Actually, the book that really set me straight was Denis Johnson's The Stars At Noon. Johnson is one of those names I've always carried with me, and sActually, the book that really set me straight was Denis Johnson's The Stars At Noon. Johnson is one of those names I've always carried with me, and so one evening when my boyfriend and I were having dinner, and I got an itch to scour the Halfprice Bookstore shelves, when I saw this one title on the shelf, what with its appealing cover and description, and an alluring randomly-read paragraph from the middle of the book, I decided to take it home with me.
Best decision I could have made. I started reading, and wow. Now, I tried Johnson once before with Already Dead and was less than enchanted. Granted, Johnson's subject matter is really not for the faint of heart, but dear God. The thrill of the perspective he offers, a basic survival story in a completely foreign territory but without losing over to lengthy description and standoffishness in regards to his characters in this foreign place, was freaking rock solid. Not only that, but I made one of the coolest discoveries I have ever made while reading - I found the lyrics from the first verse to a song from my favorite Sonic Youth album, Daydream Nation. The song is called "The Sprawl", and it was actually one of the first Sonic Youth songs I ever heard, and that convinced me to check them out (well, that and the irresistable Madonna cover 'Into the Groove(y). Some of the sentences in the verse were very distinctive, others not so much. But they stuck out like sore thumbs of the best sort to me while I scoured the first fifty pages. Turns out it was lifted from the book, and that just makes me like Sonic Youth even more.
Aside from that, this story of human degradation and what lengths people will turn to when they have no other choices is completely engrossing. Enter love story? And you have a complete winner. If I met that book in a dark alley, it would totally kick my ass. I really wanted to include an excerpt in here, and even though certain passages really rocked my socks off, I had a hard time pulling it from the context of the book. It is just all so good.
In short, this book gave me a pulse again. It inspired me to actually be fair with the stack of to-reads I've been holding at bay, and for the sake of actually accomplishing them, I am not even going to list them here. It seems I jinx myself whenever I declare lists or to-do's, as if by nature of acknowledging that they are in my future I am also dismissing them at the same time. Boo! No more!...more
Beautiful. At times, it takes me a while to slow down enough as a reader to appreciate Erdrich - when I do, it is always rewarding. I keep reading herBeautiful. At times, it takes me a while to slow down enough as a reader to appreciate Erdrich - when I do, it is always rewarding. I keep reading her novels in snatches, here and there, and because they are so entwined, I know there is a lot I am probably missing. I would like to eventually reread everything of hers I've ever picked up, in succession. ...more
To say that White Girls was challenging feels like somehow missing the point. The more I slowed down, took a breath, and plunged into the next sentencTo say that White Girls was challenging feels like somehow missing the point. The more I slowed down, took a breath, and plunged into the next sentence, the more I could feel myself sinking into the vicarious experience of something a little more sophisticated than stream of consciousness - you know, those moments where you are very aware of your physical self, in the way in which you take up space, and how the loudness of your breath seems in direct contradiction of the smallness you feel?
Maybe that's just me.
There are continuities in that this is a book about race, gender, queerness, and how black men can be white women and how white men can be black men too and the ways these shifting identifies inform our modern Oedipal complex (because black/white men can be 'wuzbands' to their mothers, too). It's biography of pop culture figures that have been steeped in their own myth. It is a book about the arresting effect of a voice sounding from a room that has been obscured in plain sight. It is all of these things, sometimes at once, sometimes not.
It is nebulous, trying to determine White Girls' I; and in moments where the join is as breathtaking as this, it doesn't even matter: "For some time before we were known as an 'Oh, you two!' I felt SL was my corny and ancient 'other half.' Nearly from the first I wanted to 'grow into one' with him, as Aristophanes sort of has it in Plato's Symposium. We are not lovers. It's almost as if I dreamed him - my lovely twin, the same as me, only different."
That said, this is not an accessible read, and at times it felt less like a walk through a dazzling snowscape than it did like sloughing through that hard, dirt and gravel mixed sludge that forms when the ice can't decide whether to melt or harden. That doesn't strike me as an unintentional effect. When I finished, I didn't feel as though I gave White Girls all that I could - and as such, I can only have an opinion that is uninformed. I felt that it was tender and sharp and abasing in turns, and also, at times, incomprehensible.
The amount of nerding-out I did over this book was incredible. While there were a few incorrect details that I spotted here and there (and one that stThe amount of nerding-out I did over this book was incredible. While there were a few incorrect details that I spotted here and there (and one that stuck out to me so much, I actually sent an email to David Browne - no word back yet, and none expected), overall the writing was incredibly cohesive, and although Browne had conducted interviews with the bands many years prior to taking on this project, his presence in the work was completely invisible. I actually borrowed this book, and have decided it is a vital thing to have in my own book collection, and plan on purchasing my own copy soon - not only can I imagine myself reading it again in a year or two from now, it's a rich pop culture resource, seeing as you cannot have a worthwhile conversation about Sonic Youth without discussing their influences as well. While reading, I found myself desperately wanting to drop the book at times to immediately delve into any number of artists mentioned during one period or another of their career, but putting it down was simply impossible to do. I'm also quite excited to check out Browne's other biography of Jeff Buckley, in a schoolgirl-squee sort of way. ...more
Discovered this book on accident, picked it up on a whim, and surprised myself by reading it in one sitting. It is graceful, truthful, and critical wiDiscovered this book on accident, picked it up on a whim, and surprised myself by reading it in one sitting. It is graceful, truthful, and critical without being savage or pretentious (despite its characters) -- I thoroughly and completely loved it. And when I got to the end of the book where it said "17 other books written by Julian Barnes," I do believe I might have squealed. ...more
Regular people, whether they realize it or not, walk around believing, as you cannot make your way in the world without believing, that the universe iRegular people, whether they realize it or not, walk around believing, as you cannot make your way in the world without believing, that the universe is holding them.
Well, the people on our side of the line thought, the fuck it does.
^ Only how I have felt my entire life, NBD. In reading other reviews of this book. I think interpreting this as a work of literature is missing the point, because what is happening here is an attempt to advance and normalize the experience of trauma response and PTSD. McClelland wrote this book for other trauma survivors, and she did so in an attempt to counteract the isolation and stigma that accompanies it. I read this book 100% as an honorable effort to advance the normalization of trauma response in a culture that refuses to acknowledge the importance of mental health. Working as I do in a field in which secondary trauma is not only highly possible, but likely, I cannot understate the importance of this. ...more
I don't know why either, but I've attempted this one twice, and can never seem to see it through to the end. The concept is really nice, the writing iI don't know why either, but I've attempted this one twice, and can never seem to see it through to the end. The concept is really nice, the writing is good, but I think the story and the intertwining dialogue confused me more than anything. Another case of bad timing, or just not something for me, I am still not sure. ...more
I've long been a fan of the idea of Granta, but have not until now found an issue that really spoke to me. As soon as I saw that this was the theme ofI've long been a fan of the idea of Granta, but have not until now found an issue that really spoke to me. As soon as I saw that this was the theme of the issue, I knew I was going to love it, and I had the pleasure of being right. The first story was pitch perfect, and it set the stage beautifully for what followed. Really wonderful. ...more
Joan Didion -- get out of my head. No seriously. Or actually, you know what? Don't. I absolutely love this woman and the way she writes. Her fiction iJoan Didion -- get out of my head. No seriously. Or actually, you know what? Don't. I absolutely love this woman and the way she writes. Her fiction is pretty damn sexy, but her nonfiction? Sublime.
I bought this book for my mom several years ago, a few years after the death of my father. It took me almost 8 years after the death of my father to read it, and I wish I had read it years ago, because her discourse on grief and mourning is about the most solid account I've found. Didion is so vivid, personal and visceral while maintaining a cool distance -- the very same "cool customer" effect she discusses in terms of the shock that immediately followed her husband's passing. She is not a force of nature, but of human nature.
Didion reads as the calm before the storm or the deep breath before the plunge, but always without pretension, and you always have to do the work yourself. I could say a lot more, but I don't even really think it's necessary. I think that everyone should own a copy of this book.
Loved quite a few of these. I also especially liked the introductory essay by Cynthia Ozick - never do I usually stop to read prefaces, or introductioLoved quite a few of these. I also especially liked the introductory essay by Cynthia Ozick - never do I usually stop to read prefaces, or introductions, as its seems as though it hampers the process of getting to know the book on its own terms. This time, however, it introduced beautifully, and in such a way that has really helped me appreciate how to read some really beautiful essays. I'm glad these always seem to be in such cheap and abundant supply at the local Half Price Books - I've seen them from numerous years. I'll certainly be picking up some more for thoughtful reading. In any case, I think my favorite discovery might be William H. Gass (his essay 'the test of time' struck me in its play writing, and the James Wood essay that ended the collection, 'real life,' was a great and ponderous note to end on. I'm eagerly adding Gass and Chekhov (at the encouragement of Wood) to my reading list. ...more
UPDATE: Okay, despite my gripe, I finished it. And I did not hate it. It was written with grace, but the trajectory was predictable - which may, sadlyUPDATE: Okay, despite my gripe, I finished it. And I did not hate it. It was written with grace, but the trajectory was predictable - which may, sadly, be the point.
I found the writing in Straub's novel more engaging than her short stories, but it still suffered from a lack of pull and halfway through that pull had given way to boredom. ...more
Frank Bascombe is the perfect postmodern anti-hero, drudging through slowly unwinding days filled with somewhat fantastic and life-changing events (thFrank Bascombe is the perfect postmodern anti-hero, drudging through slowly unwinding days filled with somewhat fantastic and life-changing events (that do not perceptibly change him) while those around him flip endlessly through catalogs, neatly dog-earing pages that will define their new lives. I thought this book was both thrilling and completely boring to read, all at the same time. I can't really understand what pull or allure Richard Ford has for me, but I think I will read the sequel, Independence Day, which is also about Frank Bascombe and which apparently won a Pulitzer. ...more