OH, holy heck. Read this. Eleven times. No. Wait. Hire someone to bring you food and to drive you to therapy afterward. Then read this eleven times.
FOH, holy heck. Read this. Eleven times. No. Wait. Hire someone to bring you food and to drive you to therapy afterward. Then read this eleven times.
First, there's the masterful diction and syntax, which take about two pages to catch the hang of, but once you're on the train, you won't get off.
Then there's the plot, which is not novel, but certainly approached in a novel way: the main character is eternal, but a ghost, who possesses others (and the term "possession" is definitely one of the central ideas of the book... what does it mean to truly own something?) and travels from one person to another by the medium of touch. Got that? Now imagine that there are un-possessed people who are fanatically horrified by this and hunt these ghosts. That's an idea, but it just sits there on the shelf, sighing. When you're Claire North, though, that idea jumps up and does all KINDS of amazing, weird, disturbing things that make you say, "Of COURSE that's the way that has to be" once you read them.
At the peak of the amazingness that is this book is the characters, who are defined by their individuality, but also by the individuality of the ghosts who inhabit them. What does it mean to be "you"? What is love? can you love someone without loving the body they're in? Can you love them NO MATTER WHAT BODY THEY'RE IN?
With the caveat that I'm in a reading moment right now which I think of as "Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse," I stole this book from the desk of aWith the caveat that I'm in a reading moment right now which I think of as "Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse," I stole this book from the desk of a fellow teacher (and read it and put it back before he noticed... like a NINJA!).
As you'll know if you read my other reviews, I am not a fan of Moby Dick. I love The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex, though. It's a brilliant little gem of pre-current thinking about the environment (nature exists to serve human beings, and the 300 live sea turtles in our hold will go without food or water until we're ready to eat them... and there's NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT) and the duties of human beings (life is dirty and mean and short, and frequently the only things that will keep you going are SHEER BLOODYMINDEDNESS and GOOD MANNERS). And GOD SAYS SO, TOO. *foot stomp with nose in air* *dramatic arm gesture*
On the one hand, the horror of what the crew endures while shipwrecked and the atrocious acts they perpetrate to survive make you judge them, but at the same time, they are not only very much a product of their situation and time, the pathos of the situation encourages simultaneous forgiveness. I couldn't help but think two things: 1. I would be dead of seasickness in the first 24 hours, and 2. If that didn't kill me, the boredom would. Honestly, I think I would start doing mean things to my boatmates, just to keep myself sane. Most of sixty days adrift? Nope. I am not that kind of person.
It's short, brutal, and has some brief and gentle meditation on the role in our lives of "right" and "duty." There are a few vocabulary words you'll have to hurdle, and it helps if you can Google pictures of boat parts, but you should read it....more
Dangit! I really wanted to like this book! I love historical fiction, I love hawking, I love a good action story, and I love the kinds of characters iDangit! I really wanted to like this book! I love historical fiction, I love hawking, I love a good action story, and I love the kinds of characters included in this story. Unfortunately, Lyndon doesn't deliver. Point of view shifts don't generally bother me, as they may be necessary to tell a complex story. What bothers me about point of view in Hawk Quest is that it shifts from one person to another in the middle of paragraphs, and frequently without reason. The characters aren't given equal airing, and their complexities aren't fully explored before someone else comes on the scene. It's as if the characters aren't the author's chief interest, so he skips from event to event, letting whoever's present tell what's happening, regardless of the intended audience's interest in that person. While I'm talking about character, I'd just like to make a quick visit to the cut-out nature of the women. They're all second bananas, included only for the purpose of validating the men in the story, and while I understand the nature of the social role women took in society at this time in the world, I also know that the Salerno medical school allowed women to study and become doctors, and that Eleanor of Aquitaine went on a Crusade with her daughter not long after this. Chaucer wrote the Wife of Bath not long after this. Women were an integral part of the social and economic fabric of the world during this time, and allowing them to do nothing but bathe in volcanic pools and lie on their backs and think of England isn't the most interesting thing to do with a character. It's a shame that such a brilliant plot idea - the quest to bring four gyrfalcons to the Middle East from Greenland - falls so short. I think it is a focus on plot that causes the problem, though, as such an epic journey eventually causes plot fatigue. We really have to care about the characters to carry us through, and there isn't enough time spent on making them real to warrant the required enthusiasm....more
It's important to say that this isn't my kind of thing. I don't like stream of consciousness, I don't like not being able to tell if the main characteIt's important to say that this isn't my kind of thing. I don't like stream of consciousness, I don't like not being able to tell if the main character is experiencing one long acid trip or is schizophrenic, and I don't like stories that don't have a discernible structure. That's just me. Some people have much more tolerance than I do, and that's OK. This story - which is apparently about a guy whose girlfriend, Karen, committed suicide after having an affair with a much older man - doesn't satisfy me, however, because it's really an extended prose poem that never moves beyond the first stanza. I don't mind grief and I don't mind guilt, but the casually self-indulgent nihilism has to change for the character to be sympathetic, and I never cared a whit about Jack, the main character. If you want an interesting narcissist, try Nick Hornby's High Fidelity. Jack, however, is an entitled hipster wannabe who has encountered true tragedy, yet still thinks at 25 that the universe revolves around him and his fantasies. Tragedy has to change us for it to have meaning, and meaning is what writing is all about. When I read, I ask myself if I can discern the message, and if there isn't one, or the message is muddled, or it's begun and not finished, or if there is one but it's unintentional, the work is unsatisfying to me. That's why I don't appreciate First Aide Medicine: Karen is dead, but the apparent message about her death is that the real significance of the tragedy is that alcoholic Jack's fallen into his own navel. I'd like to add one final word about the genre of this piece. The author believes it's an horror novella. I think he's wrong. "Horror" is Daniel Kraus's Scowler - a unified piece that tells a complete story that includes a clear message with elements that leave the reader aghast. Horror includes elements that leave us both fascinated and disgusted at the same time. The worst part is (or the best, if you read a lot of horror) that horror is really horrible because of its plausibility. We're terrified of Michael Meyers because we have the innate sense that, a. People are crazy, b. Bad crap happens, and c. The next town over (a stand-in for anyplace we don't know very well) is dangerous. We think that stuff because we're prey animals and that's how we're hard wired. However, there's a newish genre (maybe a new group of authors?) who are under the impression that writing a collection of words that include examples such as "maggots" and "blood" automatically qualifies them as horror authors. Personally, I think they're wrong. In one of my writing classes, my professor read a piece I'd written, looked at me, and said, "Yeah, but what's the story? Why should I care?" Can you answer those questions, Mr. Patnaude? They're pretty important....more
Hmmm. First, fair warning to all concerned: I was asked to review this magazine. I agreed, with the up-front understanding that I would give an honestHmmm. First, fair warning to all concerned: I was asked to review this magazine. I agreed, with the up-front understanding that I would give an honest response. Here it is: I wonder a lot about the place that an assortment of stories has in the development of writing in general. On the one hand, I love the idea that people who struggle to create - to be something more than what they are, and in words, to boot - should have a venue for their creations. Writing is an act of communication, and without an audience, it's a closed communication with yourself. On the other hand, I occasionally despair of the writing I see in literary magazines, this one included. It's not that there aren't moments of true greatness (there's a character sketch-esque short short about a man who sees a girl on a train that's just brilliant)(and an achy poem that reflects on seeing soldiers in public spaces), but there are just too many authors in this and other mags who struggle in public writing with their private personality and identity problems. Yes, it's OK to write about yourself. Yes, it's OK to experiment with different forms of writing. Yes, it's OK to leave your characters in a muddle. Honestly, however, I need some good old Freytag's pyramid action to help me enjoy a story. And I don't appreciate unused guns on the mantelpiece. Those are old, old guides in Western writing for a reason. They lead us to meaning instead of letting us wander around. Without them, readers wonder if there IS meaning. You may be thinking, "Ah, she's just too old to understand!" Possibly. However, one of the advantages of being my age is that I know where my dirty laundry is hung, how long it's been hanging there, and which parts of it I have the ability and will to clean. I'm simply at the place in my reading career that I don't appreciate reading work that uses the mask of "gritty" to cover an author's experiments with his or her own problems. Porn exists. Some people are necrophiliacs. Other people can't figure out their purpose in the universe, and thus can't help me figure out mine. The problem is that literature is meant to help us figure out our place in the universe - not just to validate us, but to help us understand the how and why of how we fit in with everyone and everything else. Or at least it is for me. Thus, I don't mind if there's porn in a story as long as it helps me understand the human condition. Ask Carl Hiasson or Chuck Palahniuk (I probably murdered both of their names... sorry, guys) if necrophilia can be revealing of the human condition and help reveal theme. This collection mostly did not lift me up so I can see myself and world better. It mostly led me down alleys, shoved me into ponds, and trapped me in dirty bathrooms. I don't need traditional (read Scowler if you really want gritty), I don't need peaceful (read Beat the Reaper), but I really do need STORY and MEANING, and that's what most of these pieces lack....more