I have to say there’s something utterly fascinating and different here. Murakami uses clean, tight sentences to describe Tokyo at night. He narrates e...moreI have to say there’s something utterly fascinating and different here. Murakami uses clean, tight sentences to describe Tokyo at night. He narrates everything as if we’re watching a film. So, there’s very little going into characters’ heads, understanding their thoughts and feelings. There is mostly narration, describing what we see, our point of view – how our eyes like cameras moves around scenes and characters. This will frustrate some people, the lack of emotion. I found it intriguing, and it made for a very breezy, easy read.
There are reasons I wouldn’t give this five stars. I think sometimes the translation from Japanese to English is frequently clunky. I feel a better translator would’ve reorganized some of the phrases so they wouldn’t sound clunky. Secondly, Murakami breaks his own rule a couple of times, actually briefly going into the thoughts of his characters for reasons I couldn’t fathom – the moments were big but they broke up his narrative trick, and these moments weren’t thematically relevant to the larger story. I also felt that some threads and stories weren’t entirely closed up, but I think Murakami was aiming for that. There is, truthfully, less emotional involvement in this writing style, so I don’t think it has the power to let the reader get swept up.
I still think it’s a nifty read. This is my first Murakami, and I think I get the world’s fascination with him. I will be trying more of his stuff! (less)
More from David Sedaris – he still makes me laugh every so often. I actually appreciate when he goes darker and weirder – like his visit to a creepy E...moreMore from David Sedaris – he still makes me laugh every so often. I actually appreciate when he goes darker and weirder – like his visit to a creepy English taxidermist, Sedaris’ reaction is hilarious and unexpected. His letters in other characters’ voices are also very funny. It’s a quick read.(less)
There’s no doubt Glass writes some beautiful sentences - “Saints are merely tyrants in the kingdom of virtue.” However, this new novel, which borrows...moreThere’s no doubt Glass writes some beautiful sentences - “Saints are merely tyrants in the kingdom of virtue.” However, this new novel, which borrows characters from her National Book Award winner Three Junes, just doesn’t gel.
First of all, the main character isn’t compelling; his struggles in unemployment are apparently caused by not knowing who his father is. I didn’t ever sense the connection between his unknown father and his unemployment or that his search would solve anything in his life.
Secondly, Glass jumps from this protagonist’s story to others repeatedly, so the book meanders far off course. The main “problem” seems pushed to the side so often, I was wondering if Glass would ever get back to it. When she does, the culmination is sort of a letdown – a bit of deus ex machine.
I sense Glass was trying to explore something about how families are formed – how we overlap, how we create these connections. It’s a noble thought, but it’s also simple, having been explored many times before. (I would suggest Armistead Maupin explored this way better decades ago.)
I loved Three Junes and I See You Everywhere. All of her other books I found at least enjoyable. Glass has loads of talent, a real gift with language, but I wish she’d made a more compelling conflict, raised more difficult questions, and stuck more closely to the main story here. This is, unfortunately, the first book of hers I wouldn’t recommend. (less)
Like all of his other books, Michael Cunningham's The Snow Queen has such a rich, eloquent use of language. This is a short novel about two brothers a...moreLike all of his other books, Michael Cunningham's The Snow Queen has such a rich, eloquent use of language. This is a short novel about two brothers and the women in their lives, all searching for transcendent experiences. My issue is that this urbane, little novel doesn't have enough depth to it. Lots of people talking to themselves and each other, not much else.
Tyler uses drugs to help him write music and deal with the fact that his fiancé Beth is dying of cancer. He's in his mid-forties, still hoping for a career in music. Barrett, his smart, gay, witty, but lackadaisical younger brother, fails both at romance and career. However, Barrett has an amazing experience walking home one night; a light seems to descend from heaven and envelop Barrett for a moment. Does this have to do with saintly Beth, dying of cancer? The men both confide their stories in Beth's best friend and business partner, Liz, a no-nonsense woman in her early 50s, using younger men for thrills and sexual release.
I love that the novel is quintessentially NYC (like Cunningham's last short novel, Before Nightfall). I also love that Cunningham leaves so much of the fantastic element up to the readers' interpretation.
Tyler, the drug-addicted musician, may be one of Cunningham's best characters ever. Alternately lying to himself about his drug use, ignoring his grief, and struggling for creativity, Tyler seems fully realized.
I wish I could say the same for the rest of the characters and the plot. Barrett's story lacks arc - only three or four things cross his path the entire five years of this novel. The women, unfortunately fare worse - falling into iconography as angels or whores. It feels like these females aren't living fully without enough story - plot and want - to propel them.
The plot as a whole is also a little too thin; novels can be about extraordinary ordinary things, but there needs to be more to the characters and storyline to drive things forward. Too much here is related in disjointed internal monologue, told in third person. Small, beautiful moments - like Barrett's with a young, nervous bride-to-be - are absolutely lovely, but they don't have any attachment to the larger story. The imagery from Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen runs throughout, but it also seems disjointed to the larger story. It's as if Cunningham didn't only leave the interpretation of spirituality and connectedness up to the reader; he threw in small, unattached happenstance to see if the reader would create meaning to this, also.
I love Cunningham. His sentences are beautiful. I just wish there was more character and plot to this book, less random internal monologue, more drive.(less)
I totally get why this is a classic, a comment on the changing of philosophy between generations, and the longing to not give up one's youthful vigor...moreI totally get why this is a classic, a comment on the changing of philosophy between generations, and the longing to not give up one's youthful vigor for age. I was a little frustrated at the long arguments about nihilism, but I understand that is a conceit of this book and certainly gives this book its specific place in history. I also love what it says about the affairs and romances of Russians in the 1800s - men were considered for their beauty almost as much as women, and men could romance women even if those women were married or attached to the romancer's brother. Fun read!(less)
Though very detailed, it's also horribly Catholic in interpretation. He tries to back up his point, but he also never finds anything that might argue...moreThough very detailed, it's also horribly Catholic in interpretation. He tries to back up his point, but he also never finds anything that might argue against his own view.(less)
This is a seriously wonderful book, written concisely, with Bryson’s congenial wit. It outlines how very little we truly know about Shakespeare the ma...moreThis is a seriously wonderful book, written concisely, with Bryson’s congenial wit. It outlines how very little we truly know about Shakespeare the man, as it also shows the errors in the rampant conspiracy theories that he wasn’t the author of his plays.
The first point Bryson outlines is that the most of what we know of Shakespeare is through his plays, a chunk of which were only published seven years after his death. Little else survives – six signatures (all with different spellings of his own name), a will, some court documents, and mentions in contemporary writings – that’s about it. Most of what has been presented about the Bard is mere, flimsy conjecture. The largest portion of Shakespeare’s biography can be considered lost to history. We’re not even sure how he pronounced his own name.
Bryson succinctly describes both Elizabethan and Jacobean London and its affect on theatre and Shakespeare’s plays. Spelling words only one way was a boring endeavor for writers and press people at the time; Shakespeare’s first published works are full of both good and terrible interpretations, spellings, additions, and deletions. Violence and political uprising was a regular occurrence that also found its way into the writing. Disease and death, love and the boring prosy of daily life make their appearances.
Bryson also outlines the glories and faults with Shakespeare’s writing, often as it was filled with geographic errors, long-windedness, and lack of definitive version. Bryson acknowledges that actors and others who Shakespeare collaborated with Shakespeare affected the text. (We know he did collaborate some, but on what and with whom is at least a partial mystery. There’s still a chance that some other known and to-be-discovered plays are at least partially Shakespeare’s – including Love’s Labour Won, the major “lost” play…or it could be another title for a known play, as titles shifted to attract new audiences.)
I learned a lot from this slim book. I devoured it in about two days. I am not really writing a review as I am leaving notes here on what will stick with me. (less)
So much has been written about him, and I get that he redefined horror, adding several new mythologies. I don't feel the need to review this in depth....moreSo much has been written about him, and I get that he redefined horror, adding several new mythologies. I don't feel the need to review this in depth.
I will only point out my specific opinion. My issue is that his writing style is florid and thick - not easy on the reader at all. He doesn't provide air, choosing a style with very little dialogue. Many sentences run on. He utilizes LOTS of passive sentences, with multiple dependent and independent clauses. I think he was trying to up the fear by writing in a claustrophobic style, but I got quickly tired reading it. It didn't "sail," and I noticed I was furrowing my brows and rereading sentences repeatedly.
I personally loved "The Lurking Fear" and think it would make a cool movie, if someone did it well. There were several others I liked. The Cthulu mythos - I think the only reason it's survived is because it was a relatively new and nihilistic type of horror. I like the ideas, but again, the style wore me out.
That's all I'll say. I'm sure that's enough to start an endless dialogue on why I'm wrong.(less)
Ooo, several people suggested this to me, and they’re going to hate me!
This is the first book written by a person with Asberger’s Syndrome. People wit...moreOoo, several people suggested this to me, and they’re going to hate me!
This is the first book written by a person with Asberger’s Syndrome. People with AS seem to have a mild form of autism. They are gifted at mechanical, methodical, technological, or scientific stuff, but they are also troubled by intimate or complex human reaction, in general. (Although there are probably people with AS who treat human interaction as a methodology; that’d be a fascinating read!)
John Robison is Augusten Burroughs’ older brother. Augusten has written several best sellers, and either good writing runs in their family, or Augusten helped his brother with this book.
Robison suffered under not knowing about AS for years. He had troubled relationships with his family and girls. He excelled in mechanics, specifically designing sound equipment for rock bands, making special effects for KISS, and finally improving recording and sound technology for toys, phones, etc. He’s had an interesting life; his AS providing both a buffer to the craziness of his family, and also leading him into legal and relationship trouble.
I really enjoyed the book when it was about what life was like not knowing what was different about himself. I also liked how AS enlightened him in so many ways. If he could’ve maintained the structure of what not knowing/knowing led him to, it would’ve stayed an interesting book. So much of the last half of the book is just personal history without much mention about AS. I would’ve loved him to imagine his life not knowing, his life knowing, comparing and contrasting the two, before and after his AS diagnosis.
I personally don’t think of AS as an “illness,” just a different way of processing information. Because most humans are very relational, interactive, and transactional, I can imagine that the emotional side of AS is devastating.
When Robison tells me what AS is like, I m fascinated, riveted. It is his story, and he can go where he likes, but I believe it would’ve been better if he’d 100% focused everything through Asberger’s Syndrome, building an understanding for readers like me. Instead the book lapses into pure biography without context from time to time. (less)
Laugh at me for rating a souvenir book, but this one is well written and organized. And it's 64 pages. The only suggestion I have is a section where t...moreLaugh at me for rating a souvenir book, but this one is well written and organized. And it's 64 pages. The only suggestion I have is a section where they draw maps that show the changes of the rock over time, so we get a sense of the transformation.(less)