An excellent graphic adaptation of several short novels, stories and works of a darker variety on Christmas and the Christmas season. The "A ChristmasAn excellent graphic adaptation of several short novels, stories and works of a darker variety on Christmas and the Christmas season. The "A Christmas Carol" artwork is original, beautiful and haunting. Who knew Will Cather wrote a story of the Werewolf Dog of Christmas? A perfect way to spend a dark, literary December season. ...more
Travel writing is no easily done feat. Sperlo has a natural, flowing voice that had me read this story over two sittings. He seems to take no effort Travel writing is no easily done feat. Sperlo has a natural, flowing voice that had me read this story over two sittings. He seems to take no effort in making the locale of this foreign place I've never visited come alive; I'd love to read more like this, or anything, from him. ...more
Edgar. How much we know about you, how little, and how much we often take liberty and fill out the unknown in between. Edgar Allan Poe has quite alwa Edgar. How much we know about you, how little, and how much we often take liberty and fill out the unknown in between. Edgar Allan Poe has quite always been one of my favorite writers. This man gave us everything from the horror story perfected (see “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Black Cat,”) to perfect pieces of poetry that speak beautifully of love, loss, life, and the celebrating and lamenting of it all.
“Poe-Land” is required reading for any and every one interested in Edgar Allan’s life. J. W. Ocker is such a gifted writer, and as we follow him to the many places where Poe lived so many years ago to see what remains—both physically and culturally—we learn more about Mr. Poe than this diehard fan thought possible. This book is almost 400 pages long, but does not feel its length. The content explored in this book feels like it should have taken so many more pages—and that is a very good thing. Whether it is Poe’s torrid relationship with Boston, his foster father, wife Virginia, where he died and how or the many major figures of modern day Poe-Land who give their lives to ensure his legacy survives (the collectors of his work and artifacts, the museum curators, the actors, artists, professors and grave care takers)—every topic and person Edgar Allan Poe lived, explored or left behind is giving just due in Ocker’s very capable hands.
“Poe-Land” is a masters course (in the best sense of the word; and more than that) in Edgar Allan Poe’s life, work and legacy taught by the most serious of fans who is able to expertly bridge the divides and bring together everyone from the passing fan on the street to those who have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for Poe’s first editions or pieces of his coffin. If you love Poe the way I do, read this book.
A beautiful, haunting little novel that plays out some very big ideas in very original and rewarding ways. In his promotional blurb on my paperback coA beautiful, haunting little novel that plays out some very big ideas in very original and rewarding ways. In his promotional blurb on my paperback copy of “The Leftovers,” Stephen King refers to the story as “the best Twilight Zone episode you never saw.” And Mr. King is so right.
The premise of the novel is, at best, bizarre: the rapture happens (or does it), wherein hundreds of thousands of people simply, suddenly disappear from the world. The story is about the survivors, those who have been left behind, and how they deal with the loss in their life. It would be easy to say that Perotta’s novel is a reflection on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, or a reaction to any national and or large scale tragedy—but that would be oversimplifying the narrative’s power. “The Leftovers” follows a very human group of people who react to loss, tragedy, and living in very different and very human ways. In the face of loss, some are broken, some are healed, and some are left stumbling in between. Some turn to religion (some bad, some good, and some that lie on some neutral ground in between). An other-worldly event, of our world, with characters who respond in very human ways that are unflinchingly honest. Yes, this story could well have taken place in the Twilight Zone.
This novel is short, and there are some very big ideas at play here. Life, family, relationships, love, death, loss, abandonment, faith and the loss of faith. For me, it is impossible to (completely) separate Tom Perotta’s novel from the HBO television adaptation, which the author has creatively been involved in. While the first season of the adaptation followed (loosely) the plot of the novel, it presented a heightened version of the story that was absolutely enthralling. Yes, it also highlighted the story’s weaknesses, but the plot points and characters that are so amazing in the novel are highlighted all the more so in the film adaptation. It also bears mentioning that in the second season, when the show had outrun the novel’s narrative, the story—with Perotta’s involvement—took huge leaps away from the novel, continuing the story with a season of storytelling that knocked it out of the park. What didn’t work about the novel and the first season is left behind, and the brilliant ideas from both are taken and ran with to amazing results. The adaptation does not affect the novel, yes, but it says a lot about art when you have a novel inspire such brilliant continuation and storytelling in other mediums. (While in the novel, for instance, Nora is an incredible character, the way she continues to evolve in the HBO adaptation has made her one of my favorite fictional characters across any medium of all time.)
Back to the novel. This is a strange, deeply affecting little story that is more concerned about life’s big questions—and mysteries—than giving answers. And that makes more sense to me than any answer the novel could provide...more
"Bran thought about it. 'Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?' 'That is the only time a man can be brave,' his father told him." p.22
That place, "Bran thought about it. 'Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?' 'That is the only time a man can be brave,' his father told him." p.22
That place, when a person can be brave, is where "A Game of Thrones" takes place. This story, and these characters, came into my life like a thundestorm. Full of loud, booming, natural beauty-- difficult to forget, this brilliantly plotted and populated epic is truly a modern classic. Before reading this first novel, having seen the HBO television adaptation, I had dismissed the series as not something I would normally read. What Martin does here is nothing short of epic, brilliant and all the like terms that get tossed around. Using ideas, terrain and creatures we have seen before-- knights, dragons, kings and queens-- he expertly tips convention on its head, and makes a kind of fairy tale, for adults, that will have you turning page after page.
There is so much going on in this book, and that is the best of things. It is the far exception in this densely populated book that a character is not instantly and immensensely memorable. These women and men-- Ned, Catelyn, Arya, Robb, Sansa and Bran Stark, Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys-- are so human, and so many shades of heroes and villians and everything in between. We see this story playing out across kingdoms and nations, from so many different eyes-- from the eyes of our presuemed heroes, the Starks; our presumed villians, the Lannisters, a host of others; and the exiled girl at the edges of the world who just might have the power to save the world. The way they are played and reveal themselves in the plot, each chapter from another's point of view, makes this a great work of the human condition, politics and history that just so happens to include the possibility of dragons and other magic.
“Everything goes. / The wind blows, / The sea flows--/ And nobody knows. (11)
Robert Nathan’s “Portrait of Jennie” is a poetic, haunting and beautiful“Everything goes. / The wind blows, / The sea flows--/ And nobody knows. (11)
Robert Nathan’s “Portrait of Jennie” is a poetic, haunting and beautiful surprise of a novel. I find it interesting that there seems so much ink spelled on discussing whether this is a ghost story, or a time-travelling romance. But the idea of a time-traveler, a ghost, a haunting is really one in the same. We have a person here, Jennie, who is from another time, and has ended up in the present, somehow, of 1930s New York City and Cape Cod.
In the hands of a lesser writer, this story could so easily fall apart. Nathan chooses not to give us complex and contrived explanations for the ghost of Jennie, and the connection that this hand from the past has reached out and made with our narrator Eben. In the place of such conclusions made for the reader is Eben’s bearing witness to his experience, and wondering; accepting only the mystery of it all. There are many ways to read this story, and lines to read light between. Whether Jenny is a ghost, a person intentionally bending the limits of time and space, or a person struggling to find another to be with and be remembered—the tale works; literally, metaphorically, allegorically, as simply a story.
The ending of the novel leaves more questions than answers, and there is a sad beauty in that. Nathan’s writing is simple, direct and frequently beautiful. The best ghost stories are those that end up being about the living just as much as those who have gone before. A few stories could be as true, simple or haunting as this one.
“Summer is the worst time of all to be alone. The earth is warm and lovely, free to go about in; and always somewhere in the distance there is a place where two people might be happy if only they were together. It is in the spring that one dreams of such places; one thinks of the summer which is coming, and the heart dreams of its friend.” (64)...more
A beautiful memoir of one man's search into secrets lying buried in his family's past. For anyone interested in stories of the voices and lives lost A beautiful memoir of one man's search into secrets lying buried in his family's past. For anyone interested in stories of the voices and lives lost or possibly lost to time, whether genealogically in one's own family or not, or simply anyone interested in the history involved in the Luxenberg and Cohen family's past, this is an engrossing read. Steve Luxenberg somehow manages to justly and fully explore all the places, issues and people his journey through the past takes him to, and that is such a feat. Family stories, secrets of mental illness, disability, the treatment of the mentally ill and less fortunate historically in America, the Holocaust-- the places Luxenberg finds himself in are endlessly interesting, and written about beautifully....more
I wanted more out of this book. Brom has some very intriguing and well thought out ideas at play here, but this novel was in need of a better editor.I wanted more out of this book. Brom has some very intriguing and well thought out ideas at play here, but this novel was in need of a better editor. If this novel was a little tighter, if we were shown more than we were told, this could have been truly special. ...more
If magic is real-- and I am not saying for certain it is or it is not-- Neil Gaiman would write it. And if that magic was about a childhood, and the pIf magic is real-- and I am not saying for certain it is or it is not-- Neil Gaiman would write it. And if that magic was about a childhood, and the power stories have to grow along with that child, what Neil Gaiman would write would be "The Ocean at the End of the Lane."'
There is much said in this short space of a novel, and much that is left unsaid. Our nameless narrator, returning home, to the lands of his youth, for a funeral of an untold person, takes us-- quite literally-- through memory and down the lane to his childhood. A time of reading and retreating and death and friendship and love. "I had been here, hadn't I, a long time ago? I was sure I had. Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like chilhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good." (5) It isn't easy to come to feel for and love a character in a novel, and is more difficult yet to accomplish in a novel short as this. Gaiman does so and more with no seeming effort, swiftly, as we come to know the boy who's name we do not know, who had "Nobody [come] to [his] seventh birthday party." (9) and who believes from a young age that "Books were safer than other people anyway." (9) A series of traumatizing events lead our narrator through the loss of his cat, the witness of his family's border's suicide, and to the house at the end of his lane, to a friend he will make. Lettie Hempstock-- that friend-- dare I say has an instant place of prominence in the world literary canon; this older girl who knows the ways of the world, and that those ways are a kind of magic, and understands the stories of the wild, along with two older generations of her family's women.
A story about stories, and the power within stories, Gaiman employs some of his most beautiful prose to comment on the things of childhood, of all life, and the ways to use stories to confront them. "'Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren't [...] monsters are scared,' said Lettie. 'That's why they're monsters.'" (112) And these comments, out of the mouths of children like Lettie, are why I read.
There is a great beauty at work here in this novel, of stories and their redemptive powers. As our narrator ages, to the point of an adult, he returns time and again to these people of his stories, after having seemingly forgotten them. Returning to a place and time when they are real. These people, these stories, which have the power to save a life and to redeem-- this beautifully quirky trinity of women, who are willing to lay down their lives so that you may be saved, and live-- these people who, beyond all reality are very real. Feelings, stories and people like Neil Gaiman has breathed into life here are why I read, and why I consider Gaiaman one of my favorite writers working today. Life does not always accomodate rereading novels, when there are so many out there still to be read-- but I will visit the tale of this boy and his friend Lettie, and come to the ocean, again....more
You know a novel is something special when, within the time of the first few pages, you know those who live within the pages see, feel the world the sYou know a novel is something special when, within the time of the first few pages, you know those who live within the pages see, feel the world the same as you.
"Every living things dies. There's no stopping it." (1) So begins "Unsaid," a novel that denies category at every turn one is available. The novel is narrated by Helena, a veternarian who has died of cancer. The reader is never told any specific thing about the afterlife Helena inhabits; we feel, see and experience it along with her. We don't know why Helena has stayed behind-- but we see through her all she has left behind, and still is connected to in life. Her husband, her animal companions, the friends who shared her cause she worked with.
In "Unsaid" Helena explores death. Her death, what it means to the living she has left behind, what role death played in her life while she was alive. She relives the decisions she had to make as a verternarian and human, when the choice came to end the life of an animal, and she relives the struggle she put up against her own death to cancer. Helena cannot interact with the living; she simply watches. As her husband, David, comes to understand her in ways he never did, or could never fully, in life. As her rescued dogs live and grieve for her. As the man she shared a veterinary practice with continues to try and keep a morally sound practice amid a world where ethics are not always considered. As the colleauge she shared a life of work on chimpanzee communication with struggles to continue her work; as the chimpanzee she focused on, Cindy, is at the mercy of the humans who care for her while this all goes on.
There is so much beauty in this book. On loss, and all life-- animal and human alike. Subjects that could come off as heavy-handed in the hands of a lesser writer are handled here delicately, and always so movingly, by Neil Abramson. The connections the characters make and share-- and how they all do, cannot or learn to communicate with each other-- human and animal-- are beautifully rendered truth.
While so much of this novel's power is subtle and natural, it nonetheless carries great, consistent power. I can't remember a novel that has moved me to tears earlier or more consistently in quite sometime. Beginning with Helena's recollection of her meeting her husband, as they move an injured deer out of the road; to the disabled child of one of Helena's colleagues new colleauges being able to see the world in a way which is the only one to bring comfort to an elderly woman who just lost her dog in surgery; to the many epiphanies David has as he, left behind, comes to understand his wife and her work.
For anyone who has loved, lost an animal companion. For anyone who has loved, lost a person of any consiousness. To anyone who loves the power of literature and bearing-witness and writing stories and longed to understand another person or being, and gain entrace in that most secret of gardens-- Neil Abramson has written a novel of comfort that understands, knows....more
I've only recently truly discovered the TV show "Paranormal State," which is Ryan Buell's reality program about his paranormal investigating society I've only recently truly discovered the TV show "Paranormal State," which is Ryan Buell's reality program about his paranormal investigating society (the Paranormal Research Society), which began as a club at Penn State College.
I realize- and have seen- that so many of these types of ghost hunting shows are less than legitimate. But Buell's work is different. What interested me most about the show was his philosophy; his investigations present a person, tell their story, and test how likely actual paranormal activity is in a person's given situation. Though Buell has a very much Catholic background he brings to his general philosophy and life, death and the beyond- I do have to admit I find it fascinating how open he is to other spiritual beliefs, which he thinks of as different spiritual languages all speaking the same goals. I'm also a big fan of how the show researches the history of properties and people-- and how often the stories they dig up through research about what did happen in the past is far more interesting than anyone in the present thinking they are seeing ghosts.
So I read Buell's book. And loved it. Say or think what you will about people like him, but he is incredibly earnest in his work, and it shows. He goes into so much detail in this book about the investigations shown on the first season of the show; what was left out, what he really thought, and his struggles to maintain a kind of integrity doing what he does while having a reality show. With the show, Buell and his team look at these cases, these reports of ghost stories and do more than trying to debunk them, more than trying to confirm them.
And the frankness with which he talks about what he does believe, or what he believes could be possible-- and everything from his faith to his sexuality is incredibly interesting. I highly recommend this for anyone interested in the show, Buell's philosophy, or an inspired look at what it is to think the paranormal is possible in today's world. ...more