I find this entire series very unenjoyable, but I appreciated what I felt were academic analyses of consent and power in the first two books. Because...moreI find this entire series very unenjoyable, but I appreciated what I felt were academic analyses of consent and power in the first two books. Because this third installment failed to present any academic point, there was really nothing for me here. The attempt was clearly to say something about how, traditionally, women have actually fought in wars, not stayed on the sidelines fainting and tending to wounds like, I don't know, some people expect, but really the story was more about how cool women want to be BFFs with Blomkvist and have sex with him. I didn’t really get anything out of the interjections about the Amazons, which appeared at different intervals throughout this book. And I don’t happen to care about who wants to have sex with Blomkvist – I find Blomkvist abominable – so this was terrible. I know that all of the books have been about how the chicks dig Blomkvist, but they also offered something smart and academic that this one lacked.
The other thing up in this ol’ book was that just about every five pages this conversation would happen:
“Remember how awesome book 2 was?”
“Yeah, that was so cool. We were so badass. Remember how you were all Aaaaaack, and I was like neeeeeeer, and then it was like whoooooaaaa, and bang bang?”
“Yeah, then my favorite part was like hacking computers and taking down the system.”
“Totally. And it was like, mystery guys and punching and guns and stuff.”
“Do you think the prime minister knows how cool book 2 was?”
“We should definitely tell him. And we should tell like chiefs of police and ambassadors and other important people.”
And then everyone goes off to describe book 2 to important people, and they all have that conversation OVER AND OVER. Like, whoa, dudes. You are so cool. But mostly Blomkvist is cool because badass warrior chicks want to have sex with him and it doesn’t even bother him that they are stronger and smarter than him. Yeah, what a man. Big pat on the back from this corner that you’re not offended that women are cool. His fucking humility is really why he’s so fucking cool.
What a douche.
And Lisbeth Salander is hanging out in bed this entire book.
And then, in the end, there’s a “trial,” where they re-tell book 2 for the eleventy millionth time, and there is ONE hearsay objection, which happens basically the ONLY time a statement isn’t hearsay throughout the entire “trial.” And after the objection, no one reacts, the judge doesn’t rule on it, and the questioning just continues like nothing happened. I object to that.
Here’s the thing about the crappy trial: I know that Larsson has the capacity to do research and not be a total moron about technical matters, so there’s really no excuse for what goes down there. And it was so out of control that it was painful to read. Not that ALL OF THE REST OF THIS SERIES wasn’t, also, COMPLETELY PAINFUL to read, but at least most of it wasn’t stupid. This was stupid.
My Cousin Vinny and Legally Blonde do a better job at adhering to trial practice rules, AND are more entertaining.
Ugh, and then there’s this tacked on ending-ending where Lisbeth goes to Blomkvist’s house to make up and be BFFs again (or he goes to her house, I can’t even remember). And they make up, awwwwww. Whew, too, because that was what I was really worried about in this book about slavery, rape, and oppression. I was REALLY fucking worried that one of these women wouldn’t want to be Blomkvist’s friend. Because that’s what rape and slavery stories are mostly about: douchey guys getting the hugs they deserve.
This sucked. I hate all of these idiot people. I’m so glad it’s over.(less)
Well, imagine if Effie Trinket wrote a book about Bella Swan that took place in David Lynch’s brain, using as literary reference the Harry Potter series and the Uglies series.
It is bad and somewhat horrifying at the same time. And while both Skye O’Malley and this book had some creepy abuse of women and girls, Skye had panthers on leashes.
What. The. Fuck?
A friend informed me that the word SMIZE means to smile with your eyes. I don’t know if that makes me hate this book more or hate it less. I actually think it makes me hate it more. Oh my god, the mutilation of the English language in this book is pure sadism. The alliterative synonyms!!! Can't unsee.
I looked at all of the pages in this book, so nobody better give me any bullshit about finishing the damn thing. I got all the way to the miserable end.
There is a part where the chosen models go on a “catwalk,” which, in Modelland, means they walk down a hallway full of cats, which are possessed by the spirits of other models, and get clawed by the model/cats. Tookie . . .
that is the protagonist's name . . .
Anyway, her romantic interest, Bravo . . .
I can't even - the words: they are not enough for how stupid this is.
So, Bravo is always casually sticking his thumb into Tookie's mouth, and there are elaborate descriptions of how manly his thumb tastes. How does that even happen? This book is so bad.
I kind of like watching America’s Next Top Model on a marathon – or at least I did like six years ago. I haven’t done that in a while. At the same time, I am sort of left with the same feeling I get when I watch the movie Stomp the Yard - that it is not about anything. Like, the girls get weird pictures taken of them, then Tyra Banks yells at them in a snotty voice, and then people cry. I don’t totally get it. In Stomp the Yard, too, there is a set of standards that I can’t imagine is real. People jump around, and then other people yell, and it’s like, awwww yeeeeah, somebody won. But did somebody really win? What were the rules? Was there a German judge? I don’t get it. It is not very fun to watch or read something that is so far removed from my reality that it is only confusing.
At least now I know Suzanne Collins was modeling the Capital in Hunger Games on ANTM. I guess that’s some kind of redeeming takeaway.
Karen sent me an autographed copy of this, too. So, that continues to be spectacular.(less)
Gurl, I hate to be the one to tell ya, but your boyfriend is totally gay. Gay as the day is long. I know you’re new to this whole “humanity” thing, so...moreGurl, I hate to be the one to tell ya, but your boyfriend is totally gay. Gay as the day is long. I know you’re new to this whole “humanity” thing, so I’ll give you a couple of pointers. Your guy might say “she walks like the night,” but when a dude calls you a lady of the night, it’s not usually a compliment. Also when a dude is (view spoiler)[really into unicorns (hide spoiler)], pretty clear signal of gay. So, when your bf is calling you a prostitute and IS a (view spoiler)[unicorn (hide spoiler)] . . . man, you know your relationship better than me, but it might be time for a serious DTR. Don’t wait for the facebook post.
Until he comes out, I could really see you guys digging some of these helpful tips from Cosmo, now that you decided to cross that interspecies line. They’re just so you.
I gotta tell you, though (since we’re having this brutally honest talk) that when you go on and on about OMG, are people who are different than me reeeeally peeeeple??? It makes me want to die. I truly, truly, truly do not understand why someone hasn’t killed this topic of debate. They are peeeple! SOYLENT GREEN IS PEEEEPLE!! I’m so over that. It has been scientifically, sociologically, and statistically proven that Muslimswomencylons people are fucking people. And two hundred pages of you realizing that people are people . . . kill me now.
Also, and now I am addressing you, Ms. Durst: if you are trying to somehow be satirical about vampire romance, you totally failed. Read A Shore Thing and see how it’s done classy. Also, bad form to have a character make fun of Buffy. Bad form!
Let’s talk about Twilight for a second, though. Where were you going with all of that? Were you satirizing it or fan fic-ing it? I am so lost. It felt like you were trying really hard and failing to make fun of it, which made me very uncomfortable. How is it making fun of Twilight to write a vampire girl who falls in love with someone sparkly and sharp and kind of controlling and converts to his culture for him? I’ll tell you how: it’s not. So, instead, this is just fan fic that takes a dig at its mommy fic quite frequently. AWKWARD!
So awkward. Everything. I mean, Twilight deserves criticism, sure, but at least there are cars flying places and people plotting and attacking, and oh my god finding out what sort of mythical creature everyone is. I totally hate it in books when it takes people forever to realize what mythical creature everyone is. So boring. But, my point is that at least Twilight is not just people sitting around fucking thinking about how sweet humans are. MAYBE . . . or are they?
That’s another thing. Humans are NOT that sweet. You set up this weird dichotomy where the characters could be either Charles Manson or Rainbow Brite, and that sucks.
I wish this story wasn’t about stupid, stupid unicorns, but was about screwicorns instead. I think I hate unicorns. _____________________
The publisher provided me this book in exchange for nothing. And I am grateful for that, even though this book was terribly boring.(less)
**spoiler alert** If there's one thing that makes my blood boil and my skin ripple with creepy crawlies, it's a story that disrespects real suffering....more**spoiler alert** If there's one thing that makes my blood boil and my skin ripple with creepy crawlies, it's a story that disrespects real suffering. For me, this was one of those. Even though it started off really well, the second half majorly crashed and burned. Think there are two stories of suffering in this series: the teen-angst romance and the story of genocide and grief. This was such a huge fail for me in the way the grief story becomes an afterthought so the teen-angst romance can get back in the spotlight. This story is about how attraction to a hot guy molds a girl and changes her fibers, defines (in some undefinable way) who she is, and grief is something that, while uncomfortable, passes like a bruise. I think the opposite is true.
Murder and the Manic Pixie
I googled "genocide statistics," and these are the numbers the internet came up with for me:
Armenia: 1,000,000 killed from 1915-1923 China under Mao: 58,000,000 killed USSR under Stalin: 20,000,000 killed (Robert Conquest, The Great Terror) Holocaust: 5,700,000 killed from 1933-1945 (Nuremberg Trial) Khmer Rouge (Cambodia): 1,600,000 killed between 1975-1978 Bosnia: 250,000 killed from 1992-1995 (U.S. State Dept.) Rwanda: 1,000,000 killed in 1994 Somalia: 300,000 killed from 1991-present (IRIN, a UN agency) Darfur: at least 450,000 killed from 2003-present (UN High Commission on Refugees) (http://www.urbanministry.org/wiki/gen...)
It is kind of interesting that when we talk about war and genocide, we round the numbers so cleanly. We shove individuals off the statistics because one million makes a catchier number than 999,876. Or, maybe, we just estimate because it's not possible to even know how many people died. It is certainly not possible to estimate how many survivors have been broken by genocide, not to mention the lives broken by racism and sexism, the slightly more chill siblings of genocide.
Chris Hondros, Samar Hassan, 5, screams after her parents were killed in Tal Afar, Iraq
I understand why Stalin’s regime romanticized and justified genocide, and the same with Pol Pot, Hitler, and Mao. Propaganda is useful when you are clinging to maniacal power. And as Eddie Izzard says,
We think if someone kills someone, you go to prison, that’s murder. You kill ten people, you go to Texas, they hit you with a brick – that’s what they do. Twenty people, you go to a hospital, they look at you though a small window forever. And, over that, we can’t deal with it. Someone who’s killed a hundred thousand people . . . we’re almost going, ‘Well done! You killed a hundred thousand people? You must get up very early in the morning! I can’t even get down to the gym.’
About this book, though . . . we see a lot of genocide in the world . . . and it seems disrespectful to me to romanticize a genocidal warlord, whether it is for the purposes of propaganda or for the purposes of a YA fantasy novel. Pushing Akiva’s choices onto the Emperor, or whatever he was called, just doesn’t ring true to me. You kill the people you kill, even if someone else told you to. And I’m not saying that books for a younger audience can’t talk about genocide. The Gregor the Overlander series blew me away when it went into genocide. Truly amazing. This book, though, was a whole book full of manic pixie dream girls dabbling in genocide and then gazing at each other.
Even the dudes in this book are manic pixie dream girls. And it’s like, you know: genocide just gets so monotonous and tiring after a while. Genocide ennui is so now. You kill and kill, and at first it’s fulfilling, but then you’re like, “this really isn’t getting me laid the way I thought it would, even though I got these eyes of fire and a dreamy widow’s peak and, like, shawls fulla moth-birds I picked up at Hot Topic.”
Then, you gaze across a crowded battlefield at this girl, and she’s all, “OMG, all I want is hugs! And I know you (view spoiler)[killed my whole family (hide spoiler)], but I’m pretty sure it was just because you loved me sooooo much!”
And then her wise, exotic nanny is all, “Honey chile, you just gotsa go get yo man! He only (view spoiler)[killin’ ev’yone you loved (hide spoiler)] ‘cause he’sa grievin’ fo you. If you go back to him, maybe it will bring peace ta tha whole wide universe and tha moons’n stars.”
Really? . . . Really?! It kind of highlights how convenient the resurrection convention of this series is. It’s okay that he’s a mass-murdering fuckhead! We’ll just bring the people we cared about back to life, and no harm done!
Now, I love Romeo and Juliet. I love it a lot. When I was in college, my genius roommate used to convince guys hanging out at our house to perform the balcony scene with her as a comedy. The play makes this wonderful, sad-clown comedy. Juliet is a crazy person, wanting to pluck Romeo back to herself like a little bird on a string, bwuhaha. Romeo is a self-centered ass, in love with the idea of being in love and bragging about his girlfriends to his buddies. It is kind of hilarious, especially set to the backdrop of the plague breakout in Verona, which gives some perspective to the childish dramatics of our couple.
I have also seen one completely earnest, sad, beautiful production of Romeo and Juliet. The actors playing the couple were living together in real life, and they had this palpable spark between them that made the star-crossed fate truly tragic. The lighting was intimate, like the production in Slings and Arrows once it turns beautiful (here at 2:50) and the couple was still dumb and cursed, but I may have teared up a couple of times because they were beautiful and hopeful.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone caught elements of both comedic and tragic readings of Romeo and Juliet perfectly. The real tragedy in either reading is that the story of these lovers can only exist within this window of time. It can only exist with the suicide at the end. Like any romantic story, it only works if the sun sets at the appropriate time. Otherwise, you start to realize that he snores, and she chews too loud. He says all his sentences as a question; she can’t ever remember to put the cap back on her toothpaste.
Or, worse than snoring, as Taylor so beautifully showed in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, he has the capacity in him to commit genocide and kill every one you ever loved. It is beautiful because that changes the entire game; it changes the entire person he is. He is not the person dreaming of peace and respect for all creatures. He is the person killing them.
“Or is he?” Days of Blood and Starlight asks in its backwards bulldozing over the beauty of the first book. Maybe he was super provoked and it was okay that he killed and betrayed everyone because he was like, really, really sad. Awww. Poor little mass murdering fuckhead. He was so sad!
Romance and Grief
So, the thing that bothers me in the fallout in this book is Karou. This story assumes Karou's devotion to this dude, into whose eyes she's gazed for like twelve seconds, would be a strong enough feeling to overcome her grief for her family.
It creeps me out when women in real life blindly stay with men who make them feel terrible. It says something to me about the degradation of the soul. I think that plenty of smart and interesting women do that, but it is at its base a creepy choice to me. But, then, nothing in this story built up to Karou for that type of creepy choice, so her actions and feelings for Akiva just made no sense to me. There was this idea that it could be noble to go back to someone who made you feel the worst you could possibly feel. It’s not romantic, but it’s also confusing.
It also makes no sense to me because romantic feelings (especially early, fiery romance) are like a delicate collectible unicorn figurine, and grief is like a jackhammer. Sometimes romantic feelings can’t survive someone’s table manners and overuse of the word “absolutely,” and it is beyond me to conceive of a situation, aside from being creepily insane sufferer of Stockholm syndrome, where romantic feelings could survive the murder of one’s whole family.
Other Miscellaneous Complaints
Am I wrong, or did all the hand-burning on the doors stuff happen when Karou was seventeen? But, I know Brimstone made her a baby because she has memories of her childhood, and it’s never indicated that they are false. So, like, this book is trying to tell me that Akiva was the nicest guy ever, and dreaming of peace, but then he did all of the hand-burning stuff in reaction to seeing Madrigal get killed? But, he just waited seventeen years to express his heat of passion genocide? That makes no sense.
Also, if the hamsas work after you cut off a hand – so they have some kind of magic of their own aside from the soul inside of the body – why didn’t they just burn hamsas into the outside of the walls of Loramendi? Further, how did the whole group of angel soldiers stand around holding the hamsa hands without also accidentally hitting each other with hamsa magic? Dumb.
And why be such an asshole to Ziri, book? Why be such an asshole to the ONLY actually badass character in this entire story? WHYYYY????
Overall, I often don't agree with that advice to writers (I think from Faulkner) to "kill your darlings," and I feel like writers often misapply it because they have something to prove. But, in the first book, Taylor so boldly worse-than-killed Akiva by revealing him to be a mass murdering fuckhead. Trying to resurrect his character by romanticizing what he did felt cheap and disrespectful in this one. Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, like Akiva, all had motivations for their mass murdering, but they were not romantic motivations. It is not romantic to commit genocide or kill your girlfriend’s family. It is not romantic to make another person feel terrible. It’s not romantic to want to make out with a guy who killed your family. It just isn’t. ______________________________ I got a copy of this book from a friend, and nobody paid me anything to rip it to shreds with the crescent blades of my keyboard.(less)
Q: if you could edit this book, what would you take out? A: the words.
. . .
Have you ever had an eight-year-old kid try to describe to you winning a le...moreQ: if you could edit this book, what would you take out? A: the words.
. . .
Have you ever had an eight-year-old kid try to describe to you winning a level of a video game? Have you ever had a middle-aged man try to describe to you completing the games section of the New York Times? Did those experiences involve multiple conversations like this:
“What is the maze?” “Stop asking so many questions!”
I have to say that this book was more boring than having someone tell you in painful detail about winning a video game or finishing a crossword puzzle. It is more boring if only for the constant, "What are you talking about?" "No! I won't tell you!" This book is astonishingly boring. I know that I am predisposed not to like it because there are no female characters (no, I do not count the leggy, blue-eyed girlfriend as a female character), but, really, I ask you: are there any male characters either? If you say, yes, then I challenge you to prove it. Are Mario and Luigi and Princess Toadstool characters in Mario Kart? What about the ducks in Duck Hunt? Are they characters? We have to draw the line somewhere. And I submit to you that there are no characters in this book. Or, at least, there are fewer characters in this book than there are in Duck Hunt.
Also, a couple of things that bothered me throughout:
1. What famous scientist was Minho named after? Okay, I just googled that and apparently Dashner “purposely” named a few characters after scientists who will supposedly exist in the future. Like the only Asian kid in the book. Because there are no Asian scientists today that he could name someone after. *facedesk* And like Zart. Zart and the Asian kid were not named after scientists. *double facedesk*
2. Why can’t the grievers climb over the wall? They obviously can climb. But not over the wall? Did I miss this? At first I thought the kids were in some kind of dome, but then it seemed like it was just a really tall wall. . . . That it was impossible to climb? WHYYY?????
3. What purpose does the telepathy serve? None is the answer. It serves no purpose.
4. Why is this book so, so, so long and boring?
So, maybe a third of the way through the book, I developed this false hope that this book would be some kind of pretty metaphor for children going through the grieving process and supporting each other in loss. I thought, “Oh, grievers! Maybe the challenges of the maze and the bonding of the boys in the glade will have some larger message.” No. This book is not about that. It is about doing the NYT games section and then maybe vague talk of zombies later. Total bullshit.
I have to think this book came out while LOST was still on and before its terrible conclusion, which forced millions of Americans to face the fact that when it looks like a story will have no purpose, it probably has no purpose. I have to think Dashner thought he could bank on the millions of us willing to suspend our skepticism and keep watching a show whose writers clearly had no plan. I am hoping that in the wake of that disaster, we will have grown up a little and be less willing to stand for bullshit like this.
I googled it, and, yes, I was right. Cashing in on gullible LOST audience. Unacceptable. (less)
You know, I think after talking to a couple of people about it, reading a couple of reviews, I can see better why someone would like these books. I am...moreYou know, I think after talking to a couple of people about it, reading a couple of reviews, I can see better why someone would like these books. I am not a girl who cares for The Wings of the Dove, so I cannot understand this particular preference, but I can observe that people have it. I guess that there is something about vague wordiness that is attractive to some readers, and, you know, I can see how that is a thing. Maybe it is like black licorice. Like, it is objectively disgusting, but some people like it. ;-) I kid! I kid! . . . mostly. Anyway, I would not say that I have a particular problem with Ms. DeStefano’s vague wordiness, actually, but it is my impression that, for some, this characteristic redeems the absence of character development, plot, and understandable world building in her books. So, there’s that. I will tell you what I do have a problem with, though, but I feel like I need to move to a new paragraph at this point, so you are going to have to be content with no snappy thesis sentence in this review. It’s the DeStefano way!
Ahh, yes. Much more comfortable. Soo, anywhoo. In one of my Intro to Lit classes in college, I had this lovely professor who advised us that whenever we read anything, we should ask ourselves who wrote it and what his or her agenda is. This is how I read books, and because I value direct communication, I probably base a lot of my opinion about a book on how clearly I can understand who wrote it and what the agenda is. (I am not using agenda as an insult. I think we all have agendas. Maybe “message” is a better word, but in books, I think they would mean the same thing.) How does the book present the world? What does it normalize? What does it question? Sometimes this is a more complex issue than others – for example, in the Uglies series, while Scott Westerfeld seems to try to say superficiality and self-mutilation are bad, I think he really does more to normalize them. Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden series is another difficult one on that front.
First, I guess I’ll talk about figuring out who the author is, and then I’ll get to talking about the book and its messages in a minute. Ms. DeStefano is a twenty-seven-year-old woman whom many have mistaken for a teenager. Maybe, in some ways, that is not a bad thing from a marketing perspective because it makes her more relatable to her audience. Otherwise, infantilization bothers me, and it bothers me when women play into it because I think it is usually manipulative, but I guess I don’t feel too strongly about it compared to the other things that make my head explode about this series. What I actually want to talk about are Ms. DeStefano’s choices in dealing with her position as an author in the midst of reviewers, so you’ll have to forgive me for the digression or report me to the authorities if you wish. I guess I’ll put that digression at the end, so you can choose to read it or not. It’s kind of loooong, and probably nobody cares at this point anyway. My main thought is that when authors, and Ms. DeStefano is certainly not alone in this, publicly react to reviews from an instinctive emotional place and make reviews about their feelings (or even when they privately contact reviewers in this way), it really comes off as a show of strength to reviewers, even if the author intends to be benevolent.*
So, anyway, about this book. It makes The Lord of the Rings look like a fast-paced, action-packed, breathtaking ride at blinding speed through a roller coaster of plot. Meaning, nothing happens in this book the entire time. Gabriel is still a cardboard cutout of UR boifriend with blu Is. Rhine swoons I don’t even know how many times. The damn candies (view spoiler)[are the key to the disease, just as you expected (hide spoiler)], and there is a drop-in mute, disabled, possibly autistic child who serves no purpose other than to . . . no, she serves no purpose. She scampers A LOT. On. All. Fours. And there’s one part where she hangs upside down from the back of a bus seat, and I’m not totally sure what the logistics on that are, considering the size of bus seats I’ve encountered, even compared to the size of babies.
But, aside from the offensive drop-in disabled puppymonkey child to make everyone look cute (or eeeevil, depending on who you are), we also remember that smart kids still can’t have voluntary sex with someone they like, but since kids must have sex, they have to stumble into a sex trap. So, Rhine and Gabriel fall into the grips of an eeeeevil brothel owner who for some reason talks like a Russian villain in a cartoon. She pumps them with aphrodisiacs and they do the deed in a cage in front of an audience (I think – this is never totally worked out a la Wings of the Dove, and I was left with the feeling that they were just making out, even though that doesn’t really make sense). So . . . that happens. It is voyeuristic and disempowering. Not, like, they would have wanted to have sex, but you know. The aphrodisiacs made them do it. This continues the image presented over and over in these books that women cannot want sex just for its own sake, but either must want it for some unhealthy ulterior motive or be forced into sex. It also continues the image that women cannot say “no” to sex and actually have people listen to them.
Then, after the aphrodisiac cage and some other hijinks, (view spoiler)[Rhine winds up back at the mansion because no one realized that tracking devices are a thing, and the statutory rapist from the first book is like, "UR rong, I never hit U! UR tearing me apart Lisa!" And then she finally, after NOT FINDING HER FREAKING BROTHER THE WHOLE TIME (because, let’s be reasonable, it is difficult to find people when you have to swoon all the time) sees her brother on TV, and he’s sparin’ for change on the street in front of a news camera, like you do when they’re going around shooting everyone in a dystopia. AND SCENE (hide spoiler)]. Probably the main issue I have with these books is that I feel like they are saying nothing in a direct way, but doing a lot to normalize a sense of female victimization. Ms. DeStefano takes on the voice of trafficked child prostitutes, and then she does nothing to give them actual humanity or strength. This is a topic I have studied a little bit and really care about, so painting trafficked girls as boring, shallow waifs is offensive to me. I guess I don’t have much else to say about that.
I think I’ve said this before, but another thing that strikes me as odd in this book is that the statutory rape is treated as, well, you know, kids will be kids, but medical testing is painted in a weirdly ambivalent way. Rhine’s parents did it, so she is in favor of it, but it is also painted as the most evil thing in the book. I am confused about the book’s position on this, and that ends up adding to my overall boredom because ultimately I don't really care one way or another what the position on this is, I'd just like to know what it is.
I still cannot give this book one star because, even though it was probably objectively worse than the first one, and even though Skye O’Malley had panthers on leashes, which is AWESOME no matter how you look at it, Skye had a child being raped by a dog, and this book did not. So, Fever gets a freebie star for that. If you are not working on a bestiality-to-no-bestialiaty scale, though, this book is mostly pretty boring. I mean, this book is boooorrinzzzzzzzzz.
And, here’s the thing, you can get offended at the fact that I thought your book was boring, and that I think it normalizes rape, if you want to, Lauren (if you don’t mind me using your fist name). But, I’ve been told my writing is boring and wrong and what have you on the internet, and it is just a person’s opinion. And in this case, the person who called you boring has way less power than you do (see below for more on this). And I also do mean that to be constructive criticism, even if it doesn’t come off that way.
Ultimately, it is probably a pretty simple fix to make the next book less boring. You do a lot of telling and not showing. You tell us, for example that Rhine is an Aquarius, so she is unpredictable, but I have not yet seen her be unpredictable. I have seen many, many Aquariuses be unpredictable in many, many unpredictable ways, but I have not seen that from Rhine. I have seen her romanticize her surroundings, as a Libra like yourself might do, but I have not seen her be unpredictable or witty like an Aquarius might be. Also, you indicate that Gabriel wants to protect Rhine and Linton is in love with Rhine, but I have not yet seen them express anything other than not wanting other people to touch her. My understanding is that they do this because she has two different colored eyes, which makes her special to them. That is perplexing to me. If you could say less and show more about why they would like her, it would help me out.
Speaking of her being an Aquarius, I feel really bad that I am releasing a negative review right before Rhine’s birthday. But, since I am pretty convinced someone lied about her birthday, and she’s actually a Libra, I’m going to go ahead and wish her a happy fake birthday and release the review. Happy fake birthday, Rhine! I hope rehab is very successful for you and that you grow a pair!
* I was actually thinking pretty seriously about author/reviewer interaction on goodreads.com for a few days before Ms. DeStefano let us know what she thinks our dark, 4chan corner of the internet. Her posts, and her subsequent behind-the-scenes attempts to regain favor with readers obviously did make me think more about the circumstances of author/reviewer respect, though, so I am going to talk a little about it here. Author/reviewer interaction is, perhaps, the most over-discussed topic in my entire world right now, other than, maybe, the topic of charging real costs for public records requests, but that is an entirely different boring story. So, I am definitely apologizing for wasting your time by adding my voice to this ridiculousness, but I feel compelled.
I guess, you know, I’m in law school, and that’s definitely part of who I am as a reviewer. I spend most of the day arguing, in a mostly non-personal way, with people who have different opinions than my own about almost anything you can think of from furniture to rape to the prison system to licorice. And I think, for the most part, goodreads tends to interact in a similar way. We present our opinions and tell our story, and then someone tells us that we are a fat, lesbian, Rachel Maddow-lookalike, tiring elitist, and someone else thanks us for our opinion and story and says it changed their life, and then we all go back to our realities. I’ll not say that I haven’t had my feelings hurt on goodreads, but who among us has not been hurt by those we love? So, I might be wrong, but I think I can see what Ms. DeStefano is saying when she says it is difficult to read a negative review on goodreads. This is another thing, though, that I observe to be true, but do not necessarily understand. I guess, I like it when people disagree with me, so we can work out our ideas, and everyone can grow and become better through talking and thinking. I even think it’s funny when I get an angry troll who corrects me and says my writing is garbage. My feelings get hurt, on the other hand, when an authority figure steps in to reprimand me for expressing my thoughts.
So, that is where I am going with this. It is my impression that some authors do not realize that by the very nature of getting paid for their writing, they carry a certain amount of power within the writing community as far as everyone else is concerned. They are the trustees of the school, the investors in the project, and when they show up, the kids had better be on their best behavior. I have seen loads of wonderful author/reviewer interactions, but still, when the authors show up, there is a hush. Maybe this is sad sometimes for authors, and I can definitely see why Caris chooses not to embody his author profile, but ultimately I do not feel bad for these poor little rich kids. As reviewers, we come on this website because it is what we do – our fingers love to type, we tell stories, we love and hate books, and we love to write. And we get reminded constantly that we are not as good as published authors. I am not trying to claim some kind of nobility for it; I am just saying that we are all writers, but for those of us who are not paid to write, those who are paid for writing have a certain amount of power.
So, I guess my point is that whether an author intends it to be this way or not, stepping into a reviewer conflict can feel like a show of strength to reviewers. It can feel more threatening than a normal trolling. Even if you mean to say, “Oh hai! Conflict is a bummer!” it can feel to a reviewer like, “I am talking to other published authors about you and how you hurt my feelings and how they should not support your writing.” I am writing this in the second person because Ms. DeStefano is one of the authors who has made it clear she is monitoring reviews, but she is among many, and I think it is a potential learning moment for many authors and reviewers who have suddenly run into each other on these internets. I give major kudos to authors who can show up on a review and just validate what people are saying without trying to make it about that author's emotions. I also give major kudos to authors who can step away from the computer when they need to. It bothers me when I see authors do the opposite, whether they do it behind the scenes or in public.
As reviewers, we give good reviews and your book sells; we give bad reviews, and your book sells. But, you complain about us, and sometimes our writing disappears, and that is how we know where the power lies. As reviewers, most of us have had our writing, bodies, sexual orientation, political views, and grammar choices questioned and criticized, too. But, that is part of the fun and part of the nature of writing. I know that you, and other authors, have said that you do not want to stifle reviewer reaction to your writing, but when you make it clear that every sentence we say is life or death to you, it comes off as a show of strength because you have power over our writing and we do not have power over yours.
If I could use one word to describe this book, it would probably be “boring.” “Awkward” is a close runner-up. I think Elizabeth Strout must be the typ...moreIf I could use one word to describe this book, it would probably be “boring.” “Awkward” is a close runner-up. I think Elizabeth Strout must be the type of person who is less of the entertainment school of writing and more of the vitamins school of writing. But, I am left wondering what nutritional value I got out of this. Mostly, it just seemed like a bunch of people sitting around being petty, judging other people’s Issues, and thinking about cheating on each other. Like, whoa, deep.
The structure of the book is a bunch of different short stories that all somehow reference this one bitchy lady, Olive Kitteridge. It’s not a bad structure if there was something you wanted to know about the person, but in itself the structure is more of a gimmick than anything. Alone, it is neither good nor bad, but it’s easy to get trapped in a gimmick and refuse to edit because you’re married to it. I feel like that’s what happened here. A few of the better stories only incidentally referenced Olive Kitteridge, and I think they could have made better (by which I mean more entertaining and containing a plot) overall stories than Olive’s. Maybe I am just not interested in her. She is the mean math teacher, controlling mother, self-absorbed wife, busybody neighbor. None of the ways this played out were particularly appalling, but they were not endearing either. She started out meh and stayed meh throughout. I guess there is some reference in her character to the frigidness of New England towns, and I feel equally indifferent about that.
But, okay, I did like this recurrent theme about not being afraid of our own hunger. The book probably explores desire, and the stories are probably all studies about human desire and how it expresses itself in different ways. I don’t know, maybe all books are about that in some ways, and I'd rather read Wuthering Heights if I'm going for desire. This had alcoholism, anorexia, suicide, LOADS of adultery (contemplation), runaways, food allergies, robbery, murder (contemplation), and probably other topics like that. And then it ends (I guess spoiler alert, but it’s not really like there is a plot to this book, so I don’t think it really spoils anything) with a sort of huu-uuh in a story about some people in their seventies thinking about having sex with each other and how they were assholes to their kids.
So, I don’t know. I’m going to give this two stars because it’s so boring. Even the robbery is boring. I didn't hate it as much as it sounds like I did, but it would be a lie if I said I enjoyed it. There are all of these bloated similes, too, which are just painful. I can’t think of an example now, but something like, “She gazed into her cup of coffee and then noticed on the counter crumbs of a muffin LIKE GRAINS OF THE SANDS OF TIME-IME-IME-IME.” What. Ever. I’m only exaggerating a little. Everything was like the ocean waves ebbing and flowing, etc.
I listened to this on audio, and it was also meh. Now that I’m looking at the cover, it seems oddly apt. When I first looked at it, I was like, what the fuck is that? And it seemed kind of interesting and complex. Then I realized it was just a boring leaf. Then I gazed at my coffee and noticed on the table the leaves of the book pages like the leaves of the book of time-ime-ime-ime. This business about the trappings of time was probably not literally in the book BUT IT COULD HAVE BEEN.
When she would come back to the hunger thing, though, I liked that. It seems like a good point – not to be afraid of our own hunger. I don’t really know what it means, and I question whether Strout does either, but it sounds good. (less)
I have decided to write a review of this book, but it is sensitive territory, I think, and I don’t want to make anybody feel from my review the way I...moreI have decided to write a review of this book, but it is sensitive territory, I think, and I don’t want to make anybody feel from my review the way I feel from the book. I am not giving the book a star rating because I can’t tell if it is a good book or not through the amount that I hate it on a personal level, and I feel like giving it a low rating would discount other people's experiences of tragedy or something. (Okay, after almost a year of considering it, I did decide to rate this book. Sorry, guys.) I can’t even tell if I think it is a deeply false book, or if it is just deeply false to my life. This is probably one of those experiences of wrong place/wrong time. I think if I had seen The Notebook in high school instead of after college, I would not have hated it, just like if I had read The Piper’s Son some other time, maybe I would not have hated it. This is also one of those times when I should have stopped early on and not pushed through. Why have I not learned this lesson yet? Anyway, I’m sorry I hate this book so much because so many of my wonderful friends love it. You will say I didn’t understand, and that will be true.
It seems like Marchetta tends to write something similar to the Job story. Job was never one of my favorite stories from the Bible (being more of a Jonah and Ruth girl myself), but it was my dad’s favorite for a little while, during a more lucid time in his life, so I have done some thinking on it. This book reminded me of a conversation I had with my dad about Job once. In my memory, which I think I have tailored to my reading of this book, my dad was talking about why he loved Job. The story starts out by telling you that Job is God’s chosen and someone with no faults. The author tells you, and so you know, that none of the things that happen to Job are punishment. And then, right away, God makes a bet with the devil that Job will never turn against Him, and He unleashes the devil on Job just to prove it.
In the first page, maybe second, the devil destroys Job’s whole life, and it only takes a sentence or two. He burns down Job’s farm and kills his livestock; a building collapses on all of Job’s children, maybe spouses and grandchildren, killing them instantly; and then Job’s body falls apart with boils and scabs and whatnot. Job’s wife tells him to curse God and die, and they go their separate ways. Everyone Job knows abandons him. But, that is not what the story is about. That is all just preface. The story is actually about three of Job’s “friends,” who come and visit him, and who are total pompous assholes. They sit around for the entire story, trying to work out for Job what he did to deserve God’s wrath. It is actually an annoying story to read, to me, because the stuff these guys say is so unbearably windbaggy. Then there is a cool part at the end where God comes by and says, “Who are you to ask why this happened? I’m God, I created the behemoth, and you’re nothing.” Old Testament God is so much more interesting than New Testament God. Anyway, my dad loved that this story about ultimate tragedy is mostly about human blame.
My friend was saying the other day that life feels like she used to have all of these warm winter coats wrapped around her and suddenly they’ve been stripped off and the wind is chill. That’s it exactly to me. And I feel like Marchetta tries to write characters whose coats have been stripped off, but to me she fails, and that leaves me confused and bitter at the emptiness of the stories. I do not want to question anyone’s experience of loss, but watching Marchetta’s kids does not feel like watching loss to me, though I think it is supposed to. Job feels more like someone left in the wind. Because tragedy might be part of nature, but the chill wind is people. All of Marchetta’s characters experience tragedy, but then they are surrounded by so many people who just want to devote their lives to helping and encouraging that it is false to me.
I think I wouldn’t hate it, like I probably wouldn’t hate The Notebook, if so much of it didn’t eerily resonate with me. I have said and done those things, had those experiences, or at least known a close friend or two who did. So, then, the ultimate hugs and puppies feel like deliberate falseness injected into a very real story. I take them personally, and they are very effective messages that hurt my feelings a lot. They are “friends” sitting around saying, well, look how similar this person’s life is to yours, and everybody fell all over themselves to give this person bags of diamonds when they were sad. And I don’t even want to make it out like I have some terrible life, or people are sooooo mean to me, because I totally don’t and they obviously aren’t. I just think Marchetta, like Nicholas Sparks, throws in natural tragedy – death, depression – for emotional impact, and then shies away from hard truths. Like, what if every single bad feeling ever between characters was not just a silly misunderstanding? What if people actually didn’t like each other and that’s why they were assholes? I am not a fan of the theory that people are assholes to each other because they just love each other so much. I think it is more often because they don’t. I feel very uneasy about the opposite message.
Marchetta takes away a scarf, which we hear rumors that a character had before the story began, and then replaces it with snow gear, a hazmat suit, and a plastic bubble. I do not want to see characters suffer more, but it feels manipulative to use real tragedy to facilitate the Grease story. For whatever reason, the specific things that sent me through the roof in the story were (view spoiler)[ 1. Seriously, dude, your dad forgot your name (or forgot who you were, or whatever, I don’t remember) one time and then turned from alcoholism because of it, and you’re going to pull a James Dean over it? Get over yourself. 2. The deal with the partly-deaf co-worker needed not to happen. That dragged on for so long, and it was so obvious that the guy was going to have hearing issues. And, wow, the moral of this story is . . . 3. (my biggest issue) The conversation Georgie had with her friend where the friend says, “If only you’d taaaaalk to us!!” and then helps her get her boyfriend back. That conversation almost made me throw the book. It my experience, that is not how that conversation plays out. In my experience, that conversation plays out like it does in Job, not with a fun shopping trip after (hide spoiler)]. At another time in life, I think I would have read it and hoped it somehow related to reality, like I think I would have hoped with The Notebook. But now I read it and just feel bitter and old and confused. I don’t want these kids to stop having fun or even get off my lawn, but I need a little easier transition between before and the after of this ABC Home Makeover.(less)
Maybe I should wait to write this review until blood stops pouring out of my eyes, but where’s the fun in that? Skimping on exclamation points never h...moreMaybe I should wait to write this review until blood stops pouring out of my eyes, but where’s the fun in that? Skimping on exclamation points never helped anyone. I’m not going to tell you that big corporate conglomerates are the good guys; I’m not even going to tell you that I totally agree with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment during the Lochner era (though the reasoning from those interpretations has resulted in a lot of what I consider good outcomes - like how the government can't arrest people for using contraception or being gay). But, I am going to tell you that Thom Hartman makes so many basic (wrong) assumptions about the Constitution in Unequal Protection that it makes the book completely irrelevant to any discussion of actually limiting corporate influence over Amernican government. It might be my loathing of historical fiction talking, but this book totally sucks.
There are parts of it that don’t suck, but where it doesn’t suck, more recent legal developments have made it obsolete, or sucky assumptions have infested the non-sucky-parts. Sorry, Mr. Hartman, I mean this with all due respect, and you are obviously a much more influential person than me, so I hope that instead of taking offense, you will invest in a constitutional law class.
The basic assumptions I see causing so much confusion in this book are the following:
1. That the Constitution guaranties any blanket rights; 2. That including corporations in the Fourteenth Amendment makes their treatment under the Constitution similar to humans; and 3. That it is possible to limit corporate rights without increasing government rights.
There are many, many other assumptions and errors in this book, but those seem like the ones that are most fundamental to the premise of the book and that most make this book irrelevant to any real solution. I’m going to discuss those assumptions in the order I listed them.
First, it’s important to be clear that the Constitution doesn’t guaranty any blanket rights. It doesn’t guaranty that you can say anything you want to say, carry guns, be free from searches or slavery, have a jury trial, or vote. What the Constitution does is limit the government. Congress can’t pass a law that infringes on speech; Congress can’t pass a law that infringes on your right to carry guns; the federal government can’t unreasonably search your stuff. The Constitution formed the federal government; it didn’t form anything else, so it doesn’t govern anything else.
States gave up some rights when they signed on to the Constitution, so in some ways it applies to states. Through the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court has applied the other amendments to the states, so they are an exception to the rule that the Constitution only governs the federal government. Like the federal government, state governments can’t infringe on certain rights. While the Constitution identifies rights, it doesn’t guaranty that people always have those rights. I can infringe on someone’s speech, and, unless there is a statute prohibiting my infringement, get away with it without punishment. My boss can infringe on my speech, with a few limited exceptions. Goodreads, as another example, can take down my reviews if it wants to, and I have no recourse other than getting really, really mad and talking shit about it.
So, my point is that you’re a Supreme Court Justice, and you’ve got this case in front of you. Some doofuses (Congress) wrote a statute, and it says, “Any person who dumps more than five teaspoons of toxic waste into the Mississippi River has to pay the neighbors one-hundred jelly beans per teaspoon of toxic waste.” So, now BP has dumped six teaspoons of toxic waste into the Mississippi, and it’s claiming that the statute doesn’t apply to it because it’s not a person. Do you think Congress meant to include BP when it said “any person,” or not? Was Congress thinking about who was doing the dumping, or was it just thinking about punishing anyone (or thing) that dumped?
It is the same with including corporations under the Fourteenth Amendment. The focus of the Amendment is to restrict states from infringing on certain rights. So, then, are states not restricted as long as the rights they’re infringing are the rights of corporations? Maybe. But, then what if states decide than only corporations can buy property? So, you form a corporation, buy property, and the state can search it any time it wants to. Or, don’t worry, if you already own property, you’ll be granted a free corporation in your name by the state, and your property ownership automatically transfers to that new corporation, but the Fourteenth Amendment doesn’t apply to your property. I’m not saying that would necessarily happen, but if a state can perform warrantless searches just because the land it is searching is owned by a corporation, that seems like undermining the basic purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment to me. Its purpose is to restrict state power, not to grant rights to anybody.
Second, including corporations under the Constitution doesn’t guaranty that the government treats them the same as humans. Maybe that is just self-explanatory. All it means is that states and the federal government don’t get a free pass in whatever the limits on their power is, just because they are dealing with a corporation. The criticisms Hartman makes of the Santa Clara decision are true in many points (specifically, in his pointing out that it doesn't actually do what the basic premise of this book is claiming it does), but I completely disagree that a solution to corporate abuses is to allow states and the federal government to have complete freedom in governing corporations. Saying that states can’t deprive corporations of property without due process does not mean that corporations are similar to humans. I won’t go into the equal protection clause now, but it would, likewise, be weird to me if it didn’t apply to corporations. And neither of those clauses make corporations similar to humans, they only restrict state power.
Third, the way to limit corporate rights is to increase government regulation of corporations. Somehow, that idea gets glossed-over in this book. The reason I feel this avoidance from the book is because he references Jefferson a lot and the idea that Jefferson would have wanted to replace corporate rule with agency rule is totally outrageous to me. I mean, Jefferson was like a Clarence Thomas-style nut about anti-regulation, as far as I have ever read. To me, you can't be proposing government regulation and citing Jefferson as your founding-father backup. That's the way to get a zombie Jefferson stalking your home, looking for blood.
Anyway, maybe Hartman is assuming that applying the Fourteenth Amendment to only humans would increase regulation, but that seems far from correct to me. This year, I accidentally organized a panel at a conference that turned into recruitment for a militia hoping to destroy American infrastructure. I’m not kidding – at one point a speaker put up a slide on U.S. military strategies for fighting asymmetrical warfare. It was very troubling. Flannery was there, she’ll tell you. When people asked the speaker what her plans were for rebuilding society after she’s destroyed it, she carefully avoided saying that she wants to return to a hunter-gatherer society (which is what she wants to do, I believe). This review does an excellent job of discussing how unrealistic that idea is. There is a similar dissonance in Unequal Protection, where Hartman carefully avoids telling you that his solution to the evils of big business is to create big government.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s a good solution. I have been saying for years that we live in a feudal society, in which corporations are our feudal lords, and I completely agree with Hartman on that point. I do not, however, agree that the alternative is democracy. Hartman sets up the dichotomy that we could live in a democratic society, but a feudal society has supplanted it. I think that is false, and that feudalism and democracy are not mutually exclusive. I think you can have a democratic feudal society, and that is probably what we have. I think the alternative to Hartmann's feudal society is a socialist society. Personally, socialism, which I would argue is just another variety of feudalism in which government officials act as feudal lords, sounds way better to me than Hartmann's feudalism, but it is not very popular with real Americans, so I can see why Hartman sidestepped the issue. I think that when a stronger government supplants strong business interests, the nominal purpose, at least, is the public good. When business interests rule, that is not even a nominal purpose.
The real problem Hartman flatly (and wrongly) denies is in corruption. When regulators are giving BJs to corporations, there is a problem. And, I think it’s pretty clear that regulators are, for the most part, giving BJs to corporations in America, but also in other countries. The solution to this isn’t allowing more government abuse (as in, giving states the right to bypass the restrictions of the Fourteenth Amendment), it is to give the government more regulatory power over corporations. It is to require rich people to pay enough taxes that the agencies that catch corporate crimes can actually do their jobs.
Sorry, Brian. This book practically killed me. There is a sentence towards the end of this book that I can’t find now about a constitutional-law scholar who said he practically passed out when he read what Hartman’s ridiculous proposals were. That guy. I feel like that guy. I LOLed. I could go on about the errors relating to equal-protection analysis, and the founding fathers, and the restrictions on international treaties and tribunals, but you’ve probably already left the review by now. I’ll just tell you that this is a completely unreliable source of information about constitutional law. It is incorrect in ways that are both fundamental to the nature of the Constitution and ways that are trivial, but misleading. Completely exasperating.(less)
I had a dream the other night that there was a word a person could say that would end the whole world. I have a great awe of the power of words and th...moreI had a dream the other night that there was a word a person could say that would end the whole world. I have a great awe of the power of words and the power of dreams, and here they converged. And, after all of the violence of wars, injustice, prejudice, resentment, and misplaced passions, I turned to a friend and said, “Now is the time. Say it.” She said the word, and the earth was engulfed in pale yellow mushroom clouds. And then I woke up.
I know what that dream was about, and it is really nothing to do with this book, other than the resonance of the idea that there could be this single deadly beauty or murderous pleasure, unbearable to humanity. In my wondering about a word or a dream that could change the world, I think there is something similar to that idea as it is in Infinite Jest of the deadly power of pleasure, the video or the scientific stimulation that kills.
Otherwise, I think if my father were to have written a book, or if we were to go back and compile the group emails he sends out, they would look something like this. You would have to substitute some kind of seminary for the tennis academy, but otherwise you could have pretty much left things the same and you’d have the stories of my childhood. That did not endear this book to me.
Rather, that part in To the Lighthouse where Mrs. Ramsey reads The Fisherman’s Wife to James kept running through my head: “Nothing would make Mr. Ramsay move on. There he stood, demanding sympathy.” There he stood, demanding sympathy: sympathy for the evils of commercialism, the evils of addiction, the evils of entertainment, the evils of having and not having pleasure.
I have heard from many people that drug court is the most successful program in the Oregon court system. Defendants sentenced to drug court have to regularly check in with the courts and describe their progress, go through treatment, and attend meetings. Apparently, it is far more successful in actually treating addiction than incarceration has ever been. I have observed drug court a couple of times, and the judges who conduct it are very sympathetic a la Mrs. Ramsey. They congratulate the defendants for a morning clean, for not using in front of their kids, for merely being honest when they used that morning in front of their kids. They remind defendants how valuable they are as people, and how staying clean helps everybody around them. Defendants spend a couple of nights in jail when they can’t manage to stay clean, and they can be revoked from drug court, but mostly the program is about rehabilitation and sympathy. I can’t handle it. I’ve threatened a worker’s comp claim for the carpal tunnel to my eyes from listening to defendants whine about every possible thing a person can whine about. If you have read this book, you can imagine the type of thing I’m talking about, but I listened to one woman cry and cry about something to do with having bought a horse and the amount of time she did or didn’t have to ride the horse at the stables her mom was paying to care for the horse. I absolutely see the value of drug court, and I even more clearly see the value of my bad attitude staying far away from it.
I think my problem is that I don’t have a sense of pity. My theory is that in order to be a whole person, you should have a sense of selfishness, empathy, sympathy, and pity, and I am lacking in the pity. I used it up when I was too young, listening to these stories at my father’s knee. And, from me, it would not be sympathy, but pity, that the book is asking. I have my own problems and fuck up in my own ways, but the cartoonish quality of the troubles in this book don’t inspire the sense of identification that exists in sympathy. I imagine that very few people lose their parents to microwave and snake-in-a-can deaths, so while I have lost my parents, this book is asking me to look at its clownish loss, alien from mine, and say, “You poor thing. What suffering. Can you even imagine?” Or, it is asking me to somehow laugh at these Yoricks as sad clowns, and I don't really have the schadenfreude that is the other side of the pity coin, either. So, this book stood there for the two and a half years it took me to read it, and it demanded pity, a thing I do not have to give.
But, in that two and a half years, I will say that some of these stories weirdly and vividly imprinted themselves on my brain. Last year, one day, I was talking to my friend in the halls at school about some liability issue, and I said, "Oh that reminds me of that case we read in Torts. Do you remember it? It was about the kids who would go down to the railroad tracks and compete to see who could jump across the tracks closes to the trains. But, then, a lot of them lost their legs through the game and they became a sort of gang in wheelchairs." My friend looked at me like I was crazy because of the absurdity of that story and said he didn't think that was a case we read in Torts. It took me the entire day to remember that I was thinking of Les Assassins des Fauteuil Rollents.
As a matter of just the writing itself, I would say this experience felt to me like having Vince Vaughn yell the thesaurus at me. I like Vince Vaughn, but this was a little much, Vince Vaughn yelling the thesaurus at me, demanding pity.
Probably, though, if there were a word that could end the world, it would be here in this book, and I did not find it, so that is a mercy.(less)
This book makes so little sense that it was almost painful to read. Admittedly, I finished Blood Red Road about two seconds before I picked this one u...moreThis book makes so little sense that it was almost painful to read. Admittedly, I finished Blood Red Road about two seconds before I picked this one up, and it has the same basic premise, but is one of the best books I’ve ever read. They are both post-apocalyptic and about twins cruelly separated, trying to find each other. I wasn’t going to mention the twin thing because of karen’s unreasonable prejudice, but I’m kind of okay with people being prejudiced against this book because it sucks. Not even just with the unfair comparison to Blood Red Road. It kind of sucks on its own, too.
So, you’ve got this pretty complicated post-apocalyptic society here, where they’ve solved cancer, but now all the girls die at age 20 and all the boys die at age 25. (None of this is really a spoiler because it’s all background that you learn fairly quickly and that has no real connection, as far as I can tell, to the actual story.) Also, somewhere along the history, somebody destroyed all of the continents except North America . I’m no scientist – I’m not even a fan of science – but even I could tell you that none of that makes sense. I don’t really want to hear arguments from the peanut gallery about how technically you could destroy all of the continents and not throw the earth off its axis or some shit like that. It just seems weird to me, and the author did not convince me otherwise. And I know there are hints that the continents are not actually destroyed, but what I’m telling you is that this is a serious issue to me, and I would have appreciated it if Lauren DeStefano had spent less time describing bubble baths and party dresses and more time telling me whether in the future there will be continents.
I guess that’s my main problem. The post-apocalyptic garbage was extraneous to the story, which, surprisingly enough, was basically about polygamy and babies. (I know, I can’t get away from the polygamy topic.) This story could have been set in the present day and it would have made more sense.
That reminds me of another of my many beefs with this book. It is so annoying to me when something is set in an alternate reality, and then a character is like, for example, “What you’re saying reminds me of ‘Halloween,’ which I have obviously never experienced myself, but I know about for some random reason.” Dumb. Stilted.
I was on the Kendwa beach, on the north coast of Zanzibar, when I hand-wrote most of this review in my travel journal, and I made a note here that I was a little drunk. But seriously, I had been reading this book off and on for the whole week and hating it all the way. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a book about pregnancy, polygamy, and bath salts, disguised as a post-apocalyptic adventure. Here are a couple of ways that it could have been re-written to make more sense:
1. Lose the post-apoc business and make it a story about contemporary polygamy and child brides. However, whether the story featured me or a man, this would require that the polygamist actually be culpable in acquiring the brides (or grooms), rather than just being a lovable idiot, but I’m in favor of that anyway because the lovable idiot thing totally offends me.
2. Focus on the post-apoc business, but drop the polygamy nonsense. It makes zero sense that a society dying like flies would be collecting brides for the rich and shooting the rejects. But a society dying in its twenties could be interesting with an entirely different story.
I could continue. This book is ridiculous. The bad guys are unconvincing; the good guys are morons; the twin thing was irrelevant to the entire story. I know it’s setting up for sequels, but even the idea of a sequel, considering the way the book ends, makes me crazy. Other than being a really helpful guide for me in my future concubinage endeavors, this book is pretty useless. If, however, you want to read a book about a bunch of idiots eating candies that turn their tongues colors, then giving birth and being judgmental about lactation techniques, this is the story for you.
______ (A friend gave me this as an ARC to read while I was in Zanzibar. Thank you, friend!!!)(less)
I think this book is seriously mentally other-abled. I kind of don’t want to make fun of it because, you know, it’s not playing the game with a full d...moreI think this book is seriously mentally other-abled. I kind of don’t want to make fun of it because, you know, it’s not playing the game with a full deck of cards. But, at the same time, it’s not so learning disabled that it needs to sit in a separate classroom from the other stories, it’s just learning disabled enough to be creepy. So, I kind of do want to make fun of it. It's a tough call. There was this guy in my high school graduating class like that. I’m going to tell you about him in this review. I really, honestly apologize ahead of time if I offend anyone here. I especially apologize to Cassandra Clare, who I see is a GR author. I'm not meaning to disparage anyone in the learning disabled community, and I have great respect for people who share their writing with others. And I'm not equating learning disabilities with mental illness or with being creepy, just to be clear. I just knew a boy who happened to have a learning disability and be creepy, and he reminds me of this book. Also, this isn't to say that people shouldn't read The City of Bones. You actually should read it, maybe, and play the really fun game, Where Did the Mangled Body Part Come From?
Anyway, back to my story. For purposes of this illustration, I'm going to call the creepy high school boy David Caruso (any resemblance of that name to the name of a real person, living or dead, is purely coincidental, of course). I felt bad for David because he was so picked-on, so I tried to be nice to him. One day, he started leaving notes in my locker on notebook paper in a child’s scrawl, asking things like, “If I’m sad, can I have a hug?” He found out where all of my classes were and would be waiting outside them when the bell rang. He lived about a block away from me, so he would walk home with me from school sometimes. After the hug note, we had a serious talk about boundaries. That night, I had to take a makeup Chemistry test, which lasted about an hour. It was pouring outside, and he waited in the rain for me, standing under a tree. When I finally left, he followed me home, walking about ten feet behind me the entire way.
As I was turning to the road that led directly to my house, David desperately cried out something like, “Why don’t you love me?!!!” This was a relatively common experience with him. There was another girl he was following around for a while around that same time, and he went down on his knees outside of the cafeteria, saying something similar. She got a restraining order against him.
I’m not saying that I believe in originality, because I don’t, but The City of Bones made me realize that there is a line somewhere, where the flow of literary inspiration and use of traditional themes can turn into a Single White Female incident. Rather than being a fun re-imagining of Star Wars, this story was a haphazardly sewn together pop-culture Frankenstein. Eeeet’s ALIVE!!! Basically, the characters from The Gilmore Girls hook up with non-vampy, but still campy, versions of the characters from Twilight, and re-enact Star Wars. Seriously, there is a Luke Danes character, and his name in this story is still Luke. And, it turns out, it is very possible to make the Luke and Leia Skywalker relationship grosser. I'm not sure why you would want to . . . Also, I feel like there are a bunch of other stories that The City of Bones is stalking, and it seems like some other reviews list them, but I forget what they are right now. My point is that this book has killed them and is walking around wearing their skin.
The other weird thing is that I’m pretty sure there’s a misquote from Star Wars in here. Isn’t Han Solo the one who says, “I know”? This book says that Leia says it. And I don’t mean that the Leia/Rory character in here says, “I know” while re-enacting the Star Wars storyline. I mean the book literally says that Leia says, “I know.” If you’re going to SWF a story, at least get it right. Better yet, don’t SWF a story because that’s creepy.
I listened to half of this book on audio, driving to and from a wedding, then I read the rest on the page. Neither were good. Reading on the page is a little better because you can skip the boring parts. I’m not going to lie, though. It was actually a great experience. It was completely refreshing to read something awful. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m not sure why, but it renewed my hope for writing.
Still, all you young stories out there, if a stranger story with shifty eyes comes up to you and asks for a hug, it’s okay to say no. Set some personal boundaries, or you might end up the victim of this kind of literary massacre. I hate to be a fear-monger, and use your own judgment, but be smart. Some of these stories obviously waited too long to take out their restraining orders.(less)
I have this terrible, dreary feeling in my diaphragm area this morning, and I’m not positive what it’s about, but I blame some of it on this book, whi...moreI have this terrible, dreary feeling in my diaphragm area this morning, and I’m not positive what it’s about, but I blame some of it on this book, which I am not going to finish. I have a friend who is mad at me right now for liking stupid stuff, but the thing is that I do like stupid stuff sometimes, and I think it would be really boring to only like smart things. What I don’t like is when smart (or even middle-brained) writers take an important topic and make it petty through guessing about what they don’t know. I can list you any number of these writers who would be fine if they weren't reaching into topics about which they have no personal experience (incidentally, all writers I'm pretty sure my angry friend loves. For example, The Lovely Bones, The Kite Runner, Water for Elephants, Memoirs of a Geisha, etc.). These are the books for which I have no patience, topics that maybe someone with more imagination or self-awareness could have written about compassionately, without exploiting the victimization of the characters. They’re books that hide lazy writing behind a topic you can’t criticize. The Help is one of these.
You’ve got this narrative telephone game in this book. The telephone game is pretty fun sometimes, and it is really beautiful in monster stories like Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights because what they are telling me is not intended as trustworthy or earnest. All of the seriousness in monster stories is an impression or an emotion reflected back through the layers of narrative. I don’t feel that way about the topic of The Help, though. In this book, a white woman writes from the point of view of a black woman during the Civil Rights movement, who overhears the conversations of white women. It's an important topic, and I don't want to hear it through untrustworthy narrators.
So, I can basically get on board with the dialect of the black maids, but what throws me off as a reader is when the black maid is quoting the white women and they’re all speaking perfect English without a trace of an accent. It becomes particularly weird when one of the black maids starts to comment on the extreme accent of one of the white women, Celia Foote, whose written dialogue continues to be impeccable. Who is this narrator? Why does she choose not to speak proper English if she can speak it? Why does she choose to give proper English to someone else who she has told me doesn't speak it? Also, usually the layers of narration in a telephone-game book are only within the book. In this case, it’s the author’s voice stabbing through the story. I am convinced it is her whose brain hears the white woman speaking TV English, and the black women speaking in dialect. It gives away the game.
Even the quotes from the movie have an example of this. A conversation between her and Minnie goes like this:
Celia Foote: They don't like me because of what they think I did. Minny Jackson: They don't like you 'cause they think you white trash.
Celia speaks in a proper sentence, but Minny misses the "are" in the second part of the sentence. Celia says "because," but Minny says "'cause." If the reader were supposed to understand that Celia does not speak in dialect, that would make sense, but since it specifically states that she does, it doesn't make sense.
To attempt to be clear, I didn't have a problem that the book was in dialect. I had a problem that the book said, "This white woman speaks in an extreme dialect," and then wrote the woman's dialog not in dialect. Aerin points out in message 111 that I am talking about eye dialect, which is about spelling, not pronunciation, as in the example above. Everyone, in real life, speaks in some form of non-standard English. Though I have seen some really beautiful uses of eye dialect, as Aerin points out, writers typically use it to show subservience of characters or that they are uneducated, which often has racist overtones. If it troubles you that I'm saying this, and you would like to comment on this thread, you may want to read other comments because it is likely someone has already said what you are going to say.
I’m not finishing this one, and it’s not because I think people shouldn’t like it, but rather because I’m almost 100 pages in and I can see the end, and it’s failed to engage me. When a few IRL friends have asked what I thought of the book and I said I didn't care for it, they have told me that I am taking it too seriously, that it is just a silly, fluff book, not a serious study of Civil Rights. Again, I don’t have a problem with stupid books, but when it’s a stupid book disguised as an Important Work of Cultural History, all I want to do the whole time is tear its mask off. And a book about Civil Rights is always important cultural history to me. Anyway, the book becomes unpleasant; I become unpleasant; it’s bad news. If you loved this book, though, (or, really, even if you hated it) I would recommend Coming of Age in Mississippi. I think that book is one of the more important records of American history. Plus, it’s beautifully written, inspirational, and shocking. It's been years since I read it, so I might be giving it an undeserved halo, but I can’t say enough good things about it.
**spoiler alert** I was able to check out PLEASURING THE PIRATE from the law school library at the same time as I checked out Анна Ахматова, Полное Со...more**spoiler alert** I was able to check out PLEASURING THE PIRATE from the law school library at the same time as I checked out Анна Ахматова, Полное Собрание в Одном Томе, so that was pretty much the most successful library experience ever. __________________________
There was this one day, when I lived in Ukraine, where I was stuck in this town with some friends because another town had exploded, and, unfortunately, it made it so that I couldn’t take the train home. So, we all decided to go to this resort for lunch and really splurge. I decided to play it safe and go for a beet salad and fries, but one of my friends decided to really spend a lot and order a fruit salad. We were all skeptical about this choice. Don’t get me wrong, I pretty much lived on clementines through November and December that year, but this salad boasted of apples, oranges, bananas, and pineapples, all together, as I recall. There’s no way you could put together that combo in Ukraine without something suspicious involved. Nonetheless, the salad arrived, just as promised – apples, oranges, bananas, and pineapples all collected in a little bowl. What the resort didn’t prepare us for was that they were doused in ketchup and mayonnaise. It’s combinations like a mayonnaise fruit salad that make me want to give up on "creativity," and Pleasuring the Pirate was a big ol' fruit salad with mayonnaise.
I admit that it is important to note that my disappointment in this book is in direct proportion to the awesomeness of its title. Also, I wrote a first draft of this review, in which I was prepared to argue that the author was arrogantly ripping off classic works of art, and in making the argument I realized I was completely wrong about that. My apologies to the author for even thinking it. Also, I refused to be put off by the "moist groins", the excessive "splaying", the anachronisms, or even the fact THAT THE MAIN DUDE’S NOT ACTUALLY A PIRATE. What do we expect from romance but moist groins and splaying? I choose to count those things as awesome, despite their off-putting nature. And, as Geoffrey Tennant says, Shakespeare wasn’t worried about anachronisms, so why should we be? He also didn’t mind throwing in some pre-action seafaring, so I can swallow my disappointment on that, too.
I don’t believe that any entirely original art exists, nor do I believe it should exist. I think that if someone came up with entirely new art people would hate it, or not be able to acknowledge it, because we would have no frame of reference for it. So, maybe it does actually exist, but we don’t call it art until someone else fills in the other rungs on the evolutionary ladder. Anyway, I think art, or at least writing, is more like cooking. We’ve got all these ingredients already and people just mix them up in new ways and reinterpret based on their own taste and experience. And this is how we are able to both recognize ourselves in books and expand our minds to include other philosophies and experiences. Really meaningful books are like when you’re watching Top Chef, and one of the contestants combines two ingredients that would never have occurred to you but ends up looking really yummy.
But some combos are just gross. To illustrate what I mean in a literary sense, rather than a pineapples and mayonnaise sense, I’d like to walk you through the story of Pleasuring the Pirate told by the ingredients I believe the author was combining. Again, it is not the fact of her using the ingredients that gets me (although they all are a little half-baked – hardy har), but the combination. Warning: this is full of annoying links, but they’re only meant for clarification if you’re not sure who I’m talking about.
The story starts out with Joan of Arc meeting Gaston and his faithful sidekick Lefou in battle. They all head on home to the castle, realizing the whole spat was just a misunderstanding, and nobody gets violently raped. When they all get to the castle, they switch costumes, and the story becomes all Cinderella on you – with the twist that Cinderella has to work her darndest to get the Prince married off to some wealthy debutante or another. Meanwhile, there is a Goonies side story involving some buried treasure. Not really a booby-trap situation, unfortunately, and Lefou changes hats to become Sloth. The Prince/Gaston’s old bff shows up, too and it turns out that he loves children, in a "fire of my loins" kinda way. Blah blah blah. Awkward bed sandwich scene that the author claims was taken from reality, but that many, including bloggers and Wikipedia, say was probably greatly exaggerated. Prince gets carted off to jail for breaking a minor procedural rule and they reenact The Passion of the Christ (luckily, off-camera action). Then they do the escape-from-execution scene from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Then, in an Overboard twist, there’s a vague reveal that our bastard Cinderella is really the king’s daughter.
So, I’m not sure that any of the above makes any sense, and that’s not really the point anyway. I haven’t told you what the wrong ingredient is yet. All of the above pretty much fits. It’s not, like, garden pea cappuccino with foie gras, black pudding, and pancetta, but it’s an average hamburger and fries. It’s predictable. The thing that sent me over the edge was this one chapter that is almost exactly my favorite chapter of Oliver Twist. So, in PtP, there is a side-character named Mrs. Beadle (yes, immediately reminiscent of Mr. Bumble, the beadle, in Oliver Twist, but I let that go when she first appeared), and she has this awkward falling-in-love scene with Lefou/Sloth. This was completely unacceptable to me. I was prepared to write a review talking about how an omage is so different than a plagiarism with the hopes that your audience is too stupid to catch it. But then I realized that what she did really is more of an omage, and maybe she is hoping that her audience will catch the reference. Here’s hoping. The whole combination of the story, though, was just sloppy and gross to me.
I haven’t talked about the sex because that’s been covered to the extreme by other reviewers and threads. I will reiterate how much I completely agree with Ceridwen that the part when our bastard Cinderella wants the Prince to be rough with her left me kind of bored. The plot line of the sex was meticulously purposeful, where the story was all over the place. Maybe "meticulously purposeful" isn’t the right choice of words. Canned? Instructional? From the passionate makeout sessions that lead the Prince to politely asking for permission to deflower bastard Cinderella, to the no-no on sex with kiddos, to the superior compassion for the courtesan’s homosexual friend, all of the sex issues read like a pamphlet on how people should be.
This leads me to my theory on mass-market romance. I think it started as instructions for girls on what goes on under the sheets and in the kitchen. Maybe this is obviously true or obviously not true, and I welcome any outside knowledge people have. It seems like its main purpose is to be the spoonful of sugar that makes the health-class and home-ec medicine go down. It feels so . . . obsolete. I’m sure there are kinkier variations that are ahead of the times. I guess I’m partly saying this because you hear people say that mass-market romance is girl porn. It feels more like girl video games to me, though. It’s where you go to learn how to be the manipulative bitch to the video games’ arrogant asshole. Keepin’ the genders in their respective spheres one soulful pirate and buxom treasure hunter at a time. (less)
Everything about this book makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth. I say again, "yuck yuck yuck," both to the absurd violence and the shallow emot...moreEverything about this book makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth. I say again, "yuck yuck yuck," both to the absurd violence and the shallow emotion of this story. Every time the plot turned toward something interesting, it was quickly replaced by a turn toward Lame. I get why SO MANY people compared The Hunger Games with this book (which is the reason I picked Battle Royale up in the first place) because of the basic Lord of the Flies, kids-will-be-kids premise. I, however, found Battle Royale nowhere near as disturbing or thought provoking on a personal level as The Hunger Games. The violence is ridiculous, and even from the first chapter the plot is so obvious, even the way various characters will meet their tragic ends is so obvious, that the only conflict it caused for me was whether to give in to my stubbornness about finishing books or just give up after the first hundred pages.
I'm not prepared to defend the violence in The Hunger Games, or comment as to whether I thought it was cheesy or not, but in that book it is not the sole focus of the story. I think the violence is basically boring in both, but in the Hunger Games there is at least less of it, so I have less to be bored with. For me, the value of the Hunger Games is in presenting a model of a girl action hero who is genuinely there as a female perspective and not ultimately an object of male desire like most female characters who are set up as being girl action heroes.
I think that is why the comparison of the two doesn't seem very valuable to me. Battle Royale obviously does more with the violence, so if that is something that is a draw to a reader, that reader will definitely prefer Battle Royale. Hunger Games does more for changing the narrative of female protagonists, so if that is a draw to a reader, as it is to me, that reader might prefer Hunger Games.
The descriptions were very anime, which makes me think that if the writing had been beautiful, or if any of the emotion had seemed deep, I may have liked this book. The end was plot-twist after plot-twist (you thought they were dead?! No! Alive! No, wait, dead. Like that part in Eddie Izzard, Dressed to Kill), and half of the twists gave me hope that they would redeem the story. The other half killed those hopes. My advice is that if you think you feel like reading this book, maybe you actually feel like watching Cowboy Beebop. I don't think you'll regret it.(less)
I need to never run into Scott Westerfeld down a dark alley, or during a Civil War reenactment, or at Charlton Heston's house, or wherever. My deep de...moreI need to never run into Scott Westerfeld down a dark alley, or during a Civil War reenactment, or at Charlton Heston's house, or wherever. My deep desire not to be arrested for murder would have an epic battle with my need to reach for a weapon when I see his stupid face. In all fairness, as you see, I coughed up three stars for this book, so I will clarify that my empty threatening is really directed toward Pretties and Specials (books two and three in this series). I'm posting this review on the link for the first book in the hopes that it will inspire people to put this book on their list of books never to read. If you read this book there is the danger that you may want to continue with the series, but trust me, you really don't.
In listing what I don't like about this series, I'll start with EVERYTHING from the characters to the plot to the worldview that I imagine would inspire a story of this kind of depth and breadth of ambivalence. The premise of Uglies is that in the future when kids reach puberty, they all have mandatory plastic surgery to turn their bodies into a perfect standard of beauty based on human brain reactions to visual stimulus. Unfortunately (and this is a slight spoiler, so my apologies, but it really is an element that is pretty obvious from page one, though not clearly stated until later), when the kids are having the surgeries to make them pretty, the surgeons change their brains, too, to determine their decision-making abilities, capacity for independent thought, and even sense response. Basically, the pretty surgery makes most people stupid, unless the occupation that the government determines for them requires intelligence. So far so good - it's your basic government-takeover dystopia. Yes, kids, if you let the government give you free health care checkups, it's only a small step to the day they start chopping up your brain.
Luckily, said ugly teens (particularly our protagonist, Tally, through her bff, Shay) discover that if they flee to the wilderness, they will be able to live a life of freedom and romance. Oh, what's that? Did I say "romance"? Thanks again Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, et al. Sometimes when characters go out into the wilderness . . . I don't even know. Does the phrase "it's been done" even begin to cover my feelings on that topic? Thus begins the cat-fight between Tally and Shay that is the uniting thread of this entire series. You see, there is a wilderness boy (imagine my surprise), who is quite a catch even though he's "ugly", and there's some jealousy and betrayal and kick-ass hoverboarding. You get the idea.
Let me clarify the problems I have listed so far:
1. Suspicion of the city, using a retreat to the wild as the solution to social ills. It's a tired premise. 2. Cattiness of the female protagonist and portraying the central female character as mostly driven by her current crush and competition with other women. That is a huge pet peeve of mine.
Those, however, are small, forgivable wrongs compared to the basic disingenuousness of the moral arguments Westerfeld makes. While he on one level criticizes the idea of basing society on a hierarchy of physical looks, the characters repeatedly interact within that hierarchy, calling each other "pretty" and "ugly" at every turn and defining "pretty" people very specifically. Even the repetition of the words "ugly" and "pretty" undercuts any message Westerfeld might have against pigeonholing people. I found myself seeing people in the grocery store and evaluating whether they met the "evolutionary definition" of pretty as according to this series. It's creepy and annoying. Westerfeld can be as showy as he wants about how it is limiting to judge people based on their appearance, but I argue that he is actually encouraging that same shallow judgment if only by instruction and repetition. For example, it's like saying, "kids, don't shoplift, but here's how to shoplift if you ever want to do it. And here's a catchy shoplifting song to sing with your group of friends, who really should have a name. Hey, we could call you guys the 'shoplifting gang'! Don't shoplift, though." What's the real message there? Ultimately, the arguments of the government that requires the pretty surgeries, also, make a lot of sense in the stories. The surgeries solve anorexia, bring world peace, and save the environment. Plastic surgery sounds fun, too, and Westerfeld literally makes no compelling arguments against body alteration. At the same time, I'm left feeling that Westerfeld thinks it is a bad idea, though he is not convincing.
If Westerfeld's discussion of body image wasn't enough of a travesty, the point in this series where this backwards arguing makes me want to wipe him off the face of the planet is when he introduces cutting. By "cutting" I'm not talking about skipping school. If you are not familiar with cutting, it is a form of self-mutilation that has been growing in popularity with teenagers over the past few years (I'm going to go ahead and say it's been growing in popularity since 2006, when the book Specials was published). In Specials, our catty female protagonist and her buddies discover that by slicing up their arms, they experience a particularly satisfying high, and all of their senses are strengthened. Ultimately, they randomly decide that this is a bad idea, but Westerfeld only implies their reasoning for that decision, and again I'm left with the feeling that probably everyone should be a cutter because in the context of the story it's pretty badass. I think that was the point where I started yelling and throwing things around my house.
Unfortunately, some parts of these stories are actually engaging (not seriously engaging, but passably), and for a while I wanted to find out what happened to everyone, even while I wanted to burn the author's house down. The truly unforgivable wrongs are his wolf-in-sheep's-clothing discussions of teen body image and self-mutilation issues. His characters never develop deep self-respect or intelligent motivation for their actions, and even when their decisions seem healthy, Westerfeld makes a better argument for the unhealthy decisions. Now I realize that I didn't even talk about the uber-annoying slang language he develops for the Pretties and Specials. I'll just say that these books are not "bubbly" and leave it at that.(less)
**spoiler alert** You know you’ve been in school too long when you write a vampire novel in which Dracula’s ultimate threat is to force his victims to...more**spoiler alert** You know you’ve been in school too long when you write a vampire novel in which Dracula’s ultimate threat is to force his victims to catalog his extensive library of antique books. On the other hand, after finishing The Historian, and its detailed Vlad the Impaler research, I’m willing to consider that threat as akin to impalement. If Kostova’s references to Henry James did not reveal her as an admirer of his, then its sprawling prose, vague plot, and sexually confused characters would have. While imitation of Henry James is not enough in itself to make me wish undeath on an author, it sucked the blood out of this adventure.
Kostova writes The Historian in epistolary form, primarily through letters from a father historian to a daughter (presumably) historian. The greater part of the book, however, focused not on this father-daughter team’s desperate search for family member(s) and Dracula, but on the obscure history of Vlad Tepes, the historical figure who inspired the legend of Dracula, and on the geography of Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey during the Cold War. If the Travel Channel™ was ever looking for someone to host Istanbul on a Budget 1980 or Passport to Monasteries Behind the Iron Curtain, Kostova would be their woman. Whether the history and geography is true or not, the sheer volume of trivia padding this book and the work it had to have taken to put it all together is confounding.
Even with the impressive research, this story is Scooby Doo with no Scooby Snacks. Dracula would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those pesky historians! Dracula and his henchman, the “evil librarian,” don’t plague society or cause panic. Rather, they make appearances in goofy disguises in libraries and cafes to give books and other clues to especially promising young historians, inspiring the recipients to begin insatiable quests to find out more about this Dracula fellow. Then, Dracula inevitably shows up again to slap people around a little, so that the historians will be too afraid to continue their research. Once, after giving a historian a book to start him on his vampire studies, Dracula disguises himself as “a stranger” and buys that historian a drink called, “whimsically, amnesia.” Bet you can’t guess what that does - all that research down the tubes! Stop the mind games, Dracula! Not to be deterred by Dracula’s or the Evil Librarian’s threats, the historians continue to stalk their prey until the reader would pity Dracula (if he weren’t annoying), because he is ultimately only trying to build a book collection and a gang of faithful research assistants.
In painful detail, Paul, the central historian/vampire slayer, as he tells his daughter the story of his search for Dracula, also tells of falling in love with her “mannish” mother, Helen. The consistent descriptions of our heroine as “manly” only hint at Paul’s sexual confusion, which becomes most apparent when he meets his rival, Helen’s ex-boyfriend, a Soviet spy. Paul describes this meeting to his daughter in chapter 38. “’What a pleasure to meet you,’ [ex-boyfriend] said, giving me a smile that illuminated his fine features. He was taller than I, with thick brown hair and the confident posture of a man who loves his own virility – he would have been magnificent on horseback, riding across the plains with herds of sheep, I thought.” Except for the word “virility,” I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading that description. If the author of the quote had been a man, I would encourage him to openly write gay characters rather than making his characters marry to hide their sexuality. From the author’s picture on the dust jacket, I see that she is Madame Bovary, so the description fits.
It is true that because of the vagueness of the plot and the epistolary structure, entire chapters and characters could be cut from this book without losing any story. Beyond its rambling descriptions, however, The Historian flounders as a vampire story. Psychological conflict adds complexity to most vampire stories, as in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, when Mina, formerly a protagonist, becomes bloodthirsty. Thirst is the most basic human experience, and all vampires started as humans. Theoretically, thirst (or, more broadly, desire) could become evil in anyone; and, therefore, of all monsters we most easily identify with vampires. In The Historian, however, I am left with the impression that if those historians left poor Dracula alone, he would have just kept collecting books. It was ultimately the research and study, not Dracula himself, that took the historians away from their loved ones and almost destroyed them. From where I’m reading, The Historian is solid evidence of what most high school kids could tell you: too much study is both boring and potentially bad for your health.(less)
I’m a huge fan of propaganda, but I think I may not be a fan of fan fic. I was going into this with the hope that it would be fun, extreme, Latin prop...moreI’m a huge fan of propaganda, but I think I may not be a fan of fan fic. I was going into this with the hope that it would be fun, extreme, Latin propaganda, but The Aeneid is really more Trojan War fan fic, IMO. It’s the Phantom Menace to The Iliad’s Empire Strikes Back. It is seriously lame. I think Akira Kurosawa could have made a pretty decent movie of it because he likes to have people frenzy. There’s a lot of frenzying here. The dudes are all chest pound, blooooood, and the chicks are all hair pull, frenzy, waaaaaail. And Aeneas is such a dweeb about the name-dropping. Like, “Oh, did I mention that Venus is my mom? Oh, did I tell you how freaking hot I am? Yeah, I was totally there when Odysseus scammed the Cyclops.” Give me a freaking break. Did you scam the Cyclops? No. Get over yourself.
This is what happens when you start a series, and then someone else wants to capitalize on your story. It’s the fifth season of The West Wing or the seventh season of The Gilmore Girls or all the Jane Austen / Jane Eyre sequels and prequels. It just doesn’t work. Find your own story! I’m looking at you, Virgil. Not that I’m against people using storylines that someone else has used. That’s almost inevitable (and, of course, Shakespeare is a good argument for being okay with stealing). But, there is a line. I’m not positive where it is. This story crossed it. And then don’t even get me started about Dante. WHY?! Virgil’s got his guys running into Homer’s guys, and then Dante’s running into Virgil? It’s just so presumptuous. I guess, it’s like, go ahead and steal a really wonderful storyline if you have something to add to it. But don’t think that your SUPER LAME storyline is going to suddenly turn wonderful because you drop a character from a good story into it.
And there are some seriously weird details to this story. For example, Venus is this guy’s mom, but she doesn’t raise him to know not to pull a George Costanza in running away from the Greeks? Dude. It just takes a second to wait for your wife, you loser. I mean, I’m no great fan of Venus to begin with, but that’s just weird. It seems like she would have taken a minute to say, "Don't trample people running away from your enemies." Maybe it never occurred to her he'd be so lame.
And then the business with Dido was just annoying. She’s the queen of all the land, has been through hell, wherein her eeeevil brother killed her seemingly pretty awesome husband, and then when Aeneas says to Dido, “btw, it was great sleeping with you, but I have a lot of heads to chop off for no particular reason, so I should prolly get going,” she goes all Kathy Bates in Misery all of a sudden. Except lamer because she’s wailing and self-mutilating instead of taking it out on him. It’s just awkward to watch. Girl needs a sassy gay friend. And none of these people are as cool as they think they are.
And the rest of the book is basically one long chest pound. I guess there’s the part where he goes to Hades, and lo, he knows folk there. I’m kind of bitter about the whole thing because Juno’s so funny and great in The Iliad and such a loser here. Again, Akira Kurosawa probably could have turned it into a pretty decent movie. I don’t really get the frenzying thing, but Kurosawa seemed to have liked it. And, if you like people to run around, chopping limbs off and then whining and blustering for a while, you might really click with this book. What I’m saying, though, is if you haven’t read The Iliad, that’s where it’s at. I recommend, for best results, reading it in a hammock.(less)