Wild Life

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Wild Life

Post by Stefanie on Thu Dec 01, 2011 3:37 pm

Okay, just tossing out a general question to get the conversation going. Answer or ignore it as you like Smile There seems to be elements of the book people liked and elements that were not liked. What bothered you most and what did you like best?

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Re: Wild Life

Post by bookgazing on Thu Dec 01, 2011 10:59 pm

I'm not much a wild life description person myself (or at least it takes a special description to really grab my attention) so all the lushness I'm sure I was supposed to enjoy got a bit skimmed.

What I liked the best was probably Charlotte's voice and personality. She's so strong and practical, but at the same time crotchetty and rather affected with liberal blackholes in her progressive politics. A real person then and someone who would always provide you with interesting conversation. Oh and the made up profiles of people that are interspersed through the text are great as well, especially as they show Charlotte's great talent for really seeing people, despite her sometimes brusque nature.


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Re: Wild Life

Post by Rebecca H. on Fri Dec 02, 2011 12:15 am

I liked some things about Charlotte and others I didn't; I find the "wild life" she leads pretty appealing -- at least in the abstract! -- and I admired her courage and independence. But at times I got annoyed at the author because I found it hard to believe that such a person could really exist at that time. She struck me as unrealistically modern. I did like the structure of the book very much, even if sometimes I read through the excerpts from Charlotte's fiction a little fast. They got a bit dull. I also really liked the adventure aspect of the story; I was caught up in wondering how Charlotte was going to find her way out of the woods.

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Re: Wild Life

Post by bookgazing on Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:22 am

'found it hard to believe that such a person could really exist at that time.'

Interesting, because I thought that despite making Charlotte a very feminist frontier type lady Gloss keeps Charlotte from being uber-modern liberal. She's very down on other women at times for example. She automatically sees Grace Jones as a lesbian because of her appearance and is worried about her association with her (although she does realise this isn't exactly an enlightened view).

And there were real women like Charlotte around at the time - feminists, going through an earlier version feminism, which sometimes included a rejection of traditionally feminine things, while also raising families as they were expected to. I do think her character's intelliegence (or at least her pursuit of the wirters life) might rely on her having being raised in a very particular set of circumstances, which the author has to contrive. And her character's feminist ideals obviously combine happily with what the modern, female feminist reader is assumed to want...but she strikes me as pretty realistic. If she were totally positive liberal, who completly fit with modern day liberal philosophy I'd be doubting her, but I actually think she's a cleverly written historical character, who the feminist reader is able to both identify with and reject.

And I liked that there were other women in the story who are similar to her (Gracie Jones, umm her homesteader friend with the pipe who name I have forgotten, even Melba has a go at leaving to fid Harriet) so she's not the only interesting, non-traditionally female character in the book. Glad that she didn't end up being saviour of the hour and finding Harriet, now that would have been an ending preaching a certain kind of feminism.

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Re: Wild Life

Post by Rebecca H. on Fri Dec 02, 2011 1:49 pm

Yeah, I can see that she's not exactly perfection as we define it today, and definitely there were feminism was quite developed at that time. I just found the combination of all her qualities -- the nature of her background, her writing, her theorizing, her family, her way of dressing and acting -- to be just too much. For me, this is connected with the book itself feeling like it had too much going on and that it couldn't quite get control of its material. There's the feminist angle, the environmental angle, the fantasy element, the theorizing about writing, the adventure story. The whole thing felt too contrived for my taste.

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Re: Wild Life

Post by Stefanie on Fri Dec 02, 2011 4:36 pm

"Glad that she didn't end up being saviour of the hour and finding Harriet, now that would have been an ending preaching a certain kind of feminism."

I agree with you on this Jodie. I didn't find Charlotte's feminism to be unrealistic either but if the book had ended where she rescued Harriet then I would have been rather miffed at it.

But I also agree with you Rebecca about there being too much going on. I had no trouble with the fantasy element. Growing up in California and having camped in the Pacific Northwest, the "Bigfoot" myth was, and still is to some extent, alive and well. And I remember as a kid being both terrified that I would see Bigfoot while out hiking while also wanting to see him. There are still Bigfoot hunters and people who believe he's out there.

While I enjoyed the bits about writing, I think those fit least of all into the story. They were interesting but superfluous to everything else. They didn't even really reveal much in regard to Charlotte's character.

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Re: Wild Life

Post by bookgazing on Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:02 pm

Oh yes there's a lot going on, all the time, but I actually think I liked all the little diversions sometimes more than the main body of the story. Maybe internet brain wanted short things? Does anyone else read Dr Di's blog: http://doctordi.wordpress.com/ ? Charlotte's chat about the struggles to balance writing and kids made me think of her so much.

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Re: Wild Life

Post by Rohan on Fri Dec 02, 2011 7:36 pm

I struggled with Charlotte (since I haven't finished the book, I guess I should say "am struggling"!). I agree she's realistic, but in a perverse way that is what's bothersome to me--I kept feeling I could smell the author's research too much. As someone who grew up in BC and traveled a lot in the Pacific "Northwest" (for a Candian, it's "southwest"!) I liked the evocations of the landscape but found them too detailed. I have only just reached the real 'fantasy' section but I was feeling as if it took an awfully long time to get there.

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Re: Wild Life

Post by Rebecca H. on Fri Dec 02, 2011 7:44 pm

I almost feel like the fantasy section doesn't need to be there. Yes, the existence of the creatures, or whatever you want to call them, is thematically important, but it's sort of like the novel takes a sharp turn when they appear and heads off into different territory entirely (so to speak).

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Re: Wild Life

Post by Stefanie on Sat Dec 03, 2011 12:09 am

I agree Rohan that it took way too long to get to the sasquatches.

I didn't find there to be a disconnect between the sasquatch family section and the earlier part of the book. We knew it was coming from all the bits and pieces. It does take the novel in a new direction in some ways but I think it also provided Charlotte a different perspective on being a mother. She was also placed in a position of being dependent on them, something in her other life she would never have allowed to happen.

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Re: Wild Life

Post by dsimpson on Sun Dec 04, 2011 11:51 pm

I actually sort of liked Charlotte and thought she was pretty realistic. She did come on strong and in a way she was a little irritating in her superiority but I liked her independence which I think for the time and especially the place would have fit. The diversions/other writings were interesting but I think by the time the sasquatches finally made an appearance I was starting to tire of things--the anticipation of getting there was almost too much. I don't always mind if an author pushes the concept of reality/plausability, but somehow the creatures sort of stretched it all a little bit too much for me. I can totally understand what Gloss set out to do, but maybe Rebecca is right and she was just trying to do too much. I think for me, she being a feminist in that period and place would have given her plenty to write about.

Litlove asked (and I hope she won't mind me sharing them) some interesting questions on my post, and I will share them here:

"I'm really intrigued as to whether the philosophy and the story fit together - what happens to her feminism alone in the woods with the creatures? Does the fantastic part teach her something or undermine her theories?"

I returned my copy of the book to the library (and admit I rushed the ending just a little bit) so I can't go back and look at that last section. It seems the story switched almost from having a feminist slant to being more about the environment, or am I remembering incorrectly?

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Re: Wild Life

Post by bookgazing on Mon Dec 05, 2011 11:28 am

I remember that in the woods there's a big emphasis on Charlotte's relationship with the female sasquatches. Charlotte also likes the fact that she can almost be organised by the sasquatches, rely on their judgement, doesn't she? I seem to remember her saying she could never do that in the real world. And there's some stuff about Charlotte watching the relationship between the adult creatures and the children, feeling sorry that she sometimes begrudges her children time when she's writing.

But otherwise I do think it becomes more about the environment in that section. The logging industry is making it impossible for the creatures to exist unnoticed, humans kills the small sasquatche...

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Re: Wild Life

Post by Stefanie on Mon Dec 05, 2011 11:33 pm

I think the sasquatch part is a lot about the environment, but I think Gloss might be trying for a bit more. Early in the book (page 31 in my copy) so that it is practically a throwaway, there is this passage:

I also frankly wonder why Homer's stories remind me of certain of the white man's fearful fictions of other races. it seems to me men always have endowed the Indian, the Negro, the Hottentot with savagery and a strong reek, with apelike looks and movements, and with a taste for white women, and my own belief is that it's not a matter of other races but a matter of fear. There is a bestial side to human nature, basic and primitive impulses in the bodies of men which clamor for satisfaction, and it must be a Christian comfort to ascribe such things not to oneself or one's tribe but to hairy giants and savages. It may be the Wild Man of the Woods is but a ghost of the wild man within.

That the fear of the "Other" idea gets lost along the course of the story is unfortunate because Gloss could have done something interesting with it.

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