I actually listened to the audiobook version of The Devil Wears Prada on a recent road trip. I hope that counts as "reading" it....more**spoiler alert** Meh.
I actually listened to the audiobook version of The Devil Wears Prada on a recent road trip. I hope that counts as "reading" it.
Maybe "gossip fiction" (as the back of the CD case repeatedly called this book) just isn't my thing. I know that chick lit isn't my thing, but I was desperate for something other than static hiss or Christian preaching as I drove through the Oregon Cascades. Wherever the hangup occurred, I couldn't like The Devil Wears Prada in spite of my attempts to enjoy it.
The plot moved along rapidly enough, I suppose, although what little conflict was there was barely enough to be called a plot. Let's see: Andy feels ambitious; Andy is abused by her boss; Andy doesn't like it; Andy's friend and boyfriend start to resent her ambition; Andy tells her boss to fuck off. The end. I'm sorry; I missed the conflict here. Where is it, exactly? I suppose it was stuck somewhere in with the whole "deciding whether she should quit her job or not" thing, but that was going on throughout the whole interminable narrative and never really changed in terms of intensity. An unvarying conflict with two-dimensional characters all over the place is just not my idea of a good time.
I will say that the voice used was fairly well done. It felt like it was coming from the mouth of a 23-year-old, if a fairly ineloquent one. I found it somewhat hard to believe that Andy graduated from Brown with a degree in English and that she had aspirations to edit the New Yorker. She seemed fairly limited in her modes of expression. Still, she did seem young and "hip," and that worked well enough with the gossipy tone of the book.
The heavy-handed name-dropping was obnoxious - I can't really see Annie Liebovitz giving two shits what Cruella DeVille thinks of her; not enough to send her ridiculously expensive Christmas gifts, anyway - and some of the cultural references will date this book in a most severely crippling way in about six years. Plus, I get that Miranda Priestly is fabulously wealthy, but how many fashion magazine editors REALLY have THAT much money? I just found it to be a tad on the unrealistic side. Maybe I know too many editors to believe that they can own private jets and can fly to Paris on a whim for the express purpose of acting like a bitch. It didn't ring true, but maybe Miranda was a trust fund kid and invested wisely.
Other aspects of the book were hard to swallow but I was willing to suspend my disbelief in order to get through the experience. I find it exceptionally difficult to believe that a magazine editor who makes huge sums of money from her wildly successful rag would care AT ALL about whether her assistant was wearing Prada or Banana Republic, even IF she is absolutely obsessed with fashion. A woman who's turned a fashion magazine into the kind of success that allows her to demand that two copies of the new Harry Potter book be jetted to her hotel room in Paris the day before the book is released is going to be far more concerned with efficiency and performance from her employees than the label on their clothing. Again, maybe I just know too many business people to swallow the milieu Lauren Weisberger has conjured up out of her fashion-addled imagination. Said fashion editor keeping a staff and a huge closet full of spare high-end clothing specifically to make sure her staff looks right just didn't fly with me.
The characters in this book were flatter than a tortilla. Nobody changed at all throughout the course of the novel. Even Lily's drinking didn't appear to increase, even though Alex said her drinking was increasing. O RLY? Because from the first time we "meet" Lily she has a glass of the alky in hand and never puts it down once. Speaking of which, I suppose we as readers are supposed to sympathize with poor Lily, driven to alcoholism by the neglect of her eight-grade BFF, but instead I found myself laughing at the character. Lady, if you can't get over the fact that your bestest pal from EIGHTH GRADE is trying to build a successful career for herself and has more ambitions in life than sleeping with as many creepy men as she can lay her hands on, then you have bigger problems than alcoholism. The DWI-induced coma Lily lands in is the drippy, maudlin icing on the two-dimensional character cake. Boo.
Far more interesting than the day-to-day minutiae of Andy's job and struggles to receive her lunch breaks (hey, Andy - ever heard of OSHA?) is the obvious memory problems of her boss, "devil" Miranda Priestly. I thought there was a much more intriguing story buried among the lifeless characters and the pop-culture references. Why couldn't Miranda remember a damn thing, and how did a woman with an obvious case of early-onset Alzheimer's disease manage to be so successful at editing a major magazine? I kept expecting some explanation of Miranda's severe memory issues, but none ever came. I guess she was borderline demented because she's a bitch, not because she had some serious problem that would have added whole layers of interest to this book. Nope. She was just a bitch. That's all, folks.
This would be a one-star review but for the fact that there is one deft bit of writing in the entire novel. It struck me after I finished the last audio CD and gratefully managed to tune my crappy iPod radio-sync player into some band of static I could use for greater entertainment that Miranda Priestly is never described as wearing Prada. At least, not as far as I could recall. Andy, however, admits that she feels good about herself when she leaves her apartment decked out in Prada from head to heel. Thus implying, of course, that the titular "devil" is Andy and not Miranda Priestly at all. Alas for Weisberger, Andy never comes across as a true devil; just a young woman trying desperately to do what it takes to establish a good career in the publishing world.
All in all, I would not recommend this book to anybody. It may be that the film was more entertaining. I might watch it some day, but it will be a while before I can scrub the spectacle of the novel from my fevered brain.(less)
When I set out to find resources for my in-progress novel about Houdini, I was recommended this book by a professional magician who knows an awful lot...moreWhen I set out to find resources for my in-progress novel about Houdini, I was recommended this book by a professional magician who knows an awful lot about the subject, but I was given a caveat: "Don't pay too much attention to all the spy stuff."
If you don't pay too much attention to all the spy stuff--and there is a lot of spy stuff with very tenuous, almost silly evidence to back it up--this is still a difficult book to sift through. It's partially written in a narrative voice and partially as a biography, and the two writing styles are far from seamless. The narrative jumps around in time and space, making it necessary for the reader to flip around in the book to reference other passages and be sure of what you're reading. The prose in the narrative and non-narrative parts is also disjointed and awkward, as if the author(s) are more used to writing for children and are trying to adapt an out-of-place voice for an adult audience.
Still, it's worth the money for the photographs alone, as well as some very cool diagrams of locations where Houdini performed. I'm not sorry I read it, I just think the Silvermann book is loads better.(less)
I waited a couple of years after The Gathering Storm came out to read it. I still felt some affection for Egwene and her plight, and I w...moreUUUUUUGGGHHHH.
I waited a couple of years after The Gathering Storm came out to read it. I still felt some affection for Egwene and her plight, and I was very slightly curious what would happen to Elayne. The rest of the characters in this series, and there are many of them, I long since wanted to set on fire. Jordan's tortured, irrelevant writing had made getting through these books into the worst kind of chore. I had high hopes that Brandon Sanderson would rescue a plot with potential and get it back on track with more focused writing, relevant detail, and interesting prose.
I forced myself through the interminable prologue featuring characters nobody would ever see again (par for the course for WoT), rolled my eyes through the chapter with the Forsaken having another of their stupid board meetings and quibbling over who would be Super Number One Favorite (and oh, look, sexuality is still used to define EEEEEEVILLLLL in the WoT world), and finally got to some Egwene action. Yay! Unfortunately, there was more focus on how and why Egwene knifed up a perfect pat of butter than on her actual struggle against the usupring Aes Sedai. More intrigue-less intrigue, more plodding plot, more totally irrelevant and useless detail just for the sake of padded word count. More of the same.
I didn't finish the book -- I barely got a quarter of the way in. It was just more disappointment. Some day maybe somebody will release the whole series as an abridged version. I never thought I'd say this, but abridging this vast and bloated beast would actually improve it, and might make the storyline fun and interesting again.
Adieu forever, Wheel of Time! I don't care how you end. I'll stick to ASOIAF, where at least the details matter and the prose is skillfully crafted.(less)
I'm a "visual learner." I need to be shown with a clear example before I can really absorb crucial information. As a writer, that makes it quite diffi...moreI'm a "visual learner." I need to be shown with a clear example before I can really absorb crucial information. As a writer, that makes it quite difficult to grasp what is meant by some common writing terms. I have to pick up on just the right example in order to understand a particular concept in writing.
For a decade I failed to understand what was meant by the old writers' axiom, "Show, don't tell." I just didn't get it. How can you not *tell* a story? And how can you use words to convey a clear difference between "showing" and "telling?" Why is "telling" considered bland when the point of writing a book or story is to *tell* the reader some kind of information? The whole concept of there being any difference at all between showing and telling eluded me for years and years.
Then I read The Shore of Women. Now I get it.
Don't get me wrong: This is not, by any means, a poor novel. The world Pamela Sargent has built is vivid and memorable, but much more so because of what I've inferred about it while reading than from any vital information the writer conveyed. The characters are well developed and distinct, yet somehow difficult to connect with and appreciate as people. I finally figured out why: Because the narrative voice is full of telling, not showing.
I still couldn't accurately describe to you what the difference between showing and telling might be. But now I know it when I see it.
Is this a book worthy of reading? Definitely. It's great sci-fi, and it has a thought-provoking message. But I did find it difficult, at times plodding, and often hard to visualize. I believe I will probably read it again in the future (my personal litmus test for whether a book was good or not good) but likely not for several years.(less)
Shockingly enough, Bend Sinister manages to rival Lolita for the position of my favorite Nabokov novel, and therefore my favorite novel by any author....moreShockingly enough, Bend Sinister manages to rival Lolita for the position of my favorite Nabokov novel, and therefore my favorite novel by any author.
As in Lolita, the theme is the helpless and hopeless situation of the characters, and like Lolita, Bend Sinister is mostly darkness leavened with a helping of genuine humor. Throughout all, Nabokov's incredible narrative voice and creative wordplay shine through, as usual.
Bend Sinister is not one of his better-known works. Most people first think of Lolita, obviously, and then Pnin, when considering Vlad's works. But Bend Sinister stands out to me for its languid, incredibly sensual depictions of the mundane. It gives the entire novel the kind of desperate poignancy and loud reverberation that stays in your head for years after reading.
Languid descriptions of the mundane probably sounds boring to you if you've never read any Nabokov. If you have, you're doubtless trying to find a copy of Bend Sinister for yourself right now.(less)
One of the few books about writing I frequently and strongly recommend to writers and aspiring writers. When I, a prose writer, met a group of poets w...moreOne of the few books about writing I frequently and strongly recommend to writers and aspiring writers. When I, a prose writer, met a group of poets who wanted me to join their weekly critique circle, I was a bit intimidated by the fact that I had absolutely no understanding at all of poetry. The closest I'd ever come to poetry was hearing and vaguely appreciating Garrison Keillor's readings on The Writer's Almanac, which I would occasionally catch while running errands in my car, listening to NPR.
One of my new poet friends recommended this book to me, and I was immediately so drawn in by the "workbook" format that I dove in and started writing poetry.
Kowit has arranged a marvelous primer on poetry, starting with the most basic ideas behind the art form and bringing the reader/workbooker along a noticeable arc of improvement and skill-building. Each chapter, focusing on a different-angled look at poetry, is liberally "illustrated" with plenty of wonderful poems that show exactly what Kowit is trying to teach. Steve Kowit is a natural teacher who's arranged a truly useful, helpful, instructive book.
By the time I'd come through the entire book, I had quite a collection of poems that I felt really proud of. I was able to intelligently critique my friends' poetry and I even began bringing my own to the weekly meetings. Most importantly, my new deep understanding of poetry -- as a reader and as a writer -- has elevated my prose skills noticeably.
I recommend that all writers get this book and develop an aptitude for poetry, whether you write poems or stories or novels or magazine articles. Your writing will improve.(less)
Wonderful! In-depth, packed with amazing details with plenty of citations, and written with a great narrative voice so it's always entertaining to rea...moreWonderful! In-depth, packed with amazing details with plenty of citations, and written with a great narrative voice so it's always entertaining to read. I took two notebooks' worth of notes on the life of Hatshepsut from this book alone. Tyldesley is the master of books on Egyptology. This is one of her best! (less)
This is one of the under-appreciated gems of the sci-fi genre. One of Card's earlier works, this reflects his darker style that was prevalent during t...moreThis is one of the under-appreciated gems of the sci-fi genre. One of Card's earlier works, this reflects his darker style that was prevalent during the time period before the Ender books. Think Hart's Hope and Songmaster...ooh, dark and disturbing in spades. Good times.
The characters are gorgeously formed and full of life. The world of Imakulata is brilliant. The various races that inhabit it are unique and fresh. And it is laced through with Card's lyrical darkness, making for a read that impacts you and stays with you.
As for those who will call the climax scene (pardon the pun) "icky" and knock down a few stars in their rating, I say: Hey, it's sci-fi. Although I will admit that, listening to the audio version (narrated by Card's eldest daughter, who does a spectacular job), I actually yelled "GROSS!" out loud when the part with...the baby...happened. Yeah, you know what I mean if you've read the book.
In spite of its one icky chapter, this is true, serious, delicious science fiction with twists you will not see coming and brilliant imagery. Read it.(less)
Very funny stuff. Al Franken was part of the SNL team during the glory days of SNL, when it was actually funny and often featured brilliant political...moreVery funny stuff. Al Franken was part of the SNL team during the glory days of SNL, when it was actually funny and often featured brilliant political satire. Franken's understanding of politics is astute and his smartass comments are great. Even 13 years after this book was written, it's still hilarious for anybody who lived through the Bush Sr. and Clinton administrations.
And Rush Limbaugh is indeed a big fat idiot.(less)
Easily one of the worst book I've ever subjected myself to.
First: Why I read it. I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I'd been hearing for a...moreEasily one of the worst book I've ever subjected myself to.
First: Why I read it. I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I'd been hearing for a few years how GREAT and AWESOME this book is, how ROMANTIC the romance is, how SPARKLY the vampires are. I'd also been hearing, mostly from people who are good at writing and know what they're talking about, how atrociously the author butchers English, how insulting her writing is to the intelligence of her young readers, and how late and thinly the plot is developed.
I wanted to form my own opinion of Twilight, so I read it with an open mind.
I hated it. This is one of the worst wreckages of literature to come along since the Left Behind series. And don't for a second think to leave comments about how the intended audience is teen and pre-teen girls. They are just as intelligent, sensitive, and discerning as YOU should be, oh adult female reader who is spending so much time and money on this dreck. With so much great YA literature out there (Suzanne Collins, Libba Bray, etc.), why are people falling all over Twilight?
My guess is they're sexually attracted to words on a page. Edward is supposed to be so hottt that they will overlook any literary bungling to see his sparkle in their mind's eye.
That's just sad.
Edward is an abusive, controlling a-hole who only serves to highlight Bella's total ineptitude, and to make her more and more dependent on him with each dragging, slowly passing page. Plus: Uh, hello, HOME-SCHOOL your vampire clan, Cullens. Duh.
This book sucks out loud. I will not be reading the others. Instead, I'll trust the opinions of those who saw how terrible Twilight was and call it good.(less)
I truly cannot understand why so many people rate this book so highly, here and on Amazon.
I could give myself a headache trying to delineate all the...moreI truly cannot understand why so many people rate this book so highly, here and on Amazon.
I could give myself a headache trying to delineate all the reasons why I disliked this book. I'll just stick to the most obvious one, the one that got in the way most often of my enjoying the story: The writing is terrible. It's wooden, stilted, flat, and totally unengaging. The narrative voice used not believable for the setting -- one doesn't expect paleolithic peoples to say or think things like "really, really" or "squishy." The girth of this novel would lead one to expect it's intended for adults, but the cloyingly simplistic writing style would have bored my midgrade self to literal tears. I can only assume Dickinson consciously chose this talking-to-a-three-year-old tone for his narrative because he thought paleolithic people didn't think as clearly or as deeply as modern people...or communicate as thoroughly. How insulting to our ancestors!
I will not read another of Dickinson's books. The Kin was miserable.(less)
This book ranks very highly among my all-time favorite novels. It's an allegorical story told in a kind of romping, hand-clapping narrative that is at...moreThis book ranks very highly among my all-time favorite novels. It's an allegorical story told in a kind of romping, hand-clapping narrative that is at artistic odds with the very dark, desperate theme. It's worth reading as a study of literary juxtaposition alone -- but the story itself is riveting, the characters totally absorbing.
It's been months since I finished The Book of the Dun Cow, and I'm still ruminating on it. It will have a permanent place on my book shelf -- this little novella about chickens and a dog is just as truthful and beautiful as anything written by Ray Bradbury, Ursula LeGuin, or Vladimir Nabokov.(less)