You know when there are those authors who write things, and the things they write are things that you've thought about often, but have never really said out loud to anyone because they don't live inside your brain and therefore would probably not get it because they've never thought about these things before. Joyce Carol Oates? It's like she gets me. And I'm not saying that I completely relate to her female protagonist/narrator, because she's a little bit too... I don't want to say clingy, but maybe too dependent on this guy she's in love with, but then again I've never been in love so maybe I just can't relate yet.
But anyway. This Joyce getting me thing isn't down to one character, or one story, but has built up over reading, what, 8 books by her over the last few years, and I think all of them have included at least one thing that I've thought about and never really verbalised to anyone. Here's the thing in I'll Take You There that got me:
"We never see ourselves, at all; we have no clear idea of ourselves; our mirror reflections reflect only what we wish to see, or can bear to see, or punish ourselves by seeing. Nor can we trust others to see us either. For they too see what they wish to see, with their imperfect eyes."And this is something I think about LOADS, because I'm very aware of how we hardly ever see our own faces, so we don't really have a concept of what we look like when we're talking and laughing and basically just living, which is a good thing because I feel like everyone would be a lot more self-conscious if they did, but also, it's just so weird, because really we have no idea of what we look like at all. And then on top of that, you can't really know what others see when they look at you, because even if you're all dolled up and have bleached your hair and are wearing an inch of foundation; that guy you think is hot could be thinking that you look like a fucking freak, even if you think you're all hot. Hence how beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and being superficial and vain is really really stupid.
So anyway, this whole 'I think JCO gets me' thing might just be down to the fact that we both think maybe just a tiny bit too much, and in a way, that's what a lot of this book is about. Our narrator (isn't it annoying that I'm not using her name? That's because we never find out her real one, and I can't be bothered to look at what her pretend name for a bit of the book was) is a philosophy major, and there are a lot of philosophical concepts and things discussed which made me not a little gleeful because of my love of the wisdom and all, but none of this really gets in the way of the things that Oates is trying to discuss in the story (not that I would mind if it did. But some people might.) And man, what isn't she trying to discuss?! A major thing is the continual forging of one's identity, and the pitfalls that can accompany this as well as its eventual advantages, as well as looking for approval with all the wrong people, falling in love with an unsuitable man, and, just in a general sense, trying to figure out what the fuck to do and how the fuck to live. So, you know, nothing major.
Time to be critical now though. And much as I hate to be critical about Joyce (she GETS me, you know?!) I do have to say that I was underwhelmed by the first (of three) sections, which is never a good sign in a book. It's not that it's necessarily bad, it's just that... ok, something that I learned a long time ago is that I don't give a fuck about fitting in with others, if that comes with having to sacrifice doing what I want to do (look at me being like a rebel outcast! But really, I did learn that when I was about 11). And the first section of the book is basically all about that- our narrator joins a sorority and yet doesn't know how to act there and so is never at ease with these girls who have no regard for her anyway. And I was basically just like *eye roll* just stop caring about what they think and do! Which, thankfully, she does, and that makes the other two sections of the book much more enjoyable. The way I read this book was: it took me about 2 weeks to read the first section, and the other two I read in like a day. So, yeah- not a great start, but it's made up for later.
Basically I'm in love with Joyce Carol Oates and she therefore can do no wrong in my eyes. If you've already read some Oates and you weren't a fan, this is pretty much business as usual (and what a fine business it is, too!) so you probably shouldn't bother. But if you haven't? I feel like this would be a pretty good one to start with, as long as you ignore the cover and aren't expecting pretty weddings because there will be none of that. More... endless soul searching, less wedding. Ok? Good.