"Ghost Birds" and "Between Here and the Yellow Sea" are the best stories in this collection.
While "Ghost Birds" suffers from the protagonist's aspie-"Ghost Birds" and "Between Here and the Yellow Sea" are the best stories in this collection.
While "Ghost Birds" suffers from the protagonist's aspie-like barrage of literary references, this seems to be a feature of Nic Pizzolatto's work and reminds me of True Detective Season 1. Constant, self-serious references to good books are a quirk that I can't decide whether I enjoy or not.
The other stories are fine, more mood pieces than anything, clearly the work of a talented but young writer. Twenty page short stories that capture characters and moods, even though the plots go nowhere, are par for the form's course. That's these stories. However, the last 100 page "Nepal,"-- no thanks. For every moving and dreary moment, the story was sluggish, and it was not quite a novelette but more than a short story.
Pizzolatto seems to be obsessed with people who self-destruct because they experience childhood, or more recent, trauma that they cannot move past. This seems like his personal, lazy writing trope. Consistent self-destruction should not necessarily be conflated with complexity or beauty. Often, it is simply the opposite of surviving. Definitely in True Detective Season 2, and in some of these stories, I think Pizzolatto shortcuts by chronicling self-destructing characters in a bid to signify all their anger and noise as something grandly tragic. Sometimes there is grand tragedy, and sometimes there are just assholes in life and in his work.
I recommend Pizzolatto's Galveston as a solid noir novel instead of this collection of early stories....more
The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line is like a decent episode in the TV series. The story takes place two months after the franchise-reviving film. Veronica iThe Thousand-Dollar Tan Line is like a decent episode in the TV series. The story takes place two months after the franchise-reviving film. Veronica is back in her home town. After ditching a career in corporate law for the family private eye business, she takes a case concerning missing spring breakers. (view spoiler)[The book deals better with her processing her sharp career and love life changes; unlike the film, which seems pro forma about Veronica ditching her NYC life. (hide spoiler)]
If you've never watched Veronica Mars, the show is pure Raymond Chandler ported into 90s high school. Initially, I was skeptical of the series, thinking I was in for teen Harriet the Spy. But Veronica Mars is darker and more hardboiled than it seems at first glance. There's verbal wit, class divisions, webs of intrigue and impossibly convoluted twists. Nothing approaches the quality of the first season.
While Chandler's Philip Marlowe series seems to have been preserved by standalone arcs and a lack of principal character development, Veronica Mars went in the opposite direction. All the main characters grow up and get twisted in one long series of narrative knots. I enjoy the franchise, but the characters and narrative have gotten ridiculously tangled. Even though tangles are a hallmark of the genre, comic book continuity problems are close to appearing. For me, the mood and appeal of the franchise still persists over time. But the stories are less believable, and the beach town of Neptune constricts with each instalment.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Winter's Bone is strong, old-school noir. Someone should have beaten this into my head. NOIR NOIR NOIR! I would have reached for it sooner. Ree, a badWinter's Bone is strong, old-school noir. Someone should have beaten this into my head. NOIR NOIR NOIR! I would have reached for it sooner. Ree, a badassed young protagonist, knocks on strange doors, talks to hostile folk, and gets taciturn replies, silence, arguments, and fights that eventually form a logical shape. Winter's Bone reads as if Chandler and Hammett wrote convincingly about the Ozarks instead of cities, and were obsessed with pastoral survivalist settings and nature rather than suits and cars.
Briefly, in the search for her father, Ree crosses many of the frayed lines of power and shadow networks in a group of small communities.
The book has its perceived flaws. The poetic tone combined with country twang is odd at first, but it grew on me, since 1) the tone is internally consistent with itself, and 2) having had my own country family friends, the grammar of the people is consistent with what I have experienced. There is plenty of poetic insight, rough exchanges, and atrocious grammar. The poetic-twangy tone made me feel that the smells and sights of the woods were familiar, while simultaneously underlining the foreignness of navigating the closed mountain subculture.
Ree's encounters are pleasingly dissonant like she is talking to outdoorsy neighbours who are also jailhouse cyborgs from Mars, who would just as soon shake her hand as murder her with hate lasers. Her kin are close-knit but roiling with an anger borne of severe deprivation. They can barely keep their anger in check, and it moves under and into most of the dialogue. Given how pinched and rough their lives are, many of the characters demonstrate remarkable restraint in the moments when they are not violent.
The scene that nagged at me, as a potential flaw, was when Ree reflected in a cave about how her ancestors took refuge in caves during a religious, family feud. The half-forgotten religious concepts and language verged on apocalyptic parody. Totally paraphrasing: "In the old timey-wime, the Fist Gods spake..." However, this scene intimated the creation myth and partial history of how a large, quasi-incestuous group of people could share the same kinship bonds and flinty ethics long after family-religion fades. Survivalism and insular family religions can certainly lead to bad times. This scene is conceptually brilliant despite some awkward phrasing.
Winter's Bone has more than a passing similarity to The Hunger Games: crazy-sad mom, vulnerable younger siblings, tests of mettle, communities of angrily starving people and movies starring Jennifer Lawrence. They are superficially similar, and this could be another way in for readers. The Hunger Games is definitely Ozark sci-fi. But Winter's Bone is solid noir.
This book is brutal, short, and I loved it....more
Roseanna is one of the first popular nordic crime novels translated into English. I realize that's quite the qualified statement, which also deservesRoseanna is one of the first popular nordic crime novels translated into English. I realize that's quite the qualified statement, which also deserves some commas somewhere. But hey, it is an actual sub-genre which has reached pop culture fruition in the Stieg Larsson novels. The authors, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, were a duo who have far too many umlauts between their surnames. Other sub-genre authors include Jo Nesbø, Henning Mankell, and Jussi Adler-Oslen.
To get an idea of Roseanna, imagine it is a The Girl who... novel with only one or two sex crimes, people eating a moderate amount of sandwiches, and still drinking far too much coffee. Since this book was a sub-genre forerunner, everything is turned down a notch. The writing is dry, but gets straight to the point.
As for the story, Detective Martin Beck is haunted by the case of unnamed woman whose naked, tortured body is dredged up from a shipping lock. Beck is ambivalent towards his family. He fixates on solving the crime, because he likes his work, and he uses his work to keep his family at a distance. There is a moment where he thinks something like "Ugh, if I don't catch a break in this case, I'll have to participate in raising my children," which I find both hideous and funny.
Snowy, restrained, melancholic-- I would read another in the series....more
Kenneth Fearing takes a first cut at his signature schema. Here this involves a cast of characters from all aspects of a hospital (i.e. surgeons, nursKenneth Fearing takes a first cut at his signature schema. Here this involves a cast of characters from all aspects of a hospital (i.e. surgeons, nurses, laundry staff, laboratory doctors, ambulance drivers, handymen, patients, visitors, secretaries, social workers). Each of whom speak for a chapter or five from a respective stream-of-consciousness. The characters' interactions accrete, overlapping partially or totally, forming multiple sides of several conversations and events. Tension builds from the information each character holds back from the others, and how their actions complicate or simplify matters for themselves and others throughout the hospital. Even though most of the characters mean well, their slightest actions and conversations directly and indirectly affect people in other rooms, on different floors, and in different jobs. This schema of storytelling is analogous to Gus Van Sant's Elephant, Georges Perec's Life A User's Manual (which I have yet to finish), and Arrested Development season 4. The underlying themes are everyone is connected and life is hideously random.
The Hospital is a solid first novel. (view spoiler)[The plot unfolds over an hour or two in a single work day. Roughly the same span of time, with a few exceptions, is experienced by each character. (hide spoiler)] Some lives are undone and others are bolstered. There are so many perspectives and small dramas democratically at play, it is unclear who the central characters are, and which are the main plot threads, until near the end.
Also, as David noted, the dust cover on the hardback is attractive and coolly Expressionist. If it is even possible, and if anyone figures out the artist's name, please let me know.
Since Fearing's other novels usually have a table of contents, and since I was surprised this one did not, I assembled one below for reference if anyone should feel so inclined:
Table of Contents: (view spoiler)[ Helen Russell I Dr. Clayborn I Dr. Caldwell Helen Russell II Dr. Clayborn II Miss Marmon Helen Russell III Freya Sullivan I Miss Cresswell Freya Sullivan II Dr. Clayborn III Dr. Gavin I Freya Sullivan II Dr. Gavin II Dr. Lauren Helen Russell IV Mr. Chirtz Dr. Gavin III Dr. Schultz Dr. Clayborn IV Helen Russell V Joe Shavaun Steve Sullivan Miss Johnson Class Room - Nurse's School Dr. Clayborn V Dr. Sutphen Helen Russell VI Charmian Scully Dr. Gavin III Marion Kapke Mrs. Donoghue Annual Report I Dr. Clayborn V Mrs. Elizabeth Crane Annual Report II Tom Pharney Helen Russell VII City Tugboat Annual Report III Police Headquarters Miss Siebert Dr. Cavanaugh Annual Report IV Dr. Clayborn VI Annual Report V Helen Russell VIII (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I agree with Brian G (though he was discussing Wild at Heart's sequel/side-quel). This is the dick-lit version of Weetzie Bat: a road-trip catalogueI agree with Brian G (though he was discussing Wild at Heart's sequel/side-quel). This is the dick-lit version of Weetzie Bat: a road-trip catalogue of stuff men (are supposed to) like, featuring two young, dumb kids in love. I remember liking Weetzie Bat better, because at least it attempted to be something more than "Aren't tacos and cold beer and jazz the best? Aren't other combos of stuff like menthol cigarettes and gum and tattoos and car magazines SO GOOD? Isn't tough white trash and amorally-treated-but-factually-correct racism in the deep South used as an accent to all the hipness going on in this book SO EDGY?" Wild at Heart is marketing for cigarettes, cars, and cheesecake pin-ups presented as fiction. Watch the David Lynch-Gifford film instead, if not solely for the hybrid Elvis-Brando, noir, and Wizard of Oz references. The film adequately covers the material of, and manages to seem more interesting than this flimsy book of big type and 3-page chapters. The film also succeeds in being the twisted adult cartoon that the novella aspires to be....more
This would have been much better had the book ended 20 pages earlier. The surprise near the end would only have been a shocker to men in the 1930s. ExThis would have been much better had the book ended 20 pages earlier. The surprise near the end would only have been a shocker to men in the 1930s. Excellent dialogue and framing, but somewhat dated, though that is part of its charm....more