Flap copy "Exotic Ocean Sea is highly romantic and breathtakingly lyrical. With Ocean Sea, he has been acclaimed as the successor to Italo Calvino, and a major voice in modern literature. In Ocean Sea, Alessandro Baricco presents a hypnotizing postmodern fable of human malady--psychological, existential, erotic--and the sea as a means of deliverance. At the Almayer Inn, a remote shoreline hotel, an artist dips his brush in a cup of ocean water to paint a portrait of the sea. A scientist pens love letters to a woman he has yet to meet.

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Shelves: fiction , the-continent , romantical , 21st-century There was about a minute when I was a little girl when I wanted to play baseball with the boys, and my dad was trying to teach me some stuff. I was about five when this happened, but I remember one of the first things he said to me was that, You cant always swing for the fences.

Which was good advice, because not only did I miss the ball most of the time, but given the size and the velocity at which I swung the bat, more often than not I ended up flat on my butt. But the boys were watching and I There was about a minute when I was a little girl when I wanted to play baseball with the boys, and my dad was trying to teach me some stuff.

But the boys were watching and I wanted to beat them, so I swung for the fences anyway. Cycle, rinse, repeat. In the prose and subject matter of Ocean Sea Baricco seems to have adopted a somewhat similar mentality.

Granted his goal is probably a bit more noble. Rather than beating neighborhood boys, he wants to provide a meditation on the idea of the sea, what it has meant, what it used to mean and what it has become, and most importantly, what possibilities it holds for people who need it. No, the sea had to be made something respectable, where proper Englishmen could and should go to find glory and make a living.

The sea had to be tamed, in other words. And what better way to do this than by allowing, nay, advising women to go to the sea- in fact having medical doctors say that the sea was healthy for you?

If this was a space where weak women whose honor must be protected could go though of course with prescribed limits , well then who could not approve of it? The sea suddenly seemed to have been waiting for them forever. To listen to the doctors, it had been there, for millennia, patiently perfecting itself, with the sole and precise intention of offering itself as a miraculous unguent for their afflictions of body and soul.

Just as, while sipping tea in impeccable drawing rooms, impeccable doctors-weighing their words well in order to explain with paradoxical courtesy- would tell impeccable husbands and fathers over and over that the disgust for the sea, and the shock and the terror was in reality a seraphic cure for sterility, anorexia, nervous exhaustion, overexcitement, menopause, anxiety and insomnia.

An ideal experience inasmuch as it was a remedy for the ferments of youth and a preparation for wifely duties.

A solemn baptism for young ladies to become women… … we could think of a woman-respected loved, mother, woman. It was the same world as ever that had suddenly been transferred, for wholly medical purposes, to the edge of an abyss abhorred for centuries and now chosen as the promenade of suffering The wave bath the doctors called it… a kind of patented sedan chair for getting into the sea, it was for the ladies obviously to protect them from indiscreet eyes.

I loved the way that Baricco wrote about the sea as a negotiation between civilization and freedom, and saints and madmen, between tradition and the possibilities of the future, as a place where things are erased, where there can by definition be no firm foundations, where everything changes and nothing does, where time seems to stop because of its very repetitiveness.

I think Baricco is getting at an argument that is only now coming to the fore in the many studies of the sea that have been released in the last few years. Maybe it is fitting that it took an Italian- an Italian who would include a priest in his cast of characters, to do it.

The swinging for the fences prose, first of all. The part I quoted above was probably the best part, and I liked it. But the vast majority of it… he was going for poetry, that much was obvious. Unfortunately, when you go for that in print, I think that you have to go about it in a particular way. Your metaphor may be flowery or unusual, but you must surround it with plain or unobtrusive prose that leads up to it and away from it.

And most of all, there must be a point to it. There was also another pretty unbearable sex scene where he uses the structure of the inexorable waves to explain the different reasons why a young girl and a middle aged man would want to have sex with each other.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I also thought the structure was both weird and off putting. It starts off with a section that is half straightforward prose, half impressionistic, but leans strongly towards the impressionism by the end of it. They volley minimalistic profundity back and forth to each other and almost never reach a place that goes deeper than that- with few exceptions.

I liked when he started to veer into fully formed fairy tale, I hated when he tried to turn his prose into poetry. In a wincingly literal fashion at times- one or a few words per line, stopping paragraphs and starting them in the middle of the next, etc.

And unfortunately, the execution did not live up to the imagination. As with most of this book. But the conflict set up because of it was obvious and banal. I hate this thing writers do where they put their otherwise flimsy tales into the context of some great historical event- World War II stories of any kind, all those Regency romance writers who use the Napoleonic wars- to try to give their stories some sort of weight and get prizes. Using the shield of historical events that are virtually off limits to criticism to block criticism of your writing by giving you some sort of impenetrable moral superiority is pretty cowardly and lazy.

Baricco did not accomplish this. Which of course, he ignores. And THAT ends super well. Argh, MEN. Other than to establish.. He wrote this by the sea? He is finished contemplating the sea? Yes I saw that there were only a few pages left. Why did we need this announcement? You know what this was like? Every time something natural to him came out, he quashed it, ruthlessly. Was this book an experiment of some kind?

A punishment? Why would he keep swinging for something and landing on his butt? I think we all would have enjoyed ourselves much more.


Ocean Sea by Baricco



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