Maeve Brennan is so sharp -- sympathetic and yet somehow unforgiving, observational and unflinching. She's a clear literary ancestor of writers like CMaeve Brennan is so sharp -- sympathetic and yet somehow unforgiving, observational and unflinching. She's a clear literary ancestor of writers like Colm Tóibín, but also of Gillian Flynn and all her imitators. The Visitor is a novella about a young woman, after the death of her essentially exiled mother, returning to the house of her grandmother -- her father's mother. It's a novel about vengeance, worked in a number of subtle, essentially feminine ways, and it's delightfully brutal without containing a single act of actual violence. ...more
Recent National Book Award Winner in which the lives of a diverse group of New Yorkers intersect with each other and with Philippe Petit’s 1974 tightrRecent National Book Award Winner in which the lives of a diverse group of New Yorkers intersect with each other and with Philippe Petit’s 1974 tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers. I’m surprised by how strongly this book has stayed with me. McCann’s prose is consistently beautiful and lucid and controlled, but I found the first half of this book a slog. McCann’s main device involves using a different POV character for each chapter, and several of the early sections are spent in the minds of the most self-involved, pretentious ones. The disparate threads don’t connect until the book’s second half, either, so I spent the first 150-or-so pages floundering.
The book rewards your patience, however, with the sense of connection that eventually begins to trickle in, and there are some truly lovely moments, ones that have grown and lingered in my mind. I’m glad I read this—and that I continue to try to read “literary” fiction in general, as this book reminds me that despite its pomposity, the genre does offer its rewards....more
Once again, it’s Good Omens Lite! Connolly achieves a sort of affable English—or Irish masquerading as English—good humor in his tale of the apocalypsOnce again, it’s Good Omens Lite! Connolly achieves a sort of affable English—or Irish masquerading as English—good humor in his tale of the apocalypse (averted). But there’s not much there there, really. I read most of this book on Halloween, which was nice. But I’d still rather read Good Omens (again)....more
President Obama endorsed this book! To mark this momentous occasion, Random House helpfully sent us a roll of stickers to press lovingly onto our stocPresident Obama endorsed this book! To mark this momentous occasion, Random House helpfully sent us a roll of stickers to press lovingly onto our stock’s covers. “‘Fascinating... A wonderful book.’ — President Barack Obama.” As these stickers make no mention of the title or author, I of course seized the opportunity to abscond with a half dozen or so. I plan to stick them on other books that strike my fancy, including, of course, my own—if the Blue Fairy ever comes along and makes it a Real Book.
My mind wandered over these assorted fantasies quite a bit while I was reading Netherland. It’s not a bad book, but it never grabbed me with anything like the vigor that had me snatching up those stickers. In many ways, it’s an update of The Great Gatsby to a post-9/11 world, but it lacks Gatsby’s passion. O’Neill is very clever in his reinvention of Fitzgerald’s story, making its modern version about immigration and race, and also cricket. I was intrigued by the dreams and exploits of Chuck Ramkissoon, but I found the narration of Hans cold and bland and at times even a bit turgid. Nick Carraway keeps himself at a remove, I suppose, but Fitzgerald’s lively prose sizzles while O’Neill’s staid, literary style failed to move me. Don’t get me wrong: I’m still glad I read this book. But while it engaged my brain, it failed to capture my heart....more
Reread. Jesus, what the fuck was I doing reading this when I was 16? If anything, it's more gruesome and fucked up than I remember. Nevertheless, it'sReread. Jesus, what the fuck was I doing reading this when I was 16? If anything, it's more gruesome and fucked up than I remember. Nevertheless, it's still really good. And the parallels between this and the current storyline on Supernatural are hilarious. I'd forgotten the seemingly obvious tidbit that Jesse calls Cassidy "Cass." Um. MOST AWKWARD CROSSOVER EVER.
Seriously, though, just like I don't actually want the Good Omens characters anywhere near SPN, I don't want the SPN characters anywhere near this 'verse. It is too perverse even for them. Some of this shit would make Alastair cry....more
WHY IS TOM WELLING ON THE COVER OF THIS BOOK? I know it's not just me who sees the similarity, because one night while I was perusing these pages, KorWHY IS TOM WELLING ON THE COVER OF THIS BOOK? I know it's not just me who sees the similarity, because one night while I was perusing these pages, Korax came in from the other room, took one look at me sitting on the couch and said, incredulous, "You're reading a Smallville tie-in?" Dude. This book may contain some twists about its main character's true identity, but the fact that he is Superman is not one of them.
ANYWAY, unfortunate evocations of bad television aside, this isn't a bad book. I'm reading almost anything that reminds me of Supernatural these days (evocations of good television are apparently okay), and this has an interesting fraternal relationship at its core (plus some demons). However, I found the rules of the magical world Brennan established quite dull--there was no sense of wonder for me, or any feeling that, despite the dangers, I would like to hang out there. (I have this same problem with Torchwood. Even knowing that I could be killed, I would go hunting with the Winchesters, or slaying with the Scoobies, in a hot minute. I would not join Torchwood if you paid me a million billion dollars.)
I also saw the big twist coming a million miles away; nevertheless, I liked it: it was the right twist for the story, and it's an interesting concept overall. I almost wish, however, that the revelation could have come earlier in the novel, maybe even at the halfway point--isn't the fallout from that going to be the truly interesting part? But I suppose Brennan is setting up a series. Still, I'd rather have one really good book than a bunch of mediocre ones....more
Reread in hopes that it help me work out the kinks in my big Mary Winchester fic. This is still maybe my favorite John Constantine storyline—twisted aReread in hopes that it help me work out the kinks in my big Mary Winchester fic. This is still maybe my favorite John Constantine storyline—twisted and clever. Too bad the art's so bloody ugly, though....more
**spoiler alert** Ridiculously boring—not to mention just plain ridiculous—mystery by a literary author (John Banville) slumming it in genre fiction u**spoiler alert** Ridiculously boring—not to mention just plain ridiculous—mystery by a literary author (John Banville) slumming it in genre fiction under a pseudonym. (I have never understood this—why not just genre hop under your real name? All the cool kids are doing it!) The plot is convoluted, involving unwanted pregnancies and a baby smuggling ring and nuns. Actually, what the plot is is thin and convoluted, somehow; there’s very little mystery to be solved, really, but our hero, the drab and (we’re told) physically imposing medical examiner Quirke, sure takes his time. And along the way a lot of women throw themselves at him for no reason—so much for gritty realism—and Quirke’s young female relative is sexually assaulted for no reason other than the fact that Black/Banville couldn’t come up with any other kind of climactic event to finish off this slow slog of a book. I was just glad the damn thing was over. We sell a lot of copies of this novel (and its sequel, which I now have no intention of reading) at my store, but when there are exciting and complex literary mysteries out there like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to read, I really do not understand why....more
Really interesting collection of stories about race and racism in Dublin. These were originally published serially, with each of the stories broken doReally interesting collection of stories about race and racism in Dublin. These were originally published serially, with each of the stories broken down into 800-word segments, and Doyle admits in the introduction that he didn’t really plan ahead, so a couple of them sort of meander and change direction in ways that can be slightly disconcerting. (This is most apparent in the collection’s first story, “Guess Who’s Coming to the Dinner”; I think Doyle was still getting used to the format.) Most of them are really excellent, though, and MY GOD did they make me miss Ireland. Possibly Doyle’s number one strength is his ability to capture the rhythm and character of speech; reading his dialogue really does make you feel like you’re listening in on a conversation on an O’Connell Street corner. *sniff* And how much do you wanna bet Siria’s laughing and rolling her eyes at me now? ;-)
Anyway, I’d definitely recommend this, although I’d also recommend that you read The Commitments—and maybe the whole Barrytown Trilogy—first, as one of the stories here is a quasi-sequel to that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be off crying over Aer Lingus ticket prices....more
**spoiler alert** This book almost does something very interesting for chick lit: the main character, an Irish woman whose marriage is coming apart, c**spoiler alert** This book almost does something very interesting for chick lit: the main character, an Irish woman whose marriage is coming apart, comes to L.A. to escape from it all. She is shocked—shocked!—to discover that the old friend she's staying with has another friend who's a lesbian. Then she gets a little crush on the lesbian friend. Then she has a lesbian fling! This is almost cool like fanfic. But then the main character realizes that she really loves her husband and goes back to him. Sigh.
Keyes does the same thing with the flashback abortion plot. Main character (whose name, in case you can't tell, I've totally forgotten) goes to England to get an abortion. But at the last second she changes her mind! THEN SHE MISCARRIES ANYWAY! Now, in the present, she has angst because she thinks this has made her unable to have a baby now that she wants one. Um...wouldn't this plot have been better if it involved actual guilt from an actual abortion? There's too much trying to play to both sides in this book. It's annoying.
The Book of Judas is almost 400 pages of poems, most of which are from Judas' perspective, but also which get into the hearts and minds of modern peopThe Book of Judas is almost 400 pages of poems, most of which are from Judas' perspective, but also which get into the hearts and minds of modern people, many of them Irish, many of them Dubliners. What's amazing about the book (aside from the poetry itself, which is wow) is that Kennelly essentially claims Judas for Ireland. He claims Judas for Ireland: he takes that which is, by the world, perhaps most feared and loathed and he asks it to step inside and make itself at home. He's not making excuses, but he's not afraid to sympathize, even empathize with it. How cool is that?
Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to get in America—but Wychwood just found a copy for me! *rejoices*
For those of you who can't find it, here's a small taste/poor substitute—my favorite poem from the book:
No Image Fits
I have never seen him and I have never seen Anyone but him. He is older than the world and he Is always young. What he says is in every ear And has never been heard before. I have tried to kill him in me, He is in me more than ever. I saw his hands smashed by dum-dum bullets, His hands holding the earth are whole and tender. If I knew what love is I would call him a lover. Break him like glass, every splinter is wonder. I had not understood that annihilation Makes him live with an intensity I cannot understand. That I cannot understand is the bit of wisdom I have found. He splits my mind like an axe a tree. He makes me heart deeper and fuller than my heart will dare to be. He would make me at home beyond the sky and the black ground, He would amaze me with the light on the brilliant sand, He is the joy of the first word, the music of the undiscovered human. Undiscovered! Yet I live as if my music were known. He is what I cannot lose and cannot find He is nothing, nothing but body and soul and heart and mind.
So gentle is he the gentlest air Is rough by comparison So kind is he I cannot dream A kinder man So distant is he the farthest star Sleeps at my breast So near is he the thought of him Puts me outside myself
So one with love is he I know love is Time and eternity And all their images. No image fits, no rod, no crown.
My Irish Literature tutor at Trinity College (a.k.a., Hot Scottish Tutor Peter Mackay, who hopefully is not reading this) said that this book would haMy Irish Literature tutor at Trinity College (a.k.a., Hot Scottish Tutor Peter Mackay, who hopefully is not reading this) said that this book would have made a better short story than it does a novel. While I enjoyed McGahern's simple, unflashy prose, I'm inclined to agree. The story covers the same ground again and again, and while the monotony of Moran's life may be part of the point, it doesn't make for the most enjoyable read....more
This was apparently required reading for the leaving cert for some of my Irish friends. I wish I'd been made to read such wonderful(ly slashy) thingsThis was apparently required reading for the leaving cert for some of my Irish friends. I wish I'd been made to read such wonderful(ly slashy) things in high school! The plot revolves around WWI and class consciousness and male friendship, and it's a painful but beautiful story that I'm glad I spent my last day in Ireland sitting outside in Merrion Square reading. Even in less fantastic locations, this book still shines....more
An immensely engaging story about stories. David’s mother dies and he moves with his father and his not-so-evil stepmother to a new house in the countAn immensely engaging story about stories. David’s mother dies and he moves with his father and his not-so-evil stepmother to a new house in the country, where, after hearing books start to whisper to him (I loved the descriptions of what the different types of books sounded like) and sensing the Crooked Man watching him, he finds a way through to another, dark fairytale world. Connolly twists a lot of familiar stories, playing with gender and often switching good guys and bad, and it’s really cool. (There are gay knights. GAY KNIGHTS!) The atmosphere is also fantastic, and dark as hell—this could almost be a children’s story, except it’s really violent and at times quite scary. (The whole huntress sequence freaked me the fuck out.) The attitude is also refreshingly adult; I really liked how David’s growth was presented. In fact, all of this world-building and character development was so good that I kind of wished that it resulted in more; the end was actually kind of quiet and understated and sad—an ending that I respect, I guess, if not the one I wanted. Still, I love books about books and stories about stories, and this was an incredibly imaginative and scary and exciting and moving example of that. Plus, gay knights....more