Upstate

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Upstate is essentially a novel of deep nostalgia and implicit longing for a different, past, life. In that sense, it held a deep connection for me. The novel is written by James Wood, a New Yorker book critic. 

The story is about Alan, an aging Britisher who visits his grown up daughters in Saratoga Springs in Upstate New York. It is an exploration of their relationship and a rather feeble attempt by a father to try and understand why his two children are so different - from him and from each other.

While Alan seems to genuinely want to understand and perhaps help his daughters, he isn’t really prepared or even has the tools necessary to grasp their first-world predicaments. His own angst, driven partly by a failed marriage, partly by failed parenting and partly by a failed perception of his own business success, Alan is a classical old man exhibiting classical old man “issues”.  

If you are in your middle age then it is not hard to relate to Alan. You can see  at least some of your possible futures converge into that existential angst. 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar is the only novel written by Sylvia Plath, an American Poet who died at the age of 30.

The Bell Jar is the only novel written by Sylvia Plath, an American Poet who died at the age of 30.

Interesting. Didn't quite go as it started. Starts out boring. Not sure if there is a story in this intelligent yet essentially lazy heroine. An earlier version of the absurdly overrated film Brooklyn. A heroin with no story to star in. 

And then it happens. Her decent into insanity is so sudden and so casual that you get a mental whiplash. I might never look at mental health issues quite the same way. It is not such an alien issue to me anymore. It maybe everywhere. Just a matter of varying stages.  

And what really is insanity anyway - to some degree - even as an exaggeration - it is perhaps nonconformity - specially when practiced  by a social class that hasn't yet made it to the mainstream - or is still stifling under its own imaginary or real bell jar. 

Despite myself, I liked Plath's Bell Jar.