Thursday, March 13, 2008
The Glass Castle
I finished Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle last week, but I just realized I never did follow up from my initial impressions of the book. So here are my thoughts on a few more of those questions from the reader's guide:
Though it portrays an incredibly hardscrabble life, The Glass Castle is never sad or depressing. Discuss the tone of the book, and how do you think that Walls achieved that effect?
I think her tone is very matter-of-fact. She told the stories of her childhood without self-pity, and without much judgement of her parents. I do think as she grows older in the book, the tone becomes darker, and you can see more of her feelings of disappointment in her parents. But overall, Walls does a remarkable job of telling it like it was, and of allowing some of the unique and positive qualities of her mom and dad to shine through.
In college, Jeannette is singled out by a professor for not understanding the plight of homeless people; instead of defending herself, she keeps quiet. Why do you think she does this?
At that point in her life, Walls is embarrassed by her parents. She doesn't want to have to explain or justify her parents' actions, and be put in a position of having to defend them. Because despite everything, she still loves them.
For many reviewers and readers, the most extraordinary thing about The Glass Castle is that, despite everything, Jeannette Walls refuses to condemn her parents. Were you able to be equally nonjudgmental?
No, I'm afraid I'm not that good of a person. There were times when I liked them because of their intelligence and creativity, but I still judge them for making their children's lives difficult, and for the risk they so often placed them in.
Like Mary Karr's Liars' Club and Rick Bragg's All Over But the Shoutin', Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle tells the story of a wildly original (and wildly dysfunctional) family with humor and compassion. Were there other comparable memoirs that came to mind?
Yup, Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight.
Normally, I'm not much of a memoir person. Unless it involves travel, then I'm totally into it. But this book (and Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight) are two wonderful examples of the genre. Both authors have unique experiences that they tell without pity. They drew me into their childhoods and left me impressed by both their resilience and their writing skill.