I have trouble with narrative style history. That said I don't think Ecstatic Nation exactly qualifies as narrative-history. (Larson is my go to exampI have trouble with narrative style history. That said I don't think Ecstatic Nation exactly qualifies as narrative-history. (Larson is my go to example). Wineapple is definitely building a similar style of argument. She reveals connections in environments and people that build up a wealth of historical analysis and information but she does not really chronicle the drama of the individual. Maybe it's the slim differences between these two styles that made me like Ecstatic Nation just a tiny bit more than Dead Wake. I read them almost at the same time so avoiding comparing them is going to be impossible.
I would also say that while I've spent a lot of time on the civil war and reconstruction, this the first book that really situated the war in a cultural context for me. The kind of collage of information sometimes has annoying overlaps (making a point, hinting at it later, summarizing it a few chapters later) but I suppose if I hadn't read the whole thing in about 3 days I would have been grateful about that? Hard to say. ...more
**spoiler alert** It's been a long time since I stayed up to finish a book but I've been staying up to the limits of my reasonable latest bed time to**spoiler alert** It's been a long time since I stayed up to finish a book but I've been staying up to the limits of my reasonable latest bed time to finish Mr. Fox. I usually have some reservations about book recommendation but not in this instance. Oyeyemi confronts and elucidates issues of representation and violence by forcing an artist to converse, co author and fall in love with his muse. Where is the harm in fantasies of women and violence and violence against women? This book provides this clearest arguments without ever reducing it to bullet points. I don't want to give a lot away. My concerns were initially that the book wouldn't be able to match in character development what it creates in critical thrust but I think it does. The characters are flooded with details of the time and St. John especially with the WWI soldier, grows especially in the last half of the book. A lot of people have told me they want to read this book. I really think everyone should. ...more
This book got me very interested in Detroit and not very interested at all in the book I was reading. I think I loss ability to really follow the storThis book got me very interested in Detroit and not very interested at all in the book I was reading. I think I loss ability to really follow the story when leduff smears his wife's face with pizza. ...more
**spoiler alert** The first Terry Pratchett novel I read was Feet of Clay and it has remained my favorite. Pratchett does a great job of conveying the**spoiler alert** The first Terry Pratchett novel I read was Feet of Clay and it has remained my favorite. Pratchett does a great job of conveying the multifaceted, layered, viscous, somewhat smelly components of humanity. That he has chosen to use the struggle for equal rights among the diverse populations of his worlds as a kind of backdrop to the various detective stories and adventures he tells, does not diminish them. But in some instances the search for basic "human" rights take center stage in the plot and the detailed tapestry behind it and humans have to give their rights to some other people. And when he does this--as he did for the golems in Feet of Clay and does for the goblins now in Snuff--Terry Pratchett makes me cry.
In a good way.
Anyway parts of this book (the parts with Sam and Young Sam and Sibyl) will make you very happy and mushy. Other parts are hilarious (The Jane Austen mention) and then some parts will make you sick to your stomach and anxious and dizzy. And that's good. More books should take you through a catharsis of moral experience IMO. ...more
Surprise Surprise, this book is terrible. Katherine of Aragon is really one of my favorite historical characters and having seen the number Gregory puSurprise Surprise, this book is terrible. Katherine of Aragon is really one of my favorite historical characters and having seen the number Gregory pulled on Anne Boleyn I thought maybe Katherine would get better treatment. Sadly, no.
The book is accurate in some ways. Henry VII did propose a marriage between himself and his son's widow, he did insist on examining the bride before the wedding (remind anyone of Anne of Cleeves?) But I wasn't really looking for historical accuracy I was looking for a good read.
1.What really kills this book for me is the ridiculous italic passages of sappy first person narration.
2. The third person section between those are not much better. Katherine is under-developed and over idealized in a kind of sketched made-for-tv movie way.
3. I liked the idea that Katherine ends up loving both her husbands. But did they both have to be contrasting cardboard cut-outs? Arthur is meek and intelligent. Henry is silly and craves attention.
Oh and the language. At one point Henry VII describes Katherine as sexy, a word that doesn't enter English until the 1900s.
It's a Philippa Gregory book I'm not sure what I expected. Maybe *more* scandalous poor plot choices would have made the book actually better. If Katherine had married Henry VII for example or carried on an affair with her confessor while waiting for Henry VII to die or just...anything besides the constant onslaught of "I was destined to be queen" and "god is on my side" ...more
Dickens is an author who can take you through a wormhole or down a rabbit hole. In the former voyage you get out on the other side after 600-800 pagesDickens is an author who can take you through a wormhole or down a rabbit hole. In the former voyage you get out on the other side after 600-800 pages (some of it skimmed in parts because of dialect) a little misty eyed and generally pleased, but in the latter you rarely make it past the bottleneck. I have been a fan of Dickens since my first rapturous reading of A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens experts may opine here that this is hardly one of his more mature works, but I don't care its glorious. I had always looked forward to, when I got to that point in my life, taking on Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend. I thought I would probably sit down to them some time after by 50th birthday with a glass of port.
Alas I have absolutely no patience, which--it turns out--is fine in this case.
If you can say a novel is "about" money Our Mutual Friend is about money. Dickens sets Old Mr. Harmon in the background, soured by all his money, and moves his characters through the fore-ground showing their little dances with cash and loans. In general the book reveals all the negative ways money changes people though, through his well known sleight of hand, Dickens manages to make sure none of his favorite poppets are hurt. (I don't say this with 100% seriousness though there is occasionally some element of exasperation in my dealings with Dickens.)
The plot is pure Dickensian-fantasy, a missing heir, his beautiful inteded (whom he has never met) his loving guardians mixed in with Dickensian hilarity: the bone articulator Mr. Venus who is madly in love with Pleasant Riderhood. Some of the jokes fall a little flat at first, Bradley Headstone, but even *that* one pulls through in the end. I won't spoil what any of these creatures have to do with one another. It's easy enough to find out if you must know and I'm more focused on their sharp bright figures from a different light.
Because while Our Mutual Friend has much that sets it apart from Dickens and his annoying habits (to this reader) what that mostly adds up to is pulling off all his Dickensian tricks with a much lighter hand than usual. This little redundant conversation for example,
'I am sure you look so, Ma. But why one should go out to dine with one's own daughter or sister, as if one's under-petticoat was a blackboard, I do NOT understand.'
'Neither do I understand,' retorted Mrs Wilfer, with deep scorn, 'how a young lady can mention the garment in the name of which you have indulged. I blush for you.'
'Thank you, Ma,' said Lavvy, yawning, 'but I can do it for myself, I am obliged to you, when there's any occasion.'
Here, Mr Sampson, with the view of establishing harmony, which he never under any circumstances succeeded in doing, said with an agreeable smile: 'After all, you know, ma'am, we know it's there.' And immediately felt that he had committed himself.
'We know it's there!' said Mrs Wilfer, glaring.
'Really, George,' remonstrated Miss Lavinia, 'I must say that I don't understand your allusions, and that I think you might be more delicate and less personal.'
strikes me as hilarious and insightful into the hearts of all the characters and their complex relationship. But similar ones in Oliver et al do not strike me so. Even if you don't like Dickens, I think Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend would be difficult but worth the read.
Two final points, as a Trollope reader I found the Veneerings especially hilarious and pointed. Also, how can you not love that title? "Our Mutual Friend." Not all of Dickens works have such wonderful names, (Oliver? really, it's about Oliver?) but here there's pure magic in terms of language. What sometimes feels contrived in Dickens here is only light and airy and--oddly enough-- *romantic*. Yes, there is a love story and it doesn't feel *drowned* in Victorian qualities. (Though other parts of the book surely enough are but thats no great complaint.) ...more
This book already has enough of a following that it doesn't really require a very thorough review. Reading it is a personal journey the way people sayThis book already has enough of a following that it doesn't really require a very thorough review. Reading it is a personal journey the way people say it is-- though if you're interested in german literature like I am the back of the book contains a great number of examples from Hesse's life work.
Bryson is popular and humorous. I suppose these are both good things. The danger with dealing in psuedo-pop-historical argumentation and language is tBryson is popular and humorous. I suppose these are both good things. The danger with dealing in psuedo-pop-historical argumentation and language is that we live in an era where we (as English speakers) are completely unaware of the political power of language except an under-rated appreciation for being understood almost anywhere because of capitalism and colonialism. This is the kind of issue that a book like The Mouth Tounge needs to be written not *about* but with reference to and I found far too much in Bryson's book dealing with how humorous vowels are and not enough with their opulent wealth of transformation and agency.
Vowels and compound words might be funny but so are knee caps if you look at them in the right moment.
The practice of taking English and finding it irregular and alien is a very long-standing one, a kind of humorous joke, is something I used to enjoy but now I just find it othering. Taking a dictionary and laughing and pointing isn't really that useful.
Useful, informative books about language? The Professor and the Madman & Alphabet. ...more
Watson has a gift for producing vibrant, elucidated, quotes--from other people's arguments. About 1/10th of the way through his 900 page long volume (Watson has a gift for producing vibrant, elucidated, quotes--from other people's arguments. About 1/10th of the way through his 900 page long volume (happily I'm reading this on my kindle...) I've already started to notice what may turn out to be this book's main flaw, rhetorical reliance on other authors. I'm not sure that this needs to be as much of a problem as it's feeling like. In theory there's nothing wrong with the book collecting and gathering a lot of research, it's a more histiography like argument anyway--but with a book this long the author's voice is going to have to hold the argument together, and I haven't seen evidence of that yet.
This isn't really something I am holding against this book. There's a large difference between collections of unsourced quotations (Reality Hunger) and thoughtfully collected and sourced arguments. There's a wealth of information I hadn't heard before starting this book and the opening segments on Holocaust, wwii, european education and Germany was "enlightening" (har har har) and to someone like me (who gets a holocaust refresher course in every single German lit class I take!) the information made me actually want to talk about the holocaust and theory of german memory, something I haven't wanted to do since sophomore year of high school. ...more
ugh. I read this book for book club. I read it on my kindle and was actually able to return it for a full refund which made me so-happy. This really rugh. I read this book for book club. I read it on my kindle and was actually able to return it for a full refund which made me so-happy. This really reminded me of *My Sister's Keeper* tied around *Catcher in the Rye* with the slightly improbable narrative style that always makes me have to suspend a good portion of my critical perspective when I read *To Kill a Mockingbird* (I know, blasphemy)
Irving selects an issue that is important relevant and sensational. If only his narrator were less caught up with it. ...more