Book Review: More Die of Heartbreak by Saul Bellow

spacebeer: More Die of Heartbreak by Saul Bellow (1987)

The protagonist Benn Crader is a botanist. He was famous for a while but had a very unsuccessful love life. After the death of his first wife, his emotional world lost its focus, and although he later married Matilda Layamon, his second marriage brought him little happiness. There is no real love between him and Matilda, only a relationship of exploitation. The main reason Matilda, a beautiful woman, married Benn was to use his academic achievements and scientific fame as a solid foundation for her social activities. However, the novel does not simply focus on the description of Benn’s emotion, but by depicting his embarrassing situation it shows the emotional exhaustion of the spiritual world in modern American society.

Intellectuals can grasp the essence of things under the surface and are willing to use their wisdom and superb skills to advise the public. Therefore, intellectuals are not only knowledgeable people, but they are also doers of social moral standards and pioneers of reform. Through the ages, they have maintained their intellectual identity in vain, even at the cost of their lives. The protection of intellectual identity has gradually become a kind of collective unconsciousness. Intellectuals fulfill and maintain their identity as spiritual leaders, but this identity is subverted by the impact of mass culture. Popular culture deprives intellectuals of their right to speak. They communicate through film, television, and other media new role models, value systems, and lifestyles that are unconsciously internalized by the masses. The common people were so absorbed in the convenience and diversity of popular culture that they were no longer interested in intellectual dogmas.

When the identity of intellectuals is questioned or even deprived, the group of intellectuals feels an unprecedented sense of loss. However, the helplessness of intellectuals is not completely caused by the isolation of the society; the internal differentiation of intellectuals greatly accelerates the disintegration of the intellectual group. Intellectuals do not know whether they have been assimilated into popular culture or whether their identity as intellectuals has been lost. In fact, in the materialistic modern society, intellectuals began to lose their spiritual integrity. In “More Die of Heartbreak”, Benn compromises with society when he cannot find true love. He becomes an impoverished intellectual who lacks independent survival ability and even an independent personality. He needs constant consultation with his nephew Kenneth to get affirmation before he can calm down.

-Coreen C.

Thoughts on Book Banning

banned_booksIn a country founded on the ideas of freedom and the idea of self expression is encouraged, it’s hard to imagine that books, of all things, are sometimes banned. Personally, book banning wasn’t really something I had thought about until Ellen Hopkins and Sonya Sones came to the library for a visit back in September. Sure, I had heard of books being banned– but I had never really thought that it was still something that was going on, and more importantly, what the effects of it are.

In this country, books get banned mostly because of complaints steaming from a small group of people; parents who aren’t pleased with what their children are reading in school, small communities who don’t think a book should be in their local library, and other similar cases and effect only a certain place or school. Book banning isn’t necessarily on a huge scale, this isn’t really a case of the government trying to control what people think, this is a matter of people trying to control other people. Still, book banning is a huge problem.

Most books that get banned are children’s or young adult books. The process of banning books starts with a challenge: a group of people don’t like the content, so they bring it up with someone who can do something about it. For example, a class is reading something that a group of parents don’t feel is acceptable for their children to be reading, and so they bring it up with the school board. From there, the school board can decide to ban the book, which basically makes it disappear from the curriculum. It’s not that someone who wants to read the book can’t get a copy of it anywhere, it’s just that they are going to have to look a little harder for it. On a basic level, these challenges usually come from a well-meaning place- parents wanting to “protect” their children from ideas they view unfit for them- but that is really where the trouble comes in.

The main problem with banning books is that when you ban a book, you are sending a clear message that an idea that the book is conveying is wrong and forcing your ideas onto someone else. Books can open up someone’s mind to all kinds of possibilities- that is what makes them so amazing. But when you are preventing people from reading them, you are closing off ideas. It’s understandable that some parents may not want children, especially younger ones, reading books that contain tough subject like suicide, drug use, and so on, or excessive use of language or sexual content, but banning books takes away the book from everyone. It is completely understandable for parents to filter their children’s reading, but it needs to be on a one-on-one basis without affecting any one else’s ability to read the book. Furthermore, regardless of what content the book may contain that makes it “unsuitable” for children, that content is rarely the entire point of a book and rather is being used to somehow enhance the story.

bridgeA final note on book banning is that this isn’t a problem that is limited to a certain era or genre of books but includes a vast array of books, including several which I have personally read in school. Some of the books that I was most shocked to find that were banned were: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes– although there are many, many more books that I have read that are included on lists of banned books.

Books banning can cause all kinds of problems, even if the intentions are good. At the end of the day, I really feel that it is up to the reader to decide what makes them uncomfortable and to have the choice to read whatever they want.

-Angela J., 12th grade