2 Responses to Episode 115: My Brilliant Friend

  • Amanda wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:35 //

    Tod, This book is NOT set in the Italian countryside!!! It’s in Naples. At first I thought you missed a major plot point but now I wonder if maybe the city becomes more prominent in the later books as the cultural and class divisions between Rome and Naples become prominent themes. So maybe it wasn’t as important in the first book as it feels later, but regardless, it IS important that this book is about a specific urban Italian culture. It’s not under a Tucson sun…

    Also, I assume you will be reading Austen next? I’m already ordering a t-shirt that says Team Julia for that one…

  • Erika Jost wrote on November 30, 2017 at 7:59 //

    This was frustrating to listen to! I think these books are absolutely genius on both feminism and class, and it seems like a lot of readers pick up on the feminism but not a lot of readers pick up on the class, which maybe is just a reflection of our own political blind spots. I was waiting for Rider and Tod’s observations about the inscrutability of the neighborhood to turn into something interesting, but they did not.

    Elena’s story about getting educated and getting out is a familiar one for readers; Lila’s story, and the story of the neighborhood, are stories that get lost over and over again, are still getting lost, and I think it is on purpose that the ins and outs are so difficult to follow. I don’t think this book is good because it focuses on two exceptional women in a misogynist world; it is so so so good because it shows the limits of our art and our politics in telling the story of all women, especially those who don’t “make it.” The best-case scenario for women is to be Elena, to “get out” and gain economic security, and to suffer all the attending identity and personal challenges of becoming alienated from your community. But for most women in that position, the outcome is Lila’s: disappearance. Elena is telling the story, but by virtue of getting out she doesn’t understand anymore: the story of her neighborhood, and of her best friend who stayed there, is elusive and inscrutable to her. These books are political and critical and, especially because I read them during and after the 2016 election, they feel extremely relevant.