I quite enjoy Lippman's mysteries - the entire community perspective, the rotating points of view, the lack of one entirely sympathetic viewpoint. I c...moreI quite enjoy Lippman's mysteries - the entire community perspective, the rotating points of view, the lack of one entirely sympathetic viewpoint. I came to her books on the heels of Eileen Dreyer's books, which I adore madly but can only read a couple in a row. They're kind of like candy. Lippman's books also fall into the candy factory, as they're easily devoured and not particularly earth-shattering, but they're more like chocolate candy, as opposed to the sugar-spun confections of Dreyer. Hm. They're the Milk Duds of the mystery novel genre for me. (less)
I'm actually listing the "date read" for "date I gave up on," or at least "date I gave up on reading it all in order." I ended up jumping around a lot...moreI'm actually listing the "date read" for "date I gave up on," or at least "date I gave up on reading it all in order." I ended up jumping around a lot, because the through-line narrative was not enough to hold my attention. Deeply interesting book, just very dense. Kind of like Wasa bread - I always start out really enjoying it, hey-why-don't-I-eat-this-more-often sort of thing, but then the tasty bits start to form an unpleasant paste that sticks to the roof of your mouth, and then you're looking for anything to wash it away.
Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle dealt with the same general subject matter in a far more digestible fashion. Melba toast, maybe?(less)
Oh, this one was a hard one to rank. It was a three when I first picked it up, a two when I first put it down, a four when I picked it up again years...moreOh, this one was a hard one to rank. It was a three when I first picked it up, a two when I first put it down, a four when I picked it up again years later, and a three when I put it back down a second time. I was determined to knock off a lot of low-hanging almost-finished fruit from my TBR pile this weekend, and I finally read the last thirty pages. So, hey, let's average this out to a three? Ish?
This is one of those books that tragically reinforces my extreme reluctance to get rid of books. My mom gave me this for Christmas lo those many moons ago, knowing it was a good fit for me just because of the blurb quote about how at some point, during any gathering of people, no matter how much the author loves those people, she realizes she would rather be reading. My mother, perspicacious woman that she is, recognized her wee darling in that sentence.
And, yes, that is sort of what this book is about. But only sort of. It's also got a huge whack of general audience literary criticism of female action-adventure novels, detective novels, and Catholic secular saint novels. Which turns out to be fascinating to me, once I got over expecting to read about how one balances the desire to be with people with the desire to read. I was sorely disappointed when I first put the book down, midway through the first literary criticism section, but I came back to it a few years later, and it was exactly what I wanted to read.
What was the difference between Read #1 and Read #2? The internet, I think. I have learned far more - absorbed far more - about feminism and women in fiction and women who write and so much of the stuff that my literature degree attempted to beat in my head, so I was far, far more appreciative of the discussion of women and books and women in books and women writing books in this book after a few years knocking around the internet than I was after three years of Serious Literature Classes. (Okay, part of that is probably because I spent much of the time I should have been studying Serious Literature going to Rocky Horror, writing papers on Rocky Horror and the Exorcist, and discovering the wild and woolly world of internet media fandom. Slog through Anna Karenina or the Sith Academy, hmmm, that's a toughie. ) What seemed a bit dry and a bit pointless on first read was far more engaging the second time around.
And then, hm, I kind of got bored during the Catholic secular saint portion of the competition (a bit of a letdown after the female action-adventure novel section and the detective novel section, both of which I had vested interests in), and I put it down for another year or so. Picked it up again, found Corrigan's writing style just as charming as I did the second time around, and was delighted by the reading list at the back of the book.
Recommended, at least for those interested in easy reading lit crit. The bits about a life lived with books feel a bit like a framing device, albeit a lovely one. (less)
Frickin' fantastic. The kind of horror novel I hope every horror novel I pick up is like but so rarely is. Will have to read again before I can be coh...moreFrickin' fantastic. The kind of horror novel I hope every horror novel I pick up is like but so rarely is. Will have to read again before I can be coherent about my adoration. (less)
**spoiler alert** Hm. I think I just may not be cut out for traditional literary fiction, even when there seems to be a ripping good story attached. W...more**spoiler alert** Hm. I think I just may not be cut out for traditional literary fiction, even when there seems to be a ripping good story attached. While there was a very distinctive narrative voice and a lot of the ideological rambling is very much in support of defining who that character is, after a certain point it just feels like authorial wankery more than anything else.
The interesting line with this book is how much of the wanking is the author trying to establish who his narrator is, a self-admitted rapist and murderer, and how much of it is descending into general author commentary. When, in the first thirty pages, the narrator whinges on about how there's been no real examination of the aftereffects of rape on the rapist and how that's not faaaaaaaaaair, yes, that's a crucial bit of information about the narrator. What squicks me is how it is written such that I think we are supposed to take the narrator seriously on this point, if even for a minute.
And so on and so forth for the next two hundred plus pages.
The other thing that left me a bit, "...is this for real?" is the big revelation at the end of the book. When the narrator finally finds out what happened between his brother and his brother's wife in the House of Meetings during their conjugal visit fifty years earlier. The thing that destroyed his brother. The problem was the sex was good and the brother just didn't care. Maybe I'm just not the target audience, but casting this entire tragedy of lives, the entirety of 20th century Russian history to some extent, through the prism of the sexual prowess of two brothers? Are you kidding me? This is totally an "The World Revolves Around My Penis" book, and I just don't give a damn any more.
Points, though, for structure. I found myself the most fascinated by the addressee of the book, the narrator's late-in-life stepdaughter. I thought the book was really well-constructed in how it created this entire relationship and life in the blank spaces around the story being told.
Points, too, to the author for having the balls to come out and say it directly, through the narrator, even - this is really a love story between the two brothers; the women are all excuses or intermediaries.
(Which, yes, that's kind of the point of the book and the narrator, but my god I'm tired of reading Serious Books in which the women are all excuses or substitutes. I think that's why the stepdaughter was so interesting - she was the only female who appeared in the entire book who was not judged solely on her sexual worth. And, of course, the stepdaughter never appeared at all.)
Yes, there are some brilliant turns of phrase. Yes, this was really skillfully constructed. But I'm not interested in literary ideological ponderings so much as I am in storytelling, and it's very clear which was more important in this book.
(Plus I just don't give a damn about the narrator's penis.)(less)
Oh, Ms. Dreyer. Your flagrant references to places I know in St. Louis amuse me, and your consistently entertaining mystery/romances never fail to, we...moreOh, Ms. Dreyer. Your flagrant references to places I know in St. Louis amuse me, and your consistently entertaining mystery/romances never fail to, well, entertain. Throw in a little New Orleans, too, and I'm hooked. (less)
The endless Skaldia bits seemed much less endless this time through, and after repeated exposure, the threads of politics starting from the very begin...moreThe endless Skaldia bits seemed much less endless this time through, and after repeated exposure, the threads of politics starting from the very beginning of this book/series are much more interesting, if only because I remember who is aligned with who much better, much sooner. (less)