This book was actually okay, but Martin fell into a trap that really, really irritates me: casually, constantly reminding us that All Women Feel Basic...moreThis book was actually okay, but Martin fell into a trap that really, really irritates me: casually, constantly reminding us that All Women Feel Basically The Same Way. This kind of lazy "empathy"--not to mention gender essentialism--is an instant turnoff for me in writing (as in life). Sorry! Please stop telling me how I feel!(less)
[Note, much later: this was my first McCarthy book. I think I get him more than I did when I wrote this review, and I sure love [book: The Crossing] a...more[Note, much later: this was my first McCarthy book. I think I get him more than I did when I wrote this review, and I sure love [book: The Crossing] an awful lot.]
I actually feel a little more 3.5ish about this book (is "3.5ish" an adjective? It is now), but Goodreads doesn't allow fractional stars. It hits a lot of my narrative kinks: this is a story about a journey, about humanity against the wilderness, about male bonding and violence; it's a kind of neo-Western; it's full of superb landscape description and dialogue; and it manages to be both sentimental/lyrical and hypermasculine/repressed. (What can I say, I love my subtext.)
But I also go to Faulkner and Hemingway to get those kinks satisfied, and while I like McCarthy for some of the same reasons I like Hemingway--I think he mostly does the same things well--I don't think he manages to follow Faulkner quite so successfully. Sometimes that unremitting Biblical cadence and all those stylized run-on sentences fall a little flat for me.
For all that, it's still a bleakly beautiful book that hits some serious high points:
In the end we all come to be cured of our sentiments. Those whom life does not cure death will. The world is quite ruthless in selecting between the dream and the reality, even where we will not. Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.(less)
This was the first Oates novel I read (as opposed to her short stories, which I liked), and it didn't do much for me. It's a very cultivated, cohesive...moreThis was the first Oates novel I read (as opposed to her short stories, which I liked), and it didn't do much for me. It's a very cultivated, cohesive book--never more strikingly than in the parallelism between the first and last lines, both of which echo the title--and yet something doesn't click. It's a little too cultivated and cohesive, a little artificial. The characters shade into stereotypes: Mike the jock, Patrick the bright loner, Marianne the pure-hearted and wronged daughter, and Judd the obscured observer.
One scene sums up the novel for me: Mike Sr. and Mike Jr. meet for dinner, and Mike Sr. acknowledges to himself that they're playing out a TV cliché, the embarrassed old drunk father and the virile young son. That's the entire book in microcosm. Conscious of its design, even self-conscious--of bordering on soap opera, of being part of a tradition of Generational Literature--and never able to fully transcend that design. "Life was trickier than TV," Mike Sr. reflects in that scene, but you'd never know it from We Were the Mulvaneys.(less)
Sort of reminiscent to me of late Philip Roth, often too self-consciously artistic, probably too long, and at times too coldly, mockingly glib. The tr...moreSort of reminiscent to me of late Philip Roth, often too self-consciously artistic, probably too long, and at times too coldly, mockingly glib. The treatments of Gary and Enid were particularly off-putting, and I could've done without the repeated moralizing on "self-improvement" (self-started business, self-medicating, self-aggrandizing). I also found Chip and his Lithuania interlude--which seemed to be intended as a sort of fulcrum of the novel--bewildering and not especially interesting.
And for all that, if I hadn't been sitting on a public train when I read the last few pages, I might have cried. What's interesting about this book, for me, is not that it finds (as the blurbs say) some measure of empathy and humaneness in the midst of its bitter satire. It's really pretty acidic. What's interesting is that I read this and I knew these people.
A good book? Nope! One that will stick with me? Quite possibly.(less)