Back when I got stuck in the doldrums of The Shipping News, finally tossing it overboard, then wasted my timeI admit it. I was surprised by Middlesex.
Back when I got stuck in the doldrums of The Shipping News, finally tossing it overboard, then wasted my time with The Stone Diaries a year later, I subconsciously vowed to ignore the Pulitzer Prize forever. I broke that vow in '99 for The Hours, but that was because one of my mentors knew Cunningham, and he recommended The Hours because he knew my love for Mrs. Dalloway. I went straight back to my personal embargo, though, and it stuck until 2009 when I finally caved and read The Road.
I wouldn't say the embargo lifted after that, but my conviction definitely waned, so when I needed something to listen to on my long commute and saw Jeffrey Eugenides's audiobook version of Middlesex on sale for $7.99, I caved and decided to give it a go.
I expected crap when I started listening, but when Lucky and Desdemona hit Detroit I really started to dig it, and when it ended today with Cal/liope learning the truth of the 5-alpha-reductase deficiency from his YaYa, the recessive gene that made him a hermaphrodite, I realized I'd been a convert to Middlesex's beauty for the bulk of the book.
I don't know if I would be as impressed with Middlesex if I had read it rather than listening to it because Kristoffer Tabori's vocal performance was absolutely mindblowing. I don't think I have heard too many vocal performances that can beat his work on Middlesex. He's no Orson Welles playing Lamont Cranston, but he kicks the crap out of most of the contemporary voice actors I've heard in animated movies and audiobooks. His voices were so distinct, his performance so complex, that characters masking their voices over telephones or through heating ducts had just enough of their original voices to be recognizable while still convincingly masking them from others in the story. Even better, Tabori turned much of Eugenides' prose into poetry. Or -- perhaps -- Tabori simply revealed the poetry of Eugenides' words that were there all along.
I like to think that's the case because the way Eugenides writes about Detroit, San Francisco, and Smyrna is some of the most beautiful metroprose I've ever heard, and I found myself caring for every character Cal/liope came in contact with. I'd hate to know that Tabori's performance made the story better than it really is (although I have a sneaking suspicion that I'd have felt some of Eugenides' descriptions and characterizations were a touch precious without Tabori's performance). So I will never actually read this book now that I've listened to it. I like this story, and I want to keep on liking it.
So am I finally back reading the Pulitzer Prize winners? I dunno. Perhaps. But even if I do start reading them again, I won't be seeking them out.
Maybe I'll buy them on audiotape, instead. You never know what the bargain bin is going to turn up....more
This review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until today, when I uncovered the journal it waThis review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until today, when I uncovered the journal it was written in. I have transcribed it verbatim (although square brackets indicate some additional information for readability) from all those years ago. It is one of my lost reviews.
My favourite thing about Lonesome Dove was Augustus McCrae. He was the cowboy embodiement of Denholm, which predetermined that I would love Gus. Reading Lonesome Dove was like taking a journey with friends. Deets and Pea Eye, Newt and Call, Gus and Lorena, I loved them all, and when Clara appears, Lonesome Dove makes me feel like part of the family. I know all of these characters in my life, and I love them on the page.
I thought I would hate the book, never having been a fan of Lonesome Dove while the TV series was shooting near Calgary, but now I know I would have been sad to miss this. ...more
There is little plot in The Road, and that is good; the story is tedious, repetitious and slow, and that too is good; the story is about two characterThere is little plot in The Road, and that is good; the story is tedious, repetitious and slow, and that too is good; the story is about two characters and the way they love each other, and this is very good; all the information you need about McCarthy's future world is there if you want to do the work, and doing the work is also good; when it comes down to it The Road is very good no matter the complaints you may read or hear to the contrary.
That is all I can say for now. I need to let The Road settle in my consciousness to see where it will land in my pantheon of books.
What I can say is that it moved me deeply, the prose was a wonder, and I think it is one of the best father/son relationships I have ever encountered.
If my strong feelings deepen this book will rise in my estimation; if my feelings weaken it may wound this book terminally for me. Only time will tell.
But one final comment I must make is that anyone who compares The Road to Blindness -- or worse states that the latter is greater than the former -- is one whose opinions are necessarily suspect. The former is genuine, realistic, stark, unwavering; the latter is an unimaginative debacle posing as deep allegory. Read the former and steer clear of the latter....more
This review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until today, when I uncovered the journal it waThis review was written in the late nineties (just for myself), and it was buried in amongst my things until today, when I uncovered the journal it was written in. I have transcribed it verbatim from all those years ago (although square brackets indicate some additional information for the sake of readability). It is one of my lost reviews.
I always avoided this book because I thought it would not be for me, and it might hurt my viewing of Spielberg's film version if I ever got around to watching it. I am so pleased I finally picked it up.
I was surprised by The Color Purple many times. The epistolary form was the first shock, and it was a shock I loved; indeed, that was the way with all of the shocks -- I was impressed by them all. I was shocked to discover that it was set pre-WWII [I'd been expecting a much earlier setting]; I was shocked by the casting genius of Spielberg; I was shocked by the terrible things Celie dealt with; I was shocked by the thoguht processes and alienation -- being no part of the U.S. and no longer a part of Africa -- and I was surprised most by Celie's homosexuality, coming as it did as a seeming retreat from her sexual abuse and her idolizing of Shug.
It's a wonderful book. Brilliant.
[Yet over a decade later, unlike many of the other books in these lost reviews, I can't remember it at all. I took a star off for that]....more
I was very near to finishing Mr. Midshipman Hornblower when we were on our way to the hospital the other night, and I knew I was going to need somethiI was very near to finishing Mr. Midshipman Hornblower when we were on our way to the hospital the other night, and I knew I was going to need something else at some point over the next few days. I was passing by the computer on the way to the door, and I decided to grab The Old Man and the Sea. I'd been using it as a mouse pad because the Scribner trade paperback edition is a perfect size with a slick, matte-laminated cover that the mouse glides across with no fuss. So the book was handy, I needed something, and I've been meaning to read it again for months.
I've read The Old Man and the Sea numerous times, and I've always loved it, but this time through it became much more than it has ever been before. This time I read it out loud, and it is a completely different book.
I have heard complaints about Hemingway's lack of commas, his sparce punctuation, and his repetition in The Old Man and the Sea, but let me assure all detractors that this is intentional and to a purpose. Hemingway wants us to read this book out loud, and the way he's structured the punctuation (so too his use of repetition) dictates the voice we are meant to use while we're reading. We are not meant to inject the story with emotional ejaculations; we are meant to read this in a low monotone, embracing the steady, quiet, imperturbable voice of Santiago, the titular Old Man, while he struggles against the marlin, the sharks, the sea and himself.
And when we embrace Santiago's voice and breathe it into the world, The Old Man and the Sea undergoes a startling change. I think it is a beautiful novel even lying dormant on the page, but spoken, it is a lush, sensuous, poetic masterpiece.
Read this one out loud if you can. To yourself or to someone you love, even if that someone is a naked, two day old baby sleeping on your chest. You'll be glad you did. ...more