, probabilmente uno dei migliori letti in questo Jun 03, Marika rated it really liked it. Take a guy that wants to be good, wants the simple things most people want --home, family, job. Then watch as life beats him up. As spirals will do, this one starts out slow and gentle, but unrelentingly picks up speed and dumps its victim out in hell. I guess it isn't a unique story. What sold it for me was the total believability of the main character, Wade. I don't actually know anyone like him, but I "know" him. I see him everywhere, just trying to keep it together but ne So sad.

I see him everywhere, just trying to keep it together but never quite managing to gain ground. For every success story, there are probably dozens of Wades who want to succeed but can't -- no means, no coping skills. Then layer on the depressed rural town in the book and outside my window, snow flying and wind blowing in the book and outside my window, rifles cracking in the book and outside my window You get the idea.

All in all, an excellently done character study. Am I reading too much into it when I say I believe he chooses his victims carefully, if subconsciously? Of all the people in that town who would have made good targets, Wade only kills the man he once was and the man he was becoming Was he committing suicide in some "acceptable" manner? Or was he murdering himself? I've scanned a bunch of community reviews and I don't see anyone else suggesting this interpretation.

Affliction was the first novel I have read by Russell Banks. This is a difficult novel and a difficult author to which to describe my reactions. There is a realism here that some part of me feels that I should appreciate and should benefit from. Similar small town trying to survive given the l Affliction was the first novel I have read by Russell Banks. Similar small town trying to survive given the loss of the historical businesses that created it in the first place. Most inhabitants of the world that Russell Banks creates are just surviving.

The story, though, is very well told for the most part, and there is depth and a richness to the characters. I enjoyed the writing; I found it simple, unpretentious and consistent with the story being told.


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I think one of my GR friends said that she needed to see growth in the main characters. There are certainly some lessons that can be learned, but struggled to relate to them. So while I respected and admired the end result and found it somewhat engaging, I am not drawn to it and am not sure I will read more of Russell Banks. There is just too much more to enjoy. Sep 02, Jennifer rated it liked it. Banks' book starts off a bit slow with the overwhelming details of the town dwellers and the locale in NH.

BAD READER

It helps but slows down the narrative before we're able to get to the heart of the story. Even the family conflict and addiction that becomes such a curse for Wade is presented almost halfway through the book culminating in a lot happening in the last few chapters. I enjoyed Banks' writing and the details we get into this freezing, working class town that tends to break people down emotiona Banks' book starts off a bit slow with the overwhelming details of the town dwellers and the locale in NH.

I enjoyed Banks' writing and the details we get into this freezing, working class town that tends to break people down emotionally and physically over time considering many don't seem to leave unless pressed. The story is told by Wade's brother from what he considers to be Wade's POV considering they are almost one in the same on most counts.

And with inserts of his interviewing people and how much information was gained a vivid picture is created of what would become Wade's downfall and a mystery that others don't want to dwell on, but that our narrator, Rolfe, needs to find answers to in the end. Definitely a good book on addiction and how easily things can turn on a dime.

Aug 24, Snotchocheez rated it really liked it. As I sit here typing this, I recalled why I chose to re-read this book: Banks seems to have cornered the "familial abuse fiction" market "The Sweet Hereafter" also immediately comes to mind but he does it so well and so thoughtfully that he doesn't bludgeon the reader over the head with the abusive relationships well, on second thought, maybe he does, but he tempers it with well-thought-out musings on whence the abuse occurs.

Sep 29, Ray Catellier rated it it was amazing. I remember how poignant the performances of the actors in the film version with Nick Nolte and James Coburn. I can relate and sympathize with Wade Whitehouse, with his problem with anger, depression and alcohol issues, and how Wade can spiral out of control. One could think of Wade as a 'monster' and a bad person, but I don't see him as this at all.

I see Wade as a wonderful man, but who has suffered a great amount and given a raw deal in life. Wade, just like all of us, needs someo Wonderful book. Wade, just like all of us, needs someone to believe in him. I see him as the least egotistical character in this book, while his brother Rolfe, sister Lena and mother are selfish, turning a blind eye to their father's violence. I also see Wade as a man who loves his daugther Jillian very much, but just was never given the tools to learn how to be a good father, which he desperately wants to be. What meaneth the river of water which our father saw?

And I said unto them that the water which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water. True to the words of the Spirit, Nephi is shown the same thing that his father saw. But, as Nephi tells us with his pervasive language of looking and seeing , the vision is something that is experienced. Lehi missed some details of the vision that Nephi saw because he was paying attention elsewhere. What Nephi does not tell us explicitly is that while his mind was swallowed up looking at the river of filthy water, he inevitably missed some details that his father saw.

Seen in this way, this revelation by vision is a personal experience. The narrator can only provide us with the details that he is aware of. And he certainly cannot provide us with a reasonable telling of the vision as we might experience it. The underlying message is that only in receiving the vision for ourselves can we approach the revelation of God. Only in our experience can we find greater understanding even while we recognize that our own vision may be different and potentially even contradictory to what others have seen.

Nephi cannot give us the vision; he can only reflect on its meaning and interpret it for us. What is the tension that we see? Nephi is both providing us with a text that is true, based on his experiences — the things which he saw and heard — and yet at the same time, at least from a postmodernist perspective, Nephi is undermining the authority and the value of his experience as truth: What he does give us is woefully incomplete and potentially misunderstood and misinterpreted by those who do not seek the revelation for themselves either by pursuing the vision as Nephi did or by reading with the Spirit as Nephi later explains.

From a postmodernist perspective, Nephi unveils [Page 64] himself as the unreliable narrator as he begins to dismantle the assumptions he brought with him as he began his text. Most authors provide us with an introduction that helps provide the reader with some basic understanding of the text they are about to read and how to make sense of it. Brian Richardson describes the traditional beginning in this way:.

Before the rise of modernism, most authors discursively framed the opening of the text and ensured that the first pages conveyed a sense of the beginning. The more a work aspired to a totality, the more natural and definitive the beginning would be made to appear. Nephi seems at first glance to follow this pattern.

He wants us to understand that he has made a beginning. And so he introduces his narrator character himself:. I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.

Yea, I make a record in the language [Page 65] of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians. And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.

Here Nephi gives us what we might see as appropriate expectations for reading his text. Just as importantly, we start with a sense of totality. As we proceed through the text, we encounter a sequence of narrative beginnings, 27 as Nephi, unexpectedly, addresses his audience the readers directly about an appropriate set of expectations for his narrative. First, he tells us that what we might have been expecting perhaps what we should be expecting, given his first beginning is not what we will find:. And now I, Nephi, do not give the genealogy of my fathers in this part of my record; neither at any time shall I give it after upon these plates which I am writing; for it is given in the record which has been kept by my father; wherefore, I do not write it in this work.

But some of these expectations seem clear. For I desire the room that I may write of the things of God. For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved. Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world, I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world. Shortly after this, Nephi returns again to his audience, with yet another set of expectations and potentially, a third beginning.

And now, as I have spoken concerning these plates, behold they are not the plates upon which I make a full account of the history of my people; … Upon the other plates should be engraven an account of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions [Page 67] of my people; wherefore these plates are for the more part of the ministry; and the other plates are for the more part of the reign of the kings and the wars and contentions of my people.

Nevertheless, I have received a commandment of the Lord that I should make these plates, for the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people. Finally, at the very end of his text, Nephi provides us with a final beginning — another reversal of past expectations along with a new set of appropriate expectations. And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost, the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.

But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught. But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people. In many ways, this end to his writing stands in contrast to his first beginning.

By its last beginning, the text labels itself as weakness. It goes from truth to desire and intention, to a state of representing an unknown purpose, and finally at the end, to weakness. And with each change of the text, our investment as its audience changes as well. Nephi does provide his audience with two interpretive strategies. The first is described near the beginning of the lengthy excerpts from Isaiah:.

But that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning. If Nephi has invited his audience to read without the special knowledge needed to understand the texts as their authors intended, he does explain that they can re-contextualize them within their own communities. His second interpretive strategy appears near the end of the Isaiah excerpts:.

For because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy. It is certainly punctuated that way. After my seed and the seed of my brethren shall have dwindled in unbelief, and shall have been smitten by the Gentiles; yea, after the Lord God shall have camped against them round about, and shall have laid siege against them with a mount, and raised forts against them; and after they shall have been brought down low in the dust, even that they are not, yet the words of the righteous shall be written, and the prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten.

And while much of this text comes from Isaiah 29, the rest comes from 1 Nephi In recognizing the earlier text from Nephi being used here, our perspective shifts. We are no longer reading just a commentary on Isaiah. Nephi understands that his own prophecy is not about Jerusalem as Isaiah 29 is. In using Isaiah to interpret his own text, Nephi has given them an entirely different framework for understanding Isaiah — one based on the premise of likening the scriptures unto themselves. In his second beginning, Nephi tells us of his desire and his intention:.

I desire the room that I may write of the things of God. Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.

Nephi: A Postmodernist Reading

He cannot move an unknown intention into the text. When we arrive at his final beginning, it comes as no surprise that he first apologizes to us: And despite having once again gone a bit off course, he tells us: Nephi starts his text by lending his presence: On the journey of his writing, he discovers that it is true only in a uniquely personal way. His audience, should they follow his suggestions, will discover their own revelation, their own experience, and their difference from his.

This movement through which the book, articulated by the voice of the poet, is folded and bound to itself, the movement through which the book becomes a subject in itself and for itself, is not critical or speculative reflection, but is, first of all, poetry and history. For in its representation of itself, the subject is shattered and opened. Writing is itself written, but also ruined, made into an abyss, in its own representation. As Nephi writes about his writing, as Nephi explores in his text the meaning of his experiences — his visions and his reading, he shatters the subject of his writing.

But Nephi also finds a way to save it, just as he found a way to save Isaiah. And while Nephi writes in weakness, in reading with the Spirit, the text is made new:. And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them. It may seem a bit odd perhaps to end a text with a beginning. I began the discussion on beginnings with a description of the pre—modern narrative. At each step we are encouraged to change both our understanding of the text and the way in which we read it.

Whatever knowledge and beliefs we bring as we read, the text challenges our expectations. For Wolfgang Iser, this is part of the nature of literary texts:. For this reason, expectations are scarcely ever fulfilled in truly literary texts. If they were, then such texts would be confined to the individualization of a given expectation, and one would inevitably ask what such an intention was supposed to achieve.

More often than not, the very clarity of such texts will make us want to free ourselves from their clutches. We see a text, fully realizing its own paradox only in its concluding moments. And each time, the memory of the text and what it meant to us becomes the new background from which we start. This means, first, that the text we read is not a naked text whose meaning displays itself to anyone who would see it. It is a text that speaks in certain ways to a certain groups of people. We read with-others as part of some groups. That is a rabbinic rule of reading that is being repossessed by postmodern scholars.

Recommend it to everyone. May 27, Todd rated it it was amazing Shelves: What a fun book. Andrew Boyd turns the insipid genre of daily affirmation and inspiration books on its ear with his mildly sardonic anti-inspirational message that is actually sometimes quite powerfully inspirational. It's a skeptics guide through the mundane heartbreaks of life. The book is filled with existential whimsy and giddy nihilism. Yet, Boyd doesn't trip you up leaving you feeling as if there is no hope, rather he suggests that we can use our hopelessness to transform the world, providi What a fun book.

Yet, Boyd doesn't trip you up leaving you feeling as if there is no hope, rather he suggests that we can use our hopelessness to transform the world, providing that we are always willing to admit to our own egoism. Jul 18, Sparrow added it. Jul 04, Danna rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Andrew Boyd's "Daily Afflictions" takes the positive affirmation craze by the arm and twists it behind its back.


  • Affliction.
  • Increasing understanding of scripture one article at a time;
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  • It's a darkly funny collection of daily afflictions that doesn't take itself too seriously. Jan 13, Mina Ajjam rated it it was amazing. In the air, as on the ground, behind every this or that lies all or nothing. This nothingness is papered over with illusion, habit, and little rituals until something slices through the wrapper--until that moment when you hear the pilot's strained voice and feel your gut muscles clench.

    Will you grow huge enough to contain the hugeness of the moment? Or will you break apart in freakish panic? In flight, as in life, you live one step from oblivion. You stand on nothing but your will. Your only se In the air, as on the ground, behind every this or that lies all or nothing. Your only security is to embrace insecurity.

    So the next time you fly, step on board as though entering a sacred battlefield, place your tray tables in their upright locked position, and stare straight past the pretzels and the chit-chat into the jaws of the absolute. The airline that doesn't kill me makes me stronger. Nov 16, Luci rated it it was amazing. Daily Afflictions is a brilliant response to all the Daily Affirmation books for us more cynical and realistic people. Divided into subjects like love, family, career, etc. I read the book cover to cover but expect that I will be rereading certain pages over and over again - when in need of answers and understanding and when I just want to have a chuckle and the absurdity of Daily Afflictions is a brilliant response to all the Daily Affirmation books for us more cynical and realistic people.

    I read the book cover to cover but expect that I will be rereading certain pages over and over again - when in need of answers and understanding and when I just want to have a chuckle and the absurdity of our lives and the agony of being connected to everything in the universe.

    Also, I bet I'll be giving this book as a gift to so many of my friends. Jul 20, Carol N. I got this book just when I needed it. Jul 13, Liannis rated it it was amazing. This book is hilarious. It serves as a tongue-in-cheek response to all the overly schmaltzy and upbeat affirmation books out there. Even though the title itself is pessimistic, don't think that the content has to be. It manages to be fairly upbeat itself. Feb 25, M. Caschetta rated it it was amazing.

    I love this book and keep it around for frequent rereading. May 15, Sara rated it really liked it Shelves: Sometimes we introverts really just need to sit back and laugh at ourselves. This is a good book to do that with. May 24, Jen Grover rated it really liked it. A Parody of a daily prayer book, this made me my day. Would pick up again and flip through just for the smile factor. Jun 19, Hamad rated it liked it Recommends it for: In this little pager of post-modern nihilistic ideas and Nietzsche with a Kafka sprinkled here and there quotes, Boyd does a convincing job of showing the negative inherent in everything and how to deal with it without rebelling against it.

    The premise is buy-able, but most of the ideas are unoriginal and many are even repeated within the different sub-headings of 'Life', 'Family', 'Love' etc.